To me, the single most important aspect of adverse hunting is mental toughness. The ability to be wet, cold, sore, tired, and borderline hypothermic and to continue to press on hunting separates the average from the better hunter.This is easier said than done, but eventually you will hit a threshold that either makes you numb to these experiences or you swear you’ll never be in those situations again.
Many of the successful hunters sitting behind beautiful animals in remote basins across the world are hard-core. But, not every gritty hunter is the mountainous kind. East Coasters, Mid-Westerners, and Southerners experience humid cold - the kind that bites skin and bruises bones. Much different from the dry cold we encounter in Alaska. Sitting through a whole day of late-season rut-hunting on stand and making the shot count when you’re pushing the limits of cold endurance isn't the easiest.
I’ve been fortunate to experience some great hunting camps. Some of my fondest have been sitting in a whitetail stand in Pennsylvania. Frigid to the marrow on those all day sits, I know eventually something would cruise by. I’m talking cold on a cellular level. This gave me a whole new perspective on what some call “easy hunting.” After all, this was much different than solo mountain goat hunting in Prince William Sounds, Alaska. A whole different ball game. I savored the challenge.
Hardness to me is not a term for someone who does CrossFit and works out religiously. Hardness is frame of mind. You can put your body through just about anything if your mind is willing to stay on board. Look at legends like the late, great Jack O’Connor. He wasn’t hunting in the latest most technically advanced clothing and gear systems of 2020. He was hunting sheep in wool and cotton when he was in his 60s. If you have experienced any amount of time soaking wet in blue jeans and a cotton shirt then imagine being on a 10 day remote hunting camp with no real good way to get dry. Then gutting it out, hiking up a mountain and rolling a Yukon ram with a .270 WSM.
Imagine being in a deer stand in mid-October, sitting till dark through a downpour for the one chance at a mega buck when the storm stops. I’m talking about exhausting all grey matter in the right situation for the opportunity to take home a critter of a lifetime.
We all know “that moment” because we've experienced it. Thinking to ourselves, “I want to go home, but I need to sit here for one more hour.” And then it happens - he steps out, and BOOM!
Staying sharp, and being tough has helped me in the mountains more than any aspect. There isn’t a gym membership that will stiffen up the meat between your ears. You gotta earn it through experience and testing your limits. Push through your threshold time and time again and you will experience more success afield.