Most people who know me well would say that I am a quiet person, regardless of how my writings may cause some to think otherwise. I am one of those folks that could drive from coast to coast without a radio because my mind is always dissecting various issues and topics. Nobody ever learned a thing while talking. There is a reason that God gave us two ears but only one mouth. Some time ago I realized that often the people who talk the most are the ones that actually know the least.
I have also witnessed the mannerisms of true experts in their fields and often they are quiet and simply blend into the crowd. These folks are not to be confused with the ego-driven pseudo-experts who can’t wait to tell everyone how much they know. Granted, there are a few true experts who also possess out of control egos but from my experience most folks who are at the top of their field could not be picked out of a crowd. They are typically quiet unassuming folks.
I get the opportunity to meet and speak with thousands of deer hunters every year. I have personal interactions daily with deer hunters of every level of experience and knowledge from the greenest beginner to the most knowledgeable whitetail minds on the planet. I sometimes catch myself silently analyzing these other deer hunters, especially beginners and those who hire me to consult for them on their properties. I feel that I can predict a deer hunter’s future success fairly accurately.
When a beginner is speaking with me and the majority of the conversation is them telling me how much they know, I realize that person will never be as good as they think they already are. On the other hand if the beginner spends his time asking questions and intently listening to the response, I know I am talking to someone who has the chance to one day be very good.
In regards to my consulting clients, I can usually tell within the first 30 minutes of my visit to their property if they are wasting their money. A couple of times I have even wondered if they are just paying me to listen to them talk. Fortunately most of the time this is not the case and it proves to be a rewarding situation for both of us.
So just what is it that allows some people to climb to the top of their field while others with the same desire struggle and fail? I could throw out a few answers to this question; always striving to learn more, passion, and desire are viable answers. However I think I have it narrowed down a bit further. I believe that when you combine these things with an open-mind you are setting yourself up for success no matter your field.
So far my comments have been fairly generic and could apply to any field but I am going to narrow it down to focus on deer hunting and show how an open-mind can help you become a better and more successful deer hunter.
I remember as a green beginner I would read everything I could find related to deer hunting. I would then try every tactic I read about in the real world hunting situations that I was afforded. I would give each tactic a fair chance to work over multiple seasons and on different properties but often they just did not work as they had in the book or magazine article.
A good example of this is rattling. For several years I carried rattling antlers with me and banged them together when I felt the opportunity was right. I rattled in a few bucks but I carried those antlers a lot of miles and up and down a lot of trees between bucks. Then on one hunt I spied movement nearly 150 yards from my stand not long after rattling. I grabbed my binos and could see a mature buck getting the bead on me straight downwind. With the wooded cover and the distance he was from me it would have been very easy for me to have totally missed seeing this buck. Obviously the buck didn’t come in for a closer look but instead silently vanished.
It wasn’t too much later that I quit carrying rattling antlers. Now, I absolutely know they can work to draw in the biggest buck in the woods. However I am open-minded enough to also realize that for every buck I rattle in, I will educate 20 others that I never see to my stand location. Being open-minded caused me to start leaving the rattling horns hanging in the shed. Today I continually question all tactics, not just the ones that I read about but also the ones that I am currently using. I am constantly considering if I need to alter or change my approach to hunting mature bucks.
One of the biggest issues regarding closed-mind thinking amongst deer hunters is their blind allegiance to certain entities. For example, if ABC deer organization promotes something or takes a stance on an issue then most deer hunters will blindly accept it as fact. Why? Don’t they realize that most of these entities be it an organization, company, person or whatever are operating to make a profit? Have you ever looked at some of the products they endorse? For example, when an entity will tout the benefits of a mineral product that is 95% salt it really doesn’t take much of an open mind to see that any information they put out needs to be closely reviewed and not blindly swallowed whole and regurgitated as gospel.
I even look at peer reviewed scientific studies with an open-mind rather than just accept them as fact. At times these are done more to support a position on a topic than to actually learn an unbiased truth. For example, recently the topic of supplemental feeding deer has become an issue in my home state of Illinois. Some opponents of this legislation have cited a study from Wisconsin where the CWD prion was found at 9 out of 11 mineral sites. I even recently witnessed IDNR biologist Paul Shelton cite this study in testimony to legislators.
To the opponents of supplemental feeding this might seem like compelling evidence for their position. By looking at it with a completely open-mind I see it as nothing more than propaganda to support a predetermined side of an issue. Here is why; first the study was conducted in an area with one of the highest rates of CWD on earth. Frankly, I would be surprised if they hadn’t found prions at these sites.
The real question with this study is, why were soil samples only collected at mineral sites? Why didn’t they collect soil samples from scrapes in the same area? What about food plots, deer trails, bedding areas, etc and then compare the rates of prion levels at various locations? The answer is simple really; had they done that, the results very well may have shown higher prion levels in other locations than at the mineral licks. I don’t think it would have fit the agenda if it was proven that the prion level was higher in scrapes than at a mineral lick. Keep in mind that this study is a peer reviewed study being cited by biologists and various agencies and being accepted without question by most deer hunters and yet it is nothing short of propaganda to support a position on a topic.
This column is not a knock on studies, articles, books or other sources of information. Instead it is meant to encourage you as a deer hunter to view everything with an open mind no matter where the information comes from. There is a wealth of great, accurate, and applicable information out there but sometimes it takes an open-mind to sort through the garbage and agendas to find it. An open-mind is what separates those at the top of any field from those struggling to get there. Deer hunting is not an exception.