Patience Rules

By Joe Bell


        Patience is something I’m slowly starting to understand. I’m still fairly young and hardheaded, but life has a way of smoothing down the edges, so to speak, and I’m much more at peace with things that would’ve rattled my cage in the past. This factor is becoming more and more prevalent in the way I approach hunting. Here are the areas in which I’ve improved immensely.


Ability to Plan

        To plan well you must have patience. Each winter and spring I figure out the animals I want to go after and intensify my focus. In the past, I hunted whatever, whenever—on a whim, and success was really so-so. Now, with a clear vision of my hunting goals and more detailed plans of how to proceed, my overall success is greater. I now know serious hunts require serious planning.

        With planning comes greater contentment, too. For example, my favorite animals to bowhunt are Western deer and elk. Yet, due to my non-planning nature, I ended up hunting other animals each season when all the while my heart was elsewhere. All I did was envision monster mulie and elk racks, even though I was in a treestand hunting Southern whitetails. Nothing wrong with that, but shouldn’t I be where my heart is? I think so.

        This past season, I allowed myself to bear down on these animals, and guess what? I was way more at peace and found myself on Cloud 9.

        Also, a good plan allows for enough time to scout and hunt each animal. Allowing only a few days on this or that trip is an indication of inexperience. Go on fewer trips but go for longer. You’ll bag more critters and hone your ability as a bowhunter because of it.


What Downtime?

        Every hunt has downtime, and some people just like to get upset about it. I don’t do that anymore. I enjoy every element of the hunt, even when I’m not seeing game or when the weather just plain stinks. During those times, I confront the challenge. I bowhunt for many reasons but challenge ranks among the top. When a certain trial comes my way I face it head-on, knowing it will make success that much sweeter.

        Also, enjoying the camaraderie of my friends is a special part of every hunt. Nowhere can you build a bond like you can on a hunting trip. These days, I never take this aspect for granted.


Step-by-Step Approach

        With patience comes an understanding that when you follow steps A-Z, what you reach eventually is step Z, and Z is the killing part.

        Drawing down in the presence of an animal is a major mental overdose. A rush is good, but a crippling rush is bad. Some calmness is necessary to make a good shot. To maintain composure, focus on each step of the shot. Tell yourself: “Okay, I’ll draw slowly when he looks away, and then I’ll work through the shot process systematically, just like I do when shooting at home.” Most importantly, I’ll pick a very small spot on the animal’s chest and pretend it’s just another chip shot on the block target. When you do that, shots find their target—trust me.

        This step-by-step approach is helpful after the shot, too. Blood trailing isn’t all that difficult; you just need a system to work with. After the shot, focus on what the animal does, and don’t even think about moving until you mark exactly where the animal was standing when the arrow hit.

        From there, be smart and use common sense. Wait 30 minutes—even on the best hits—and much longer on the bad ones. If your hit was far back, wait for at least 6 hours, with 8 to 12 being even better. Give the animal and nature some time. If left alone, paunch-hit animals rarely travel more than 200 yards. Pushed, they travel further and usually leave zero blood. If you’re totally uncertain of the shot, but the blood looks good, err on the side of caution and wait 2 hours, then slowly investigate for more blood. If the blood isn’t bright and frothy, indicating a lung hit, back off and wait.

        Some bowhunters insist on trailing game immediately just because it’s raining or snowing. Big mistake. Waiting is always better, regardless of the circumstances.


Equipment Preparation

        Patience leads to more accurate equipment. Nowadays, when I’m working on tuning and sighting in a bow, I know perfection is somewhere out there waiting to be found. This is a slow process, and rushing it is bad. Excessive tuning means intense shooting. You can’t do something in one day that could take weeks. I know that and now just “roll” with the process. When my shooting muscles get tired I slack off—even for a day or two if needed. I never jeopardize shooting form and concentration for a poorly shooting bow. I tune, but maintain my shooting focus. It takes a long time to ingrain good shooting technique, but only a couple days to lose it.


Final Stalk

        Lastly, the final 100 yards of a stalk require more patience than all of these combined. Wary bucks or bulls are on a different timetable; it’s simple and slow. I now know I need to adjust my clock hand to tick just like theirs. My advances on game are now sluggish but deliberate, realizing that slow-motion speed is always better than fast and (usually) foolish. There are moments to speed up the clock, of course. But, all in all, patience is what prevails when easing inside-shot range of a tall-racked critter.

        This year I hope you exercise a similar kind of patience in all your hunting endeavors. As you do, success will be close at hand.