Burn Out

From the D&DH Forum:

Super Member

Deer season is long, but as you all know the off season is even longer. My question is this, with all the books, DVD’S, magazines, and countless numbers of deer strategies out there, do any of you ever get “burned out?” Here in Michigan, there is about 51 days till bow season. I have all my stands placed accordingly, and feel good about their location. However I continue to read and watch all sorts of hunting related material. How do you cope with a “burn out?” It seems after all my hours and hours of thinking about deer, I have this “burnt out” feeling and the season hasn’t even started yet. Do any of you ever feel this and how to you cope with it? I try to put down the book, or watch a different show rather than hunting, but it seems nothing of interest to me.

I mean deer season in Michigan is 93 days long. Now I know I won’t be able to hunt every single day but believe me I will be able to hunt over 60 days with my current school/ work schedule..I couldn’t help but wonder if any of you ever get this feeling? I’m sure most do during the end of the season, however what about the so called “pro’s.” One would think they would want some time off as well..

But don’t get me wrong I love hunting, I just hate this feeling.

I know exactly what you’re talking about.  It does not happen to me as much any more, at least not the acute form of it.  Burn out has been a regular feature of my deer hunting experience.  It probably always will be.

The problem, as I see it, is that deer hunting in itself is a rather boring activity.  It requires massive amounts of pre-planning, expense, etc.  However, when you finally get it all put together, and your butt goes into the seat on the treestand on Opening Day. . .

. . . nothing.    Furthermore, as I faced in a lot of years, nothing happens all season.  Sure, the sun comes up, tracks across the sky and finally sets.  The squirrels come and go.  You have lots of birds, but the actual time you have with deer in sight could be counted some years for me in seconds.  No sane man could do this week after week and not get to rethinking what he is doing out in the woods on a perfect beautiful October day.  He really gets to questioning that sanity when the warm days of October slowly erode into the pin cushion pre-dawn freezing rain of November.  By the time shotgun season rolls around in December, he promises himself that he will get out and stay out for good. But first he must pray to his absent and bitter god to help him get his butt unstuck from that blasted metal seat to which it is now caught in frozen embrace.

I see this process as a trajectory.  Your will power is a rocket.  Your enthusiasm for the sport is the fuel.  Your target needs to be the end of season.  You now know about how much energy you have to expend on your sport.  You know what kind of drag can be exerted on it by family, work, etc.  Eventually your will is going to be spent.  The problem is timing it so that you give out about the time season runs out.  That may mean deliberately starting later in the year to get ready. It may mean rationing the amount of hunting shows you watch.  Every deer hunter needs to manage this. 

Me?  Look, I’m the guy who went so far into this that I made Deer Camp a year-round lifestyle. Most weekends I’m down there doing something related to deer and turkey. My deer and turkey have names. Eventually something has to give.  What I have done to manage my will power is this:

1)  I do not hunt deer in September.  KY’s archery season starts the first weekend in September.  I wait until at least Oct 1 to start hunting.  I don’t like fighting the heat, and the deer are generally not around anyway.  I focus my efforts on specific parts of the season– Mid-October to Thanksgiving.  That is when the deer hunting is at its best, and I can get the freezer filled without a lot of muss and fuss.  I also don’t hunt in January any more.  Part of it is that I’ve paid my January dues.  I know what it’s like to lose feeling in my extremities.  The other reason is coming.

2)  I try and give myself a deliberate break.  When I’m done, I’m done. After I get  out of the woods, shut down camp, and finish my Christmas shopping, I get my rifles cleaned up and go sit on the couch.  I try not to think about it again for a while.  Usually the weather is most cooperative.  Right about the time I’m ready to hang it up, Cincinnati weather has a way of telling me I am making a wise choice. Twice, I’ve had to make a mad dash back down to camp– once at 1AM– to get the water drained before The Big One hit. The power on our road at camp can be off for over a month at a time in the Winter.  I usually pick up watching NFL Football during the last week of regular season and watch it through to the Super Bowl. Somewhere around there I get out my turkey calls and my shotgun.

3)  Usually my deer hunting jag starts in July.  It happens when I get trapped inside at home for a couple of weekends, because it is just too darn hot.  About that time the Fall catalogs arrive.  I get twitchy.  I know better than to try and feed it– at least let the throttle go wide-open.  If I did, I would be insufferable to my family, worthless at work and I would be burned out by October 1.  Rather, I let the bug hit  and start off with a managed plan.   Today, I’m teaching #3 son the rudiments of stock refinishing.  Tomorrow, we’re going to do some reloading together.  Within the week, I’m going to have a couple of loads of deer clothes washed and packed.  A little here and a little there goes a long way. 

4)  I’ve given up on TV, outside of D&DH.  I DVR it and watch the episodes a little later in the year.  I also save up a stack of magazines and don’t start reading them when they first arrive.  After nearly 30 years of this, there really isn’t anything all that new anyway.  Media just adds gasoline to the fire.

5)  Budgets:  I set a number and try to stick to it, and I try to squeeze as much out of a tight budget as I can.  Well before season I have a target of what I want. I know when the stuff goes on sale, and I’m watching a few sites waiting to strike.  I hold off on hitting BassPro at the mall and doing all my window shopping and impulse buying until I have the big stuff nailed down.  This keeps the whole thing throttled back.  To many lunch hours at too many sporting goods stores gave me an empty wallet and a bad case of pre-season burnout.

6)  If it ain’t right, it ain’t right.  If it gets to the last week in October, and I see a 3 day rain coming on and I’ve got deer in the freezer and I’m getting over a cold, I no longer throw the cough syrup and cold pills into the duffel and head out.  I did.  I did for years. I don’t anymore.  I’ve gone hunting with my foot wrapped in bandages. I’ve come out of the stand and changed into a business suit for a meeting.  I’ve picked ticks out of my scalp in board rooms.  Not anymore. I try and be the Taoist sage and go with the flow of things.

Despite all these measures, I’ve found myself at Zero-minus-Forty on the Opener,  sitting in the pre-dawn gloom wondering what the heck I was doing, a grown man with a family and a good job, 15 feet in the air dressed in funny clothes.  Now, I’m an unemployed 52 year old with nothing else better to do, and I still get to wondering.  Hopefully, I get it all stuffed out of my head before I hear that first twig snap, the crosshairs come up and the safety comes off.


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