The Mayo Clinic describes the symptoms of burnout as, “a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work”. Let’s be honest, we all experience burnout in regards to something in life. As a kid, I used to play baseball from February until the end of the summer, guess what – I stopped caring and had no desire to continue after high school.

The same can be said about our occupations. The first year on the job you’re setting the world on fire, but by year two or three you are just going through the motions unless new challenges are presented.

The same effects of burnout can be experienced in hunting. I always looked up to my dad as an outdoorsman and loved hearing about all his stories in the whitetail woods growing up. As he grew older I noticed he stopped taking a gun when hunting with us boys, then he quit altogether. He’ll quickly tell you today that sitting in a tree stand for hours no longer appeals to him. The thoughts of what he should be doing when weighing the pros and cons keeps him at home.

Causes of burnout

The symptoms of burnout are easy to catch, but the causes of burnout creep in like a cold. Back in the 1970’s, two Doctors (Dr Robert Jackson and Robert Norton) from the University of Wisconsin conducted a survey on hunters that determined deer hunters pass through five stages in their lifetime of hunting; The Shooter Stage, Limiting-Out Stage, Trophy Stage, Method Stage and Sportsman’s Stage.

If you’ve been hunting for any amount of time you have probably experienced more than one, if not all, of these stages. For the beginning hunter lets’s take a look at a what each stage entails.

  1. The Shooter Stage – The Hunter is eager to get off a shot even if it is not the perfect situation because of lack of experience.
  2. Limiting Out Stage – A point in the hunter’s life where success hinges on the number of animals taken.
  3. Trophy Stage – Success depends on the maturity and size of the animal. The idea of shooting anything less is not acceptable unless it’s for management purposes.
  4. Method Stage – In this stage, the motivation comes from the method of the hunt. Equipment preference plays a big role at this point and most hunters have a specific weapon of choice, even if it differs from animal to animal. Woodsmanship is key to the method stage, the opportunity to use skills honed from research and experience in the woods.
  5. Sportsman’s Stage – Is the point where the hunter has reached full maturity and is concerned less about the harvest and more about the process. Everything from conservation to the hunt itself is what matters most.

The problem for this generation of hunters is that stages one and two are looked down upon by their peers. I do agree that the Shooter-Stage can be unfortunate because bad decisions are sometimes made due to the lack of experience and excitement factor. The Limiting-Out Stage, however, plays an important role in the growth of the hunter.  Focusing on the quantity of success over quality fuels confidence and keeps the hunter back year after year.

Entering the Trophy-Stage is no easy task unless you are loaded with money or blessed with a great location. Going into the woods and taking mature game takes work and skill. The only way to obtain both is going out and learning the trade with respect to the game and law.

New hunter, hear me now – You don’t need permission from your Facebook friends to shoot a deer! Stop worrying about what other people think when you pull the trigger. If you are new to the sport – learn the habitat, learn the animal, become a hunter and not a sniper. Understand how to field dress, and process game so you can see it through from start to finish on your own. Get the basics down before you worry about becoming the next camo clad celebrity.

The next cause that I see for burnout is a lack of opportunity. Find a State map and begin to look for public access around your home. Unless you’re in the West you have very limited opportunity for hunting land that has public access. So if you don’t own land you must seek permission or leasing opportunities. Neither are easy and require work. I’m not sure about you, but looking for places to hunt is much harder than the act of hunting itself. It’s not altogether impossible, but the roadblocks are all around.

My Experience with Burnout

I never once thought burnout could happen to me in regards to hunting, however, one day it did. After finishing my enlistment in the USMC I didn’t move home where hunting opportunities were plentiful. Instead, my family ended up in a place that made sense for our future but had few hunting opportunities. Over time the appeal to sit in a tree stand was slowly disappearing. The lack of public hunting opportunities and lease opportunities began to take a toll on my drive. Slowly hunting burnout began to form in my soul and all the desire was fading away. I canceled all my hunting magazine subscriptions, stopped shooting my bow and bought a Kayak.

Hunting burnout had finally taken over and there was little desire to hunt. I’m not really sure when it happened, but my mind began to drift back to my childhood dreams. I didn’t grow up wanting to become a salesman or Marine. I wanted to live and hunt in the Rocky Mountains – everything else was inconsequential.

During my orientation in the Marines, I started a savings bond that would guarantee enough money for an elk hunt once my enlistment was complete. After that first hunt in the mountains, hearing and smelling the elk was more of a rush than I’d ever imagined it. Hunting out west is my Mountain (Dream) and it’s time to start chasing it.

Chasing Your Mountain

New Year’s day in 2015 my wife and I sat down to discuss our goals for the coming year. We decided to come up with a word that would drive us this year, and one that we would push towards. The first word that came to my mind was, “Chase”. This year I was going to stop making resolutions and start doing. What had to be done was start the process of chasing my dream and what I’ve come to say, “Chase the Mountain”.

Chasing your Mountain is a process. It’s work. You have to develop plans, make goals, do research and make investments. This is what I’ve been doing all this year. From finding a workout partner, applying for a tag out West and investing in my western hunting gear. It’s been a process, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m hoping that by following this blog I can help you in your Chase and I can document mine.

So the question is – What is your Mountain, and are you willing to Chase it?

Posted by Adam Crews