We wait all year for hunting season, of course we are going to be nervous. But with these tips you can harness that anxiety and have the best season ever.
You’ve waited all year and now it’s here. Opening morning is just hours away and suddenly your nerves are tight and all the what-ifs are playing like drums in your head.
However, opening morning jitters are also something we can control. Just like anything else that makes us nervous, there are a few tips available to help calm the nervous nellies and put us back in that calm place where hunting usually takes us. Check out the following five tips and use whatever helps in the hopes that opening morning jitters will fall away and quiet determination will take its place.
1. Sight in Your Weapon Until Confident
One of the first rules of hunting is to know your weapon. Shoot it, handle it, and know how it will pattern at 50, 100, even 200 yards out. Take the time in the offseason to sight in your weapon until you know where the shot will hit even before you pull the trigger, and that confidence will carry over on to opening morning.
A lot of the jitters most hunters fight are focused on placing a shot or finding a target to shoot. The offseason is the perfect time to eliminate 50% of the jitters. Spending hours on the range equals getting rid of hours of pre-hunt jitters. Besides, shooting is just plain fun. Why not use sighting in a weapon as an excuse to do something you love anyway? It’s just an added bonus that shooting a lot wipes out opening morning jitters.
2. Scout, Scout, Scout
This one is crucial. Scouting your hunting area is one of the most effective ways to know if you’re hunting a hot spot or dead zone. Once you know there is game in the area, the other 50% of the most common opening morning jitter reasons just got eliminated. Pattern the whitetails if you’re deer hunting and find where the toms are roosting if you’re turkey hunting.
By spending some time prior to season getting to know the habits of your game, opening morning is just a matter of going back to where you’ve seen game all offseason. Scouting eliminates most of the guessing game associated with opening morning and gives hunters an added advantage over their lazier competitors. Of course, scouting is hot, sweaty, aggravating work, but it’s all worth it when that animal pops up exactly where you thought it would on opening morning.
3. Make a List & Check it Twice
Most hunters are terrible procrastinators. Waiting until the day before opening morning to gather gear and check on stands or blinds is pretty commonplace. Hurrying to gather gear can lead to forgetting calls, scent, or something equally as important. The best way to combat the forgets is to sit down well before you pack and make a list.
Write down everything you need for the field and use that list every season. By using a checklist, you are guaranteed to remember everything you need for the hunt and that will help eliminate opening morning panic. Once the list is established and in use, never again will you get all the way to a stand or blind only to realize you forgot your grunt call or doe scent.
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4. Understand Opening Day isn’t the Only Day
Bragging rights are part of hunting. Let’s face it; hunters love to be the first one to get the biggest buck or smartest gobbler. It’s in our nature to outdo other hunters and the faster we get that done, the better. However, in order to ease opening morning jitters, it is important to let go of the pressure of being the first hunter to bag a buck or kill a tom.
Opening day isn’t the only day we can hunt. In fact, in some cases season only gets better as it goes along. Success will come, just maybe not in the first few hours of opening day. By giving up on the idea that first is best, it’s easier to head out for an opening morning hunt without carrying the added weight of opening morning jitters.
5. Give Yourself Mental Pep Talks & Reminders during the Hunt
So, you make it to the stand or blind and everything seems to be falling into place, when suddenly the what-ifs begin. What if no deer comes? What if that hunter down the road kills that giant tom you saw before season? What if, what if, what if… Before the panic fully sets in, it is crucial to get a grip on it.
Take a few moments to give yourself a mental pep talk. Take the time to remember that opening day is just the beginning. Mentally go over your fundamentals, including trigger pull, breathing, etc… Get ready for the shot, but don’t over-anticipate and make assumptions that you are going to fail before the hunt has really begun.
Opening day is something we all look forward to from the minute last year’s season ends. It’s a buildup of excitement over a period of months and when the time comes to get back in the woods or fields, it is normal to feel a certain amount of jitters. What is important is to figure out how to control the jitters and head out for the hunt with the right level of excitement, not panic.
Hunting is meant to be peaceful and spiritual. Hunters are naturalists, conservationists, and passionate wildlife lovers. We live for the thrill of the hunt and there is nothing better than watching the opening morning sunrise from the seat of a stand.
Opening morning jitters are natural, but we have to be careful that we don’t let worry and nervous energy interfere with our sport. Let opening morning be a great start to another season, not a source of stress and worry.