The Most Important Ingredient, Practice

The 2013 hunting season is finally upon us and because most of this blog has something to do with wild game I thought I would take a few minutes to discuss the most important ingredient in any wild game meal. Practice. That's right I'm talking about practice. It is one of the key ingredients in any wild game dish I prepare, without it I wouldn't have game to prepare. 

I have listened to a lot  of people talk about how they went hunting one weekend and never got anything. These same people are always asking me how it is that I am able to go out in the woods and be as successful as I am. The answer is simple, practice. I spend a lot of time out in the woods, not just hunting but also walking through the woods outside of the hunting season. Scouting new areas and old areas that I will be hunting. If you don't know an area and have never been there before you chances of being successful are very slim. I spend a lot of time at the archery range and the shooting range. Part of the reason for this is I enjoy it, the other reason is that in order to be successful at anything you need to do it more than just one weekend a year.

 The other day I decided it was time to get my daughter her first bow. She has had a toy bow with suction cup arrows for a while but the arrows are now broken or missing and I figured it would be a good time to introduce Ellie to archery. The bow season starts in a little less than two weeks and I was going to be heading to the archery range anyway so why not take her with. Ellie was very excited to be going to shoot her bow and arrow but that excitement was soon over taken by frustration when she couldn't get the arrow to stick in the target. I had to sit my 4 year old down and have a talk about being patient and practicing. She kept trying and eventually was sticking every arrow in the back stop or on the target. She was beaming with pride and asked me to take her picture with her arrow stuck in the back stop. She then said "daddy are you so proud of me".  The answer of course was yes, not because she was able to shoot her new bow but because she learned something a lot of adults don't seem to understand. You can't just go out and be good or successful at something unless you practice.

I have spent a lot of time perfecting what I do, I have also spent a good amount of time taking new hunters out into the woods and introducing them to the outdoors. Some have gone on to be pretty successful hunters others still don't seem to get it. You have to commit yourself to practicing year round or you will lose what you have learned. Shooting a gun or bow isn't just a matter of pulling a trigger or loosing an arrow, if you don't do it regularly you will not be as accurate. This is particularly true with bow hunting. The strength it takes to pull back a bow isn't something most people have. The ability to hold a bow a full draw while acquiring a target isn't as easy as it sounds and if you are unpracticed you will not be accurate. If you aren't accurate you can wound animals and wounded animals turn into lost animals in a hurry. There is no more sickening feeling than when you realize that you have lost an animal that you wounded and can't find. I know people who have quit hunting because they lost a deer that they wounded. 

Years ago I used to live in Wabasha, MN, I considered myself a pretty good shot until I started hunting with a guy named Eric Passe. Eric showed me just how incompetent I was with a shotgun. I spent a lot of time with him at the trap range and after a summer of shooting trap with Eric my shotgunning improved drastically. I didn't need a better shotgun, bigger bullets, better more expensive shells I just needed more practice. I am not saying that if you want to hunt you need to become some kind of naturalist outdoors man expert, but if you are going to hunt you should take the time to  become proficient at what you need to do to bring food home. I think we owe at least that much to the animals we hunt.