The Build Up - Dealing with Anxiety

There is a lot of media out there about preparing for hunting season. There are videos on gear, articles on techniques and podcasts on scouting.  The thing no one addresses, at least directly, is the anxiety.  

Anxiety over the fact that what you’ve waited for all year is finally coming. Anxiety about taking time off from work and away from your family.  Anxiety about the weather and what you’ll have to deal with.  Anxiety about if you’ll see any animals.  Anxiety about sleeping cold because the national forest still has a fire ban in effect.  Anxiety about finding a campsite because you hunt public lands.  Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.

I am supposed to do a dry run this weekend with my buddy.  He has a first season rifle tag for elk and I was going to drive up, go along with him and help him out while getting outside for a couple of days to hunt.  The weather doesn’t look like it’s going to cooperate.  I drive a Ford Focus, I am afraid if I get in there, I won’t be able to get out.   This is driving me crazy.  I will call the rangers the day before and ask their opinion about this weekend, but as far as my hunting season coming up in November, I just broke down and rented a full-size pickup for twelve days.  I hated spending the money, but it’s now one less thing causing me anxiety.

My situation is exacerbated by the fact I am putting so much pressure on myself to come home with meat.  One, this is just my personality, I’m hard on myself.  Two, as I’ve written, this hunt is almost a lifetime in the making. Three, finally, I’ve spent a lot of time and money to do this and if I come home without meat, I’ll feel like I’m letting my family down.  That one is the one that drives me the most.

There are only two cures for anxiety: excitement and preparedness.

Of course, I’m excited.  I’m also thinking positive.  Much like Janis Putelis of the MeatEater crew who believes that a positive attitude will help you have a more successful hunt, I think staying positive will help you make better decisions, stay in the field longer, and most importantly, enjoy yourself while you’re out there no matter how difficult it is.  The flipside of looking forward to this for many years is I’m very, very excited and I can’t wait to get out there.

Being prepared takes a lot more work, but it too can be part of the excitement. Okay, so renting a truck is not that exciting, but I miss driving a truck and I’ve never owned a truck anywhere near brand new, so I’m looking forward to driving a new, full-size truck for a week or so.  I’ve been pouring over both paper maps and OnX Maps online getting a feel for where I’m going.  I’ve always loved maps, so this is fun for me.  Every minute I spend preparing causes me to mentally travel through time to the hunt and I’d rather be thinking about hunting than work or any other every day stress.

What’s not so fun is making a list of everything I’ll need for the trip and checking it three times.  Or planning all my meals out.  It’s annoying, but it is necessary and knowing that it’s done and correct puts some of my anxiety at ease.  

All you can do is all you can do.  At some point you have to let go.  I probably won’t reach that point until I’m up there and I have camp set up. Only then will I be able to take a deep breath and settle in for the adventure.  

I’ll post more on my process as the next few weeks go by.  I plan on filming my hunt, so there will be an added layer of pressure for me, but I have low expectations for myself.  It’s all about documenting my first elk hunt so that, just like this blog, I can share the experience with others who have never done it or who never had to figure it out on their own.