Motivation: “The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.”

Self-Discipline: “The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.”

When it comes to anything difficult (building a business, training for a physical event, studying, or even Hunting Big Mule Deer), we often think in terms of motivation:

“I need to get motivated to accomplish (fill-in)”.

My experience is that motivation behaves similar to emotions, like happy, sad, angry, lazy, etc.

We can’t always pick our emotion for the day, sometimes it just happens.  And too often by the end of the day, that emotion determined what I accomplished or didn’t accomplish.

That’s no way to hunt big mule deer

It’s all too easy to spend the winter dreaming of big mule deer, planning hunts, and fantasizing about the next season.

However, I’m always surprised once the season arrives. After the excitement of opening day gives way to the fruitless days and even weeks, that fire of motivation is barely a spark.  It dies all too quickly.

Over the years I’ve leaned that self-discipline trumps motivation. I’ll take a dose of self-discipline over a truckload of motivation.


Because I know that I can count on self-discipline whereas motivation may or may not show up when I need it. And even if it does show up, it may not last. Here’s some scenarios I’ve experienced:

  1. There are 14 days of open season in my unit, and I have 10 of them to hunt.  I’ll need self-discipline to get up on time and be in the area I need to be when I need to be there.  When I haven’t seen a buck in four days, and my boots are still wet from yesterday, it’s hard to get “motivated” to get back out there.
  2. I missed a buck. Just blew the shot.  Do I give up because I know that buck is gone, or do I pick myself up, get back out there, and finish the hunt?  I’ve learned that it won’t be motivation that takes me over the finish line.
  3. Work/family issues always seem to pop up during hunting season, often on the day you’re trying to leave.  That’s a motivation killer.  However, the self-discipline to stay clear-headed and assess the situation is really what’s needed. As long as everyone’s OK and any problem can be taken care of later, I almost always go rather than use it as an excuse not to. Making excuses is surprisingly easy to do when you’re tired and not seeing any big bucks.
  4. Three trucks just passed me on the way to my trailhead, or I see a headlamp on the ridge I was going to hunt.  Motivation’s gone.  It’s only going to be self-discipline that gets me where I need to be.

I could go on, but these examples should illustrate my point: Don’t wait for motivation, it may never show up.

Self-discipline is what you need.

You can comment here

(Here’s a similar post from 2015 on Patience vs. Perseverance)

Read more about all-things-mule-deer-hunting in my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer. Signed copies are available in the Rokslide store, or you can go Amazon for faster delivery.



Previous articleBaseMap Pro Review 2021
Next articleMountain Turkeys with Jason Tarwater
Robby Denning started hunting mule deer in the late 1970’s, only missing one season in 35 years. At 25, he gave up the pursuit of all other big-game to focus on taking the best bucks possible. He began hunting the West on a DIY budget hunting an average of 30 days a year for mule deer. Robby loves the hunt as much as the kill and the entire process from research to scouting to hunting. He’s killed four bucks over 200 inches in the last 15 seasons, mostly on easily-obtained tags. He owns a public-land scouting service and runs a private-land outfitting business helping other hunters in their pursuit of deer and elk. Robby has scouted and hunted literally thousands of square miles of mule deer country and brings a wealth of knowledge about these experiences with him. To him, the weapon of choice is just a means-to-an-end and will hunt with bow, rifle, or muzzleloader – whatever it takes to create an opportunity to take a great mule deer. He is also the author of "Hunting Big Mule Deer" available on Amazon. Robby believes all of creation is from God for man to manage, respect, and through which to know its Creator