It's hard to believe that another year has come and gone. 2011 is long gone ...we're well into 2012. And with a new year comes hopes of better days ahead. It is a time when the slate is wiped clean, and we have the opportunity to make the new year better than the last. Many of us began 2012 with resolutions. For some, those included plans to eat healthier, exercise more, and hopefully to weigh less. For others, it may have included a promotion, a career change, or maybe the beginning of a new business venture. Very rarely, though, do you hear any of us diehard hunters talking about our hunting resolutions for the new year.
Truth is, I didn't make any New Year's resolutions at all. When I think about resolutions, I think about something doomed for failure; something that will be long forgotten before the first Redbud tree blooms in the spring. Instead of resolutions, I prefer to set goals for the year. While some of these goals will be reserved for my career, my finances, and my health, others will be set specifically for hunting.
Yeah, I know...setting hunting goals may sound a bit over-the-top. However, if you take your hunting seriously, and want to make the most of the hours you get to spend in the field, why not take a little time to lay the ground work for a successful season? It doesn't have to be complicated or anything formal, but in order to make it worthwhile, there are a few steps that will maximize the effectiveness of your 2012 hunting goals.
KEEP THEM SPECIFIC
The first rule of setting any type of goals for the new year, is to keep them specific. If you don't, then it's going to be hard to stay focused and almost impossible to know whether or not you actually hit your mark. Most of us would like to shoot a big buck next deer season...but how big? Big is a relative term, and what I consider a big buck and what you consider a big buck may be two different things. Maybe your deer hunting goal for 2012 is to kill a buck over 130 inches...or maybe you just want to kill a buck at least 3 ½ years old...or better yet, you may just want to kill your first buck with a recurve. Of course, it doesn't have to be about the size of the deer or his antlers. In fact, it doesn't have to be about deer at all.
Whatever goal you have in mind, just make sure it is specific and measurable, so that at the end of the season, you can look back and know for certain whether or not you reached your goal.
KEEP THEM REALISTIC
Just as important as making your hunting goals specific, is keeping them realistic. There is nothing wrong with dreaming about killing the next state record buck (I know I do!), but if your goals are consistently unrealistic, then you are just going to end up disappointed and frustrated. For example, on the properties that I have permission to hunt, it wouldn't be very realistic for me to set a goal of shooting a 200-inch typical buck. That's not to say that it couldn't happen, but the odds are extreme, and if I set that kind of goal every year, then I am going to eventually throw in the towel and forget about setting any goals at all. The trick is to set realistic goals and to keep them high enough to make you work at it, but not so high that success is unlikely.
CREATE A WRITTEN GAME PLAN
Sitting down and giving thought to what you would like to accomplish in 2012 is the first step, but it's not enough to really tip the odds in your favor. You need to put those goals in writing. For one, that makes it real, and gives you something to review often. However, just jotting down a list of goals and then tucking it away in a drawer somewhere isn't going to magically help you in achieving those goals, either. This is why most New Year's resolutions never really get off the ground. It's because they don't include a game plan.
Think of your goals as a destination that you want to reach, and the written game plan as your road map to get there. Without the map, you'll end up lost and frustrated. Developing a game plan involves taking each goal for the year, and then figuring out exactly what it will take to accomplish that goal. Let's say that your goal is to harvest your first Pope & Young buck this fall. In order to do that, you may need to get permission to hunt a new property. Or you may need to practice shooting your bow more than usual, or work on your yardage estimating skills. Maybe it's going to take buying additional trail cameras and intensively scouting the farm that you hunt. Whatever those steps may be, you need to figure out exactly what it's going to take to make it happen and then start planning when and how you will accomplish each in order to reach your ultimate goal of harvesting that buck.
At a minimum, I like to break down my goals for the year into monthly tasks. From there, you can further incorporate them into your weekly and evenly daily to-do lists. By doing this, you can stay focused and on top of your goals, and the season won't sneak up on you and catch you unprepared. In order to get the most out of your game plan, you will want to review it frequently to see whether you need any adjustments along the way in order to stay on track to accomplish your goals.
HOW DID I DO?
No amount of goal setting and planning can guarantee success... especially when it comes to hunting! If done properly, however, it will keep you focused on what you want to accomplish and tip the odds of succeeding in your favor. If you find, at the end of the year, that you fell short of your goals, then use that opportunity to reflect on how things went, exactly what went wrong, and how you can improve your game plan for the next year.
With a fresh new year under way, there is no better time to sit down, with pen in hand, and contemplate what you would like to achieve in 2012. While you are setting goals for your health, career, finances, and family, don't forget to take a few minutes to consider what you hope to accomplish in the field, as well. It may be the difference between another mediocre season, and one that you will never forget!
Brian Grossman is a wildlife biologist, freelance writer and avid outdoorsman from Mt. Washington, Kentucky. You can visit his web site at www.PoorBoysOutdoors.com .