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Woods and waters with Joe Martino

Sometimes a break is what makes hunting enjoyable

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TIMING-  Galveston's Ben Carpenter played it smart to undo this magnificent buck on opening morning of Indiana's firearms season.  He stayed out the area until he felt the time was right; and it was!

Things do not always work out like you plan. A lot of times you envision a particular outcome to an event and it ends up turning out quite differently; sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Sometimes a total change of plans can turn out to be the best thing. Such was the case for me a few years ago, when I found out that sometimes, taking a break from the grind of deer hunting can be a great thing.

I had the week off to focus solely on deer hunting during the final week of the early archery season before the “orange army” would invade the areas woodlots that Saturday for the opening of the regular deer firearms season. I had planned on doing everything I could to anchor a mature buck during that week. I had every right to be optimistic – I thought. The rut should have been kicking into high gear that week and I planned to be in a tree every day. To me, that seemed to be a likely combination for intercepting a mature buck as they should be out looking for does. I felt that the odds were good of having at least one opportunity at a dandy buck in bow range.

I spent the weekend before my week off and the early days of the week doing my best to lay eyes on a good buck. Each trip to the tree yielded only sightings of young deer. I was still happy to be in their presence, yet felt that I should be seeing more and bigger ones. By mid-week, fatigue and a lack of interest were setting in. Hunting really takes it out of you. The early mornings, chilly weather and constant mental focus that come with deer hunting can take their toll on your mind and body, which can lead to frustration. Throw in the fact that I was witnessing lackluster rutting activity at best, and the recipe for burn-out was in place! Hunting is supposed to be fun, and when it starts losing its appeal, it may be time for a break.

So, on a sunny afternoon in the middle of the week, I spent a couple of hour’s pheasant hunting with some friends. All I really wanted to do at the time was take a nap, but we had already planned it, so I didn’t back out. Man, am I glad I didn’t!

The chance to mix things up a bit and get my mind out of the deer woods was actually refreshing. For the first time that week, I was not stressing out over how I planned to foil a big bucks next move or contemplating which stand to hunt given the wind direction. I was not busy over-thinking a strategy that would hopefully help me to take out a monstrous whitetail. Nope, I was simply enjoying a relaxing time with a good dog and some light-hearted conversation amidst the company of friends. That hour and a half or two of time spent not thinking about or going deer hunting was actually a refreshing break. And up to that point in my week off had been the most productive hunt of the week! We all shot well and succeeded in taking our share of birds. It was just the confidence booster I needed.

After cleaning pheasants, I headed back out for the treestand, but this time a little more relaxed. My luck carried over that evening as I took a nice doe with my bow. She went down within sight, thus capping off my great day outdoors. She may not have been the buck I was after, but after the poor week I had been having in the deer woods, and coming off my fruitful pheasant hunt, I was thrilled. That was the icing on the cake.

I spent the week deer hunting mainly, except for that pheasant hunt and some raccoon hunting sprinkled in. I even took a day and a half completely off from hunting and did other things instead – and I didn’t feel bad about doing so. Like I said, I took the week off to focus on deer hunting but what ended up making my week great was not necessarily that. It was everything; the deer hunting, the raccoon hunting, the pheasant hunting – and the much needed break from it all to relax and enjoy some time with my family for a day or so. They all combined to make it a good week off. Yes, sometimes things don’t work out like we hope, but sometimes they work out just fine anyway.