This post was written by Athlon Pro Team member Darron deBoer
Very early in my childhood,
I was introduced to hunting on the family farm. In those early years, it was mostly rabbits and an occasional deer. During this period of my life, I was always chasing the monster bucks and turkeys that I just knew were out there, but managed to allude me time after time. While I did kill a few decent bucks now and then, many seasons came and went with no tags punched and the feeling that the season was a failure.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 30’s…
that I started getting serious about competitive shooting, mostly as something to do to occupy myself between hunting seasons. Once again, the same feelings resurfaced. I had a bit of success once in a while, but it was inconsistent and most days I felt like I had failed.
While I still only kill a good buck every once in a while and only have an occasional match win, my attitude toward both hunting and competitive shooting has changed dramatically. Recently, I have tried to understand why this attitude shift has happened.
To start to understand the feelings of success and failure, we have to define each term.
I’ll cheat at bit here, and jump straight to my trusty American Heritage College Dictionary (4th Edition):
Success – “The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted”
Failure- “The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends” (i.e. not achieving success)
So, considering the definition of “success”, what do you desire, plan for, or attempt?
Is it a specific measurable metric such as a trophy kill or a match win? Or is it something bigger? Is it watching another beautiful sunrise or sunset, hanging out with friends and family, meeting new people, bringing a kid with you and watching their eyes light up, knowing that you gave it your best effort and didn’t give up? Is it an improvement from the last time out, the stories you can tell afterward, the photos you share, the meat in the freezer, the prize table stickers, the “thank-you” given and received, a new personal best, beautiful days outdoors, miserable days outdoors, the birds watched, the Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts (not a sponsor, but I’d entertain offers) eaten, and/or everything in between?
Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer here.
In the end, no matter which sport you choose (maybe even both), “success” is defined by the individual and the individual alone. Some of my most memorable hunts did not end with a kill. In some of my most memorable matches, I did not place in the top 10% (or anywhere even close).
Once I realized that for me personally, “success” did not equate to inches of antler or match percentages, but was a sum of the greater experience, the feeling and fear of failure all but vanished. You may define “success” differently, and that’s okay. Of course, we all have our goals and desires to improve. That’s what makes us grow as individuals, hunters, and competitors.
The experience is what you make of it, success is how you measure it.
Be safe, enjoy the outdoors, and take a kid with you. I’m forever grateful that my parents did.