My initial focus and excitement while hunting typically lasts until about 10:30 this time of year.
I arrive at the spot, I’m as silent and sneaky as I can be, I muster the best calls I can when I feel it is time to call, then about 10:30, I start to feel it. It seems like the good hours have once again passed and if it hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to.
Ridiculous of course, but I know there’s a team of buddies, stacking the gutless bodies of everything from forkies to four-points onto the back deck of a seiner. Someone else sat down and before she could take a sip of coffee after blowing the call, was almost run over by a hard-charging rut buck. One guy called in two bucks while another called three, both were out done by the dude who called in four, at one time. Then there’s the 17-year old who opened a can of Monster, to which a 5×5 with 3 eye guards responded, and proceeded to walk in sideways to maintain a broadside pose. It will all be posted by the time I’m eating dinner, wishing my burger was backstrap.
I indulge in this pathetic self-pity for 15 or so minutes then Phase 2 of my hunt starts and lasts until mid-afternoon. During those minutes, I don’t feel like I am hunting. I’m a Snickers commercial. I am only listening to the waves of negativity crashing against the confidence that was a rock a few hours earlier, but is now nothing more than sand. And it’s not even lunchtime.
A buddy texted me at the end of last month to say it felt like he was the only one in Southeast Alaska not getting big bucks. Then added one of the crying laughing emojis and followed up with, “Weird how that works.”
He was speaking to the phenomenon brought on by the connectivity of social media — perception vs. reality. He’s able to laugh it off, refocus and make things happen. Since that text, he’s bagged two nice bucks.
The point is not to pretend frustration does not exist, because there is such a thing as toxic positivity. I know, I know, you’re tired of hearing how everything is toxic and everything is bad, but that’s part of the point. It’s not all bad, it’s not all good and to pretend it is simply either, is a waste of time.
When it comes to the inevitable hunting frustration, staying frustrated is more of a problem than getting frustrated. Using #KeepHammering on a social media post does not make a hunter immune to negativity. It is the cry of those who do something about the situation rather than simply feeling justified in prolonged pouting.
I guess it’s the same with anything really. You start something you’re really excited about, then everything seems to fall apart. There were plans and goals and it all seems as far away as before you started trying. Everything worked out for this person, why not you? But success is not the absence of hardship, it’s handling hardship and moving forward.
It’s getting easier to remember this on those weekend mornings, but I still have some improving to do if the bucks keep failing to show.
• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.