Who are the happiest deer hunters you know? Are they the ones who fill their freezers every year? Are they the ones who have a wall filled with trophy-class bucks? Or are they the guys and gals who own hundreds of acres of prime ground of which they patrol militantly in search of trespassing neighbors and no-good poachers?
I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s none of the above. The happiest deer hunters, it seems to me anyway, are the ones who look themselves in the mirror every morning and say these seven words: “I am responsible for my own happiness.”
I’ve had the good fortune of traveling this entire country in search of whitetails over the past 20 years, and I’ve realized that money, land and shoulder mounts do not guarantee deer hunt- ing happiness. They certainly help, but they also have a unique way of making the glass-half-empty hunter even more unhappy.
Satisfied hunters seemingly all embrace the following seven healthy habits:
1. They devote an inordinate amount of time to their family and friends, especially those who share their love of the hunt. They spend less time stressing about how their food plots are growing and more on helping that kid get his or her first deer, or that buddy whose never bagged a wallhanger get in position to fulfill that dream this fall.
2. They are genuinely grateful for everything they have. If you own land, are a member of a deer lease or have friends who let you hunt their land, count your blessings. Comparatively speaking, you’re one of the privileged few.
3. They volunteer their time, labor and resources to friends and neighbors. This could come in the form of planting fruit trees for a buddy or help- ing the guy next door cut up that big white oak that came down in a thunderstorm.
4. They’re always optimistic. “Tomorrow is another day.”
5. They cherish every day afield and notice the little things.
6. They prefer not to take shortcuts to achieving success. They like to work for everything.
7. Lastly, they see the big picture. It’s not all about a filled tag and venison on the table. It’s about what kind of legacy that will be left behind for future generations. It’s about embracing a lifestyle that cannot be found on a city sidewalk or suburban playground.
In the end, it’s about that autonomous connection with nature. And that self-directed freedom brings a powerful side effect.
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