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The Mental Game: Positive Atitudes

by Ed Migale

What enables success in the outdoors? Is it your gear? Clothing? Gun or rod ’n reel? I say it really all starts from within you, that place right between your ears and how your apply its use.

Case in point:

After a long night’s work of field dressing, dragging out and skinning my buck, I had slept in till after sun-up. I got up, made coffee and got busy breaking camp. I was almost done loading the truck when a hunter drove past camp. He slowed, stopped, stuck his head out the window and proclaimed to me, “I’m headed home; there aren’t any deer on this ranch!”

I asked how long he’d been hunting and if he was sure he wanted to quit so soon. It was, after all, only Saturday I said, and the season was open one more day.

“Got here last night in the dark – first time I’ve ever hunted this area -- and been driving the roads all morning.” (All of two hours!) “Haven’t seen a thing.”

As he drove away, I could only stare at the back of his truck in disbelief. It, too, was my first time there, having arrived Thursday afternoon. But I had seen several deer, lots of tracks, and plenty of well-used trails. Had I not bagged the tall-racked forked-horn the evening before, I would still be hunting; the deer were here!

Success is never easy and never guaranteed. That is because there are no two days exactly alike. Something is always different, always changing. A wildfire. Drought. Agricultural crop rotation. Land use changes on a neighboring property. Hunting or fishing in a new area.

No doubt it can be frustrating at times. Like just getting to know the lay of the land on a deer or turkey ranch. Or figuring out what type of weather makes a duck blind productive. And then the landowner sells the ranch or decides to keep that duck pond for himself … and the search for knowledge starts all over again.

Or not. The easy way out is to give up.

But successful outdoorsmen and women don’t give up; they tackle change and failure with determination. Some even welcome the challenge that change and failure bring.

They have positive attitudes. The hunter in my above example had a poor attitude. He was willing to throw in the towel after just two hours when he still had nearly two days of hunting time available. Even if he did not see a legal buck, he could have looked at the time spent as a scouting trip for next year.

Instead he drove off not knowing all that much about the lay of the land, and certainly without being able to put venison in the freezer. He learned nothing and had nothing to show for his efforts.

At the other end of the spectrum, the successful hunters and anglers I have known have always looked upon each day afield as a learning experience, with time spent and effort expended as building blocks to a foundation that will lead to success. Failure – while not desirable – is not necessarily all bad, because out of failure comes lessons learned. Lessons that can be applied in future adventures.

I won’t bore you with the details of any of the countless failures afield I have had over the last 40 years; I merely mention the fact to assure you that just because I’ve had my byline attached to this and other articles, I am by no means exempt from being unsuccessful. Thankfully, I have had plenty of successes to counter the failures, but many of those successes have come as a direct result of applying lessons learned from a previous failure. My attitude is to always try to improve on whatever it is I am doing.

I will never give up. And I hope you never do, too.

“Hope”. Now there’s a good word to use in an article about success and attitude. Webster defines hope as “a feeling that what is wanted will happen; desire accompanied by expectation” which pretty well sums up how most of us feel as we head out on our fishing and hunting trips.

But to actually be successful demands that we arm ourselves with more than hope … or shiny new guns, or fancy rods and reels, etc. The most important item you can take on your next adventure is a positive mental attitude and outlook on just what it is you are hoping to accomplish.

By being smart, by being safe, and by being respectful of the next fellow and of the game you pursue I truly believe that you will find success. Good luck!

Ed Migale Articles

While big game, waterfowl, and upland game bird hunting, as well as saltwater fishing for the past two decades Ed Migale has had hundreds of articles published in national and regional publications and has received numerous writing awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of California. Ed has hunted and fished for over 40 years throughout California, as well as in five western states, three Canadian provinces, and in both mainland Mexico and the Baja Peninsula. In March of 2011 he called in and killed an Osceola gobbler in central Flroida, thus completing a ten-year quest to bag all five subspeciies of the wild turkey in North America — the "Royal Slam."

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