How to Deal with the Pressure of Hunting Season
A Survival Guide to Hunting Season
By PJ DelHomme | PUBLISHED August 8th, 2022
For working stiffs with families, chores, and everything else that comes with adulting, hunting can be another stressor added to life’s pressure cooker. Here’s how I attempt to try and destress in the fall and actually (gasp) enjoy hunting.
My wife doesn’t like to be around me much during hunting season. Honestly, I don’t blame her one bit. I don’t mean to be an ass, but it happens. I’m a grouch until there’s meat in the freezer. Like most young families, our days are busy. An average fall day for us looks a little like this. Take the kids to school, work, hike the dog, laundry, figure out dinner, take the kids to swim and gymnastics, cook dinner, talk to kids—you get the idea. Meanwhile, I’m trying to find time to fill a tag.
In Montana, we have a good three months to get meat in the freezer. It seems like a lot of time, and it is if you’re retired and the kids are grown. I don’t hunt as much as I want, but I’m trying to make my peace with it. To be fair, I get out more often than I probably should give into the daily routine. Even so, here’s what I’ve found helps me cope with not always being in the woods when I’d like to be.
Turn Off Social Media
There, I said it. Chances are you’re reading this because of social media. (I’m a fan of irony.) At first, this was a tough one, given that media is what I do. But every fall, I try to leave the comparison culture behind. I unfollow a few folks on Instagram who seem to do nothing but hunt and kill monsters. Some are 30-somethings with no care or obligation in the world. For others, it’s their literal job. We might be acquaintances in real life, but in the end, we have little in common. After the season, I can always go back to following them if I care.
Plus, not being distracted in the woods by my digital pacifier tunes me back into the reason I’m in the woods to begin with. I’m reminded that birds start losing their minds about 20 minutes before sunrise, followed by seriously angry and loud pine squirrels very annoyed at my presence.
And by all means, whatever you do, don’t reveal on social media that you just drew a once-in-a-lifetime tag in a unit known to hold absolute toads. This will only add to the pressure.
Accept Your Reality
As a know-it-all between 18 and 28 years old, I was a freewheeling dirtbag—always a working one, though. I worked in Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, went backpacking on the weekends, drove my Jeep through the canyons of Utah, went to school when I felt like it, and I hunted. All. The. Time.
More than a decade ago, I became a father and had to put on my big-boy pants. I still struggle to understand that I’m not 25 anymore, but I’m getting better. Now, I can never go to the bathroom alone, open a bag of Cheetos without someone in my face or drop everything and go hunting on a Tuesday.
As I come to grips with my life as I know it, only then can I begin to make peace with it. And you know what’s helped with that? See step number one above. Seriously. I remind myself (probably too often) that my life is not anyone else’s. There are four people in my house, and I make up just 25 percent. That’s a far-cry from the 100 percent of my 20s. It’s still a pretty charmed existence. As Yoda might say, grateful I am.
Plan, Plan, Plan
I miss the spontaneity of my 20s. Now, though, if it’s not on the calendar that hangs in the kitchen pantry, it’s not happening. My wife’s a nurse with kind of a fancy job—(and health insurance). Because I call myself a writer, her work schedule gets first dibs. Once she fills in her days on the calendar, I can fill in my hunting days around school activities and swim meets, of course. It’s the only way I’m going to get more than one day in a row to hunt. By writing it down and running the dates by her, she’s able to coordinate with her parents or friends if she needs help picking up the kids or whatever. It’s fair. And because I like being married, it minimizes confrontation.
Don’t think there isn’t a price to pay for being gone a few days. This year, she made plans—in February—to go with girlfriends to Nashville. On the calendar, she called dibs on the first few days of Montana’s rifle opener. It’s give and take—always has been, always will be. I’ll be cashing in my parental capital during the elk rut in September.
For me, hunting isn’t everything. It can’t be. For others, though, hunting is the only thing—at least that’s what their social media pages like to make you think. And that’s what advertisers and influencers like to make you think as well. That’s not my reality.
For me, a successful hunting season means putting some organic, free-range meat in the freezer. Antlers and horns are cool, but you need to boil them a very long time before you can chew them. Fall is also about backpacking without bugs and catching giant trout in high mountain lakes. It’s about helping kids with their homework and celebrating my wedding anniversary, which happens to be smack in the middle of the elk rut, but that’s a story for another time.