“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will not accomplish anything in life.”
Preface: This topic is a fitting one for my first post to The Hunt. It’s not easy publishing thoughts and advice for the public. What if they don’t like the way it reads? What if it’s not useful for anyone? These are the questions that went through my head as I sat down to begin writing. I soon realized that I was simply having a hard time leaving my comfort zone, which I’ve also experienced and been able to overcome throughout my development in the outdoors. In posting this content I have left my comfort zone. What will you do next to leave yours?
When you take a moment to sit back and reflect on past hunts, which experiences initially come to mind? Do you think about the times you took a quick road hunt and shot something close to the truck? Or does your memory take you back to a time when you were in over your head and ready to give up, but somehow stayed in the game and found success? Thinking back on my own experiences, the hunts that stand out the most are those where a lot of time was spent outside of my comfort zone. Not by coincidence, these were also the hunts that were the most successful.
Because hunting is such an individual sport, one can easily sail through a hunt while selling themselves short on effort and production. The hunter answers only to themselves so there are no repercussions for slacking. At the same time, again because hunting is such an individual sport, one can go all in and shoot for the stars and there are no repercussions for failure. If you’re one to have found the drive to step outside your comfort zone in the mountains each year, hats off to you. But for those of you who find yourselves staying within the bounds of your hunting comfort zone, read on.
Getting outside the comfort zone requires a specific mental approach- one that’s comfortable with risk, even if an immediate reward is not likely. If a filled tag was guaranteed every time someone decided to backpack hunt alone, go a mile further than they’ve gone before, or not return to camp for a night to stay in position for the morning, everyone would be doing it. These are just a few examples of the many situations which might require one to leave their comfort zone for an extended period of time without the promise of bounty as a reward. While immediate success won’t always be a direct result of getting out of the zone, the long term benefits are well worth the effort. The beauty of the comfort zone is that each time it’s left behind, it gets bigger for the future. Slowly but surely, the unknown becomes the new norm.
Aside from staying aware the risk-reward mental aspect, there are a number of things you can do to extend your boundaries next season. Below are a few recommendations for starters.
Visit New Country
Simply hunting a new area is one way to force yourself into the unknown. We all have those places we’ve looked at on Google Earth over and over or frequently driven by on the way to our favorite spots- but never taken the time to put true effort into. Is your comfort zone stopping you from loading up a pack and checking it out?
Refine Your Kit
No matter how obsessive you are or aren’t about the weight of your pack, there’s almost always room to get by with less. Evaluate your “comfort” items, and leave something you’ve always thought was nice to have behind for a hunt.
Hunt With Someone More Accomplished
This may be easier said than done depending on who you are or who you know. But, if you can find someone to go on a hunt with who will drive you outside of your comfort zone, take advantage of it. Let them know beforehand what your goals are, and specifically ask them to push you.
Plan a Trip Like Never Before
Again, easier said than done depending on what you’ve accomplished, but it can be done. Even if you need to plan now for a hunt next year or even later, put something together that you know will be tough. The more preparation, planning, and anxiety involved, the better!
Nothing forces you to be more honest with yourself about your feelings and abilities than spending days on end alone in the backcountry. Everything is on you, and you will either leave knowing you left it all on the line, or if you sold yourself short. Either way, this one will surely make your comfort zone grow.
Now is a great time of year to be setting goals for the 2015 hunting seasons. To get the most out of yourself, consciously set goals that will require leaving your comfort zone to fulfill. Leaving the comfort zone isn’t about getting things right the first time, it’s about building blocks to grow upon. While it’s not easy, slowly expanding your comfort zone will be a long term investment in your hunting abilities. Manoj Arora said it best in From the Rat Race to Financial Freedom: “Comfort is your biggest trap and coming out of comfort is your biggest challenge.”