Finding Stillness in the Woods: The Okayest Hunter's Guide to Deer Camp

Become More Present in the Moment Through Deer Hunting

By Eric Clark | PUBLISHED November 21st, 2023

Finding moments of stillness has become a rare treasure in our fast-paced world, where time seems to slip through our fingers, much like that shooter buck we had our crosshairs on. Ryan Holiday's principles from "Stillness is the Key" help shed some light on the significance of slowing down in life. What better place to embrace this than at deer camp? 

As deer hunters, spending time in the woods isn't just about finding that target buck, buck bedding, or the perfect tree to set up in; they're a sanctuary where time takes a pause, allowing us to reconnect with cherished memories and the camaraderie of good hunting buddies. In a world moving at the speed of light, the deer woods stand steady, inviting us to savor the simple joys of nature. 

During the weekend gun deer opener in Wisconsin, I trekked down to my favorite spot in a plot of hardwoods where a stream flows into a pool of crystal clear water. The sound of the babbling brook and small waterfall fill my mind with peace as the wind breezes through the pine needles above. It's the first time I've genuinely stopped to take in a moment in at least the last six months. It was also the exact spot where I killed my first buck 14 years ago. As I stood there, the woods came alive with many past memories. I could stand in the present, surrounded by nature, and see memories from years ago while reflecting on how much has changed in those last 14 years. Simultaneously, I'm thinking about how fast the next 14 years will go by as my kids grow and how someday they'll be here in these same woods beside me. The deer woods helped me become present at the moment and appreciate how important it is right now. 

Deer camp isn't merely a gathering for hunting—it's a haven for reflection, reminiscence, and rejuvenation. Amidst the rustling leaves and the crisp morning air, there's a serenity that blankets the woods as the Bard Owl hoots, "Who cooks for you?" slowing the pace of life to a comfortable rhythm. Here, the chaos of life surrenders to the tranquility of the woods.

The breeze through the last of the dead leaves clinging onto the tree branches echoes the stories of past hunts, forging bonds between friends and family that transcend time. Back at camp, each shared meal each laugh around the card table, become new cherished memories, etched in the collective story of the hunting crew.

Deer camp traditions

Ryan Holiday's wisdom teaches us the importance of finding stillness amidst the chaos. Amid our fast-paced lives, the woods offer an unspoken invitation to disconnect from the noise, recalibrate our souls, and relish the present moment.

In the book, Stillness is the Key, author Ryan Holiday breaks down some practical ways to help become more present in any given moment. Below are a few of those techniques along with my take on how deer hunting aligns tightly with them. 

Mindfulness Practice: Engage in mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindful walking. These practices help in grounding oneself in the present moment, fostering a sense of awareness and clarity. 

  • Most of these things can be achieved naturally on any given hunt. 

Limit Distractions: Recognize and reduce external distractions. Whether turning off notifications, carving out specific times for focused work, or setting boundaries with technology, minimizing distractions allows for a deeper connection to the present.

  • What better place to limit distractions when you don't have any cell phone reception?

Embrace Silence: Embrace moments of silence in your day. It could be through intentional periods of quiet reflection, walking in nature without headphones, or simply taking breaks from constant stimulation to appreciate the calm.

  • I couldn't think of a quieter place than the woods at first or last light when you're afraid the sound of your respiratory system might alert an approaching deer. 

Cultivate Gratitude: Practice gratitude by acknowledging and appreciating the present moment. Reflect on what you're thankful for, whether it's the people around you, the environment, or simply the opportunity to experience life.

  • I don't know about y'all, but there's something uniquely special about having a whitetail or even the opportunity to do so that gives me deep gratitude. 

Detach from Outcomes: Focus on the process rather than fixating on outcomes. By fully engaging in the task and detaching from the desire for specific results, you can immerse yourself more deeply in the present.

  • This one is a critical point. If you've been focused on hitting a goal of something like 140" or bust or something to that effect, remember why you started. We as hunters love the process; that's what keeps us coming back for more and enduring harsh seasons when the wiley whitetail kicks our ass. 

Single-tasking: Embrace single-tasking over multitasking. Engaging fully in one task at a time allows for better concentration and a more profound connection to the present moment.

  • Focus on one thing at a time. That might be the hunt itself. It could also be various tasks within each hunt, like finding a spot to set up, setting up your stand, saddle, or building a ground blind. If you've harvested a deer, it might be the butchering process. 

Pursuing stillness isn't about halting progress as a deer hunter but embracing the essence of being present. The quiet moments in the stand or against that old stump or the camaraderie shared in preparing for the hunt—all contribute to a tapestry of experiences that enrich our lives.

As the years fly by, the woods remain a constant, where we can always return to ground ourselves. 

For us Okayest Hunter/s, the call to hit the deer woods isn't just about the pursuit of game; it's about finding solace in the stillness of nature and the timeless bonds formed with hunting buddies.

Hunting stories around the tailgate

So, pack your gear, pick out your favorite snacks for an all-day sit, round up your hunting buddies, and head to the woods—where stillness reigns, memories abound, and the Okayest Hunter finds solace in the timeless embrace of all that hunting has to offer. 

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