We’ve all done it. We’ve been excited all week, we’ve prepared, made time after our long work days and set out our hunting clothes and readied our weapon of choice — but when the day comes it’s too… something. The wind isn’t coming from the right direction, the clouds look ominous despite the weather forecast calling for bluebird skies, the temperature didn’t drop like it was supposed to, something is just out of whack. So your pre-dawn alarm comes and goes, and you say to yourself “I can’t hunt today… it’s too…” and you insert your excuse of the day.
For most people there are only two days out of the week where they are free to be able to hunt, and in most of the Northeast one of those days you’re not able to on account of Blue Laws — disallowing things like hunting or buying alcohol on Sundays. So with only one day to hunt per week, and only a few months of hunting season available you may have up to twenty days per year in the woods — longer in the south. As I get older I begin to realize it’s not all about the harvest. I’ve not killed a lot of big bucks in my hunting career, hell my biggest buck to date is a heavy bodied seven point on public land in the rugged Allegheny Mountains. I’ve long since realized the hunt is more about the experience, being in the outdoors and spending the day away from modern technology that I spend my entire week fixing and abusing.
Books on nature seldom mention wind; they are written behind stoves – Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac
I often find myself looking at the forecast and saying “well, it’s too hot, the deer probably aren’t moving”, or “the wind is too high, the birds probably won’t fly”. Aldo Leopold wrote in his book, Sand County Almanac, “books on nature seldom mention wind; they are written behind stoves“. This is never more true when I see my friends on social media complain why they’re not hunting, fishing, and spending time in the outdoors. I won’t say I’ve been terribly successful during adverse conditions, but I have taken a doe in the rain, seen many birds fly in high winds presenting very challenging shots, and had deer come in when the wind was not in their favor. I’ve hunted when it was too hot, too cold, too windy, too buggy, and too muggy. Every time it was more rewarding than sitting in the beige washed walls of a corporate cubicle or sitting on the couch flipping through the channels. If you look on the Internet you’ll find advice on when you should hunt, fish, diet, exercise, wash your car — pretty much anything. My advice is to get out there, as long as it’s safe to do so.
In my research the folks on social media slinging advice on when not to go in the woods are the ones who are not in the woods themselves during those times. How can you up your odds of success if you’re not even in the woods to find a strategy that works? On the other hand, each and every issue of Field and Stream that gets delivered to my door with whitetail tips tells me how to kill a deer in a downpour, how to set up for improper wind, and how to hunt if it’s your last or only day. If it’s weather that is the problem, invest in layers, a ThermaCell, or a good waterproof jacket to keep you in the field. Discretion is the better part of valor however, so if you’re feeling sick or sore, you know your body and when to push it. There are times when it just isn’t safe to be in the woods or on the water. Sometimes the downpour is a deluge and it’s time to stay indoors and sit with your dog waiting for another fall day to chase birds. Take precautions, know your limits and when to exceed them. But know that if you’re not willing to experience adversity or failure, then perhaps this isn’t for you. Strength and motivation come from experiencing failures, they’re the starting points for growth and the building blocks of a philosophy on life.
So why make excuses to not be in the woods? There’s an intense satisfaction in being able to close your eyes again, heavy from sleep when you’re not quite ready to wake up on the weekend and everyone needs a chance to relax and unwind. However, there’s no one who will go to their deathbed who would have wished that they spent more Saturdays watching endless episodes of Law and Order on a midday marathon, or binge watching anything on Netflix. You will regret not seeing what’s on the other side of that ridge, or seeing another ruffed grouse fan dappled by the fading fall light. Get out there, and maybe you’ll find a strategy for killing bucks during lunch time, or finding birds in the rain.