Hunting involves meticulous planning and preparation which culminates in a single moment of truth.
Sometimes that moment of truth is only a fraction of a second. Having the mental discipline to own that split second is usually the difference between fresh, natural meat all year long or... ramen noodles and steroid-enhanced, GMO crap meat.
Like any other skill, mental discipline needs to be practiced. Here are a few things hunters can practice throughout the year to help hone the mental discipline it takes to be a successful hunter.
If you can't imagine yourself finding the animal and then harvesting it, it's that much harder to actually do it if the moment of truth arrives.
You have to expect to see what you are hunting in the places you think they will be. That's step one.
Step two involves imagining pulling up and aiming your weapon - whether it is a bow or a firearm - and calmly shooting. Every time you are in the field, whether it's summertime camping, off season fishing or just hiking around, it is always a smart practice to look for places (draws, stands of trees, drainages, etc.) that would most likely contain the animals you will be hunting.
As far as the calm shot, this can be practiced all year as well. Every time you are target practicing, bring your mind into a hunting situation. Imagine that you are shooting at an animal and that you only have one opportunity to get off a kill shot.
When not target practicing, use down time to visualize various moment-of-truth situations and exactly how you will handle them. By practicing constant visualization, you are better able to control you breathing and heart rate. Speaking of . . .
Unless you are a buddhist monk, it is extremely difficult to actually control your heart rate. You can, however, plan for heightened heart rate when your target is within range, embrace it and breathe through it. Work with it - so that it doesn't work against you.
Every hunter's heart rate jumps up when the moment of truth becomes a reality. But, the most successful hunters learn to stay calm, think it through, rely on their practice and experience and pull off the best shots.
Do not hold your breath. That only increases your heart rate. Instead, breathe steadily and calmly. Squeeze the trigger or release the bow string at the "bottom" of your breath.
Inhale naturally, exhale slowly, aim, then fire before inhaling again. If you don't get the shot off at the bottom of your breath, wait for the next one.
Always have a mental checklist of gear you will need. Before you walk away from the vehicle to work a draw, canyon or stand of trees, go though your checklist and make sure you have everything you would need if you do knock something down.
By doing this, it gives you a sense of preparedness that, in turn, enables calmness and clear thinking.
Do you have water, bullets, your license, a knife, a saw, gloves, a compass, a definitive plan with your partner, cordage, etc? Nothing distracts the mind like the feeling of being unprepared.
If you are alone in the field and all you are thinking about is that you forgot your canteen or that you didn't bring enough warm layers of clothes and the vehicle is miles away, you cannot concentrate on the hunt. Never leave anything behind that you think you might need - especially in the back country.
By practicing the suggestions above, your mind is free to be 100% aware of your position and your surroundings.
One of the best ways to not harvest your intended target, or worse yet, to get lost or attacked by a predator is to not be aware of your surroundings.
If you don't know exactly where you are, at least know where you came from. Mark landscape features and you hike and pay attention to your directions.
Practice these various skills every day, all year long. It will give you the confidence and mental discipline it takes to increase your odds of filling all your tags.