I just got a call from a deflated dad
His son had just missed a BIG midwest gobbler and it was not his first swing and a miss.
What was happening? As the father told the whole story, I knew exactly what the kid was
feeling. When I was a new turkey hunter, my mind and emotions were the one thing that kept
me out of several filled tags.
Don’t ask me what it was, but turkeys just grew fangs, and armor, and gained at least 700 lbs
when they stepped in front of me, and I would either freeze or botch the shot.
I finally got upset enough after a miss, that I asked my uncle, “What am I doing wrong?” In his
simple farmer way, he said, “Jim, you just have to get mad at them.”
So much of hunting, and a winning lifestyle, is about mindset.
Flipping the Switch
You can be physically sharp and mentally unfit. You might be physically ready to haul a mid-
350’s bull out of a hell-hole canyon in Montana, but unless you mentally have what it takes to get to where he lives, then kill… yes… kill him, and haul him out, all that rucking just made you
is one heck of a good hiker.
Four nights a week, I train young archers. When most of them come to me, they do so because
they don’t fit in anywhere else in any other sport. A few of them come because they want to
actually get good at archery. The first group is mentally unfit to shoot instinctive archery at all,
much less compete. The second group typically understands archery basics, but they rarely
have a competitive bone in their body. Every student is different, and my job is to get all of them
to the place where they are ready to win. And one of the first things I work heavily with them on
is their mindset.
The mindset of both the mentally unready hunter, and the unready student archer is the same.
They both have to get to a place where no matter the circumstances, they are in the fight, and
when the right moment presents itself, they can perform. Call it a switch that flips, having control
of your fight or flight neurological responses, or just being able to suppress a killer adrenaline
dump, a Fit to Hunt mindset is one that uses the same discipline it takes to get physically better,
to close the deal when it’s time.
That dad that called to talk to me about his son’s miss, heard the same advice my uncle gave
me. I told him, “Man, that’s the turkey version of buck fever. He’s just gotta get mad about it.”
But then I added, “It’s about clarity too. Just before a pitch, a batter’s mind and body have to go
quiet. He’s gotta go quiet before he pulls that trigger.” I’ve heard it called “Kill Mode”.
It sounds gritty, but I love kill mode. It’s probably one of the most peaceful places in my life. It’s
where nothing else matters except instinct. But I know one thing for sure, if I’m not mentally in
kill mode before a shot, it’s not going to end well.
We all know that paying attention to our mindset is a process. None of us woke up one day
ready to self-guide an elk hunt, or even sling a big gobbler over our shoulder. Learning to hunt
takes time, and so does cultivating the mental toughness and positivity we need to be
So make mindset a priority this spring. It might be what you need to level up for 2023.
Do you need help with your mindset? If we can be of service, shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on our social media channels.
Good luck, we cannot wait to see your pictures later this Spring, and Stay #FitToHunt!
Jim Richman is an outdoorsman, husband, father, photographer and freelance writer. Check out his website at https://www.jimrichman.com/