Part 3: Constants, Controls, and Variables

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Controls, Constants, and Variables in Life

So, this is a good year; my worst was 2008. I won’t get into the specifics, but rather what I learned as a result of determined contemplation of what adversity means:

Life is made up of three controlling mechanisms. They are as follows:

    1. Constants: Things you cannot change: i.e. genetics, age, physiology, general appearance, I.Q., gender, etc.
    2. Controls: Circumstances or occurrences that are out of your control: i.e. accidents, illness, other people, the economy, death, etc.
    3. Variables: Things which you have control over: i.e. attitude, lifestyle, relationships, career, extracurricular activities, etc.

These three mechanisms of control dictate our daily struggle, mind-set, attitude, and ultimately our success. We can control some things, and are controlled by others. But what I want to focus on today is the greatest enemy of peace, which is Controls. Controls is the great fear and the great unknown. It can change your life in a second and you never see it coming. It is the finger of God. It is fate.

 Some may argue that our attitude can eliminate the effects of controls, or that our happiness is purely dictated by our negative reaction to stressful events. This is the case when, say, your car breaks down or you catch a cold. But if your son gets flattened by a garbage truck or your house burns down, well, positive thinking won’t help much, at least not in the short run. You are no longer in control, but being controlled.

So what can you do to avoid controls?

Nothing. You don’t have to like it; flee from it if you can. We are justified in fearing Controls. You can never control the Controller. But when crap happens, fight it if you can, embrace it if you can’t. Turn tragedy into action, not reaction, and you’ll get through it, eventually, and  be stronger for it.

You will always have controls. This is how we learn and grow; this is the purpose of life. There is no pleasure without pain. The knife is honed by friction.

Click here for Part 4: The Good Fight

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Part 2: The Steely Claws

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Overcoming Adversity: The Steely Claws of Responsibility

In my book, Zen Hunting, I address two important life concepts which arerelated. The first is what I talked about in my last blog (Adverse Conditions), and the second is “the steely claws of responsibility.”

The steely claws of responsibility represent the controlling aspects of daily life which causes stress and affects our mood in adverse ways. These metaphoric ‘claws’ grasp hold of us when we least expect it and keep us from our goals or happiness. Examples might be a car crash, a serious illness, family emergencies, financial struggles, etc.

How do the steely claws relate to bowhunting? Allow me to get personal:

This year was going quite well in almost every way, and until recently I thought I’d be going into the bowhunt next month with a stress-free mind and a positive attitude. But, in just the last week or two, I have endured surprise attacks from every direction: financial woes, family problems, work problems, and car problems. As the stress and negativity mounted, I was suddenly hit with déjà vu. This sort of thing seems to happen every year at almost the same time, and in similar ways, and as far back as 1997 when my now ex-wife ran off with another man from her work. That year I went into the woods feeling like I was going to throw up on my boots. The fact is I can’t remember the last time I entered the peaceful woods without some huge, black cloud looming over me.

This is just how life works. You see, when I go into the woods this year, I’m going to shoot an innocent and beautiful animal to death in cold blood with a razor-tipped arrow, and maybe watch it die right in front of me. Do you think that sort of action is free? Do you think the God of  Nature would allow this without some sort of sacrifice? Every culture in the world previous to ours knew this. But somehow we forgot.

Nowadays, a failed hunt results in a little disappointment, and maybe a razzing from fellow hunters. In ancient times, a failed hunt meant starvation. Do you think those ancient peoples—for tens of thousands of years—didn’t experience some level of stress prior to and during the great hunt?

And so I embrace it. The long-term effects of stress can be very harmful, but the short-term effects are good. Stress raises my heart rate, focuses my mind, and separates the trivial from the important. The regular seepage of adrenaline into my blood gives me an energy boost on an otherwise hot and lazy day. My patience is thinner, but my decisions are quicker and clearer.

As dreadful as they are, ‘the steely claws of responsibility’ exist to help me succeed in hunting and life.

Click here for Part 3: Controls, Constants, and Variables

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Part 1: Overcoming Adversity

Part 1 of a 4 part series on life, hunting, and overcoming adversity.

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Adverse Conditions = Success

In teaching advanced archery, one of my lessons revolves around ‘adverse conditions.’ What I mean by adverse conditions is that when you’re shooting arrows in your backyard, you are generally shooting at a large target, on a flat surface, at a known yardage, and in fair weather.

But the inexperienced bowhunter quickly figures out that in the mountains, everything changes. Now you are shooting kneeling down on a steep hill, through some brush and limbs, at an unknown distance, with a fly buzzing around your eye, and aiming into the sun. No wonder so many bowhunters have such poor success! In the real world, whether fighting the mountain or fighting the rat race of life, we are constantly battling adverse—or at least unpleasant—conditions. We must learn to welcome adversity and use it to our advantage.

The secret to successful shooting, then, is to practice in adverse conditions. Place as many mental and physical obstacles between you and the target. Have your shooting partner yell or poke you right before you shoot. Shoot at unknown distances. Shoot with a strong crosswind. Shoot through heavy cover or around obstacles. Do whatever you can do to make practice harder and it will pay off in the woods.

From years of real-life hunting experience, I’ve learned that the biggest obstacle is yourself. Even if you shoot 10,000 arrows in the preseason, you’re never really ready for that buck-of-a-lifetime to step out in front of you. And when it happens, I guarantee you’ll come unglued! My brother, Russell, relates a story of this happening to him many years ago when he was still new to bowhunting. A small, two-point buck stepped out right in front of him at only fifteen yards. Sure enough, the instant pressure caused him to send his arrow plowing into the dirt at the buck’s feet!

So how do you prepare for that kind of pressure? The following are some of the best ways I’ve found to create high-pressure practice:

  1. Don’t shoot square targets; shoot realistic 3D targets. If you don’t have a 3D target, you can always dangle small balloons from a string in front of your target. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to hit them as they dance around in the breeze. Not only will this prepare your mind for realistic situations, but it’s a lot more fun.
  2. Compete! At least once or twice a year, sign up for a 3D tournament, even if you aren’t that good. Competitions–especially ones with lots of money on the line–always raise adrenaline levels. If you aren’t up for a formal competition, you can create competitions by practicing with a couple friends. Put a couple bucks on the line and watch the competition soar.
  3. Sprint to and from your target to get your heart rate up, shoot quickly, and repeat. I admit, it’s not a fun way to practice, but it helps.

Remember, overcoming adversity is how we grow stronger in life and bowhunting. Anticipate it–even welcome it–and you’ll be better for it.

Click here for Part 2:  The Steely Claws

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Step #2: Gripping the Bow

How to Grip the Bow

The bow arm (or bow hand) is the arm that holds the bow up. It’s sometimes referred to as a dead-post because it doesn’t really do anything special, other than hold the bow. This being said, your bow arm has a great effect on accuracy. This applies to both traditional and modern bows.

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Bow arm grip

Steps to Properly Grip the Bow

1.  If you are right-handed, grip the bow with your left hand. This is you bow hand. First off, you’re not really “gripping” the bow; you’re simply holding the bow and pushing it forward. If you grip the bow too tightly you’ll torque it side to side, causing you to miss left or right. The best way to avoid torque is to lightly touch the tip  of your thumb and index finger together and allow your other fingers to remain relaxed.

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Relaxed grip

2.  Keep the bow’s grip settled in the “throat” of your hand (between your thumb and index finger.) Keep your wrist straight so that it’s in-line with your forearm bones. If you allow your wrist to bend outward it will cause the bow to settle at the base of your thumb, which causes movement. As you relax your grip on the bow, you will feel the bow settle at a balanced fulcrum point in the throat of your hand.

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Correct wrist position
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Incorrect wrist position

3. The most common mistake for beginner archers is to allow the elbow to bend downward. This increases the chance of slapping your arm with the string. Therefore, you must bend your elbow slightly outward. This might seem a little weird at first, but in time it will become natural.

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Elbow bent outward (CORRECT)
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Elbow bent downward (INCORRECT)

4. As you draw the bow back, your bow arm pushes the bow forward. Remember, your back muscles are doing all the work. As you squeeze your shoulder blades together, your bow arm and your shooting arm apply pressure in opposite directions. At the shot, both arms continue in opposite directions. This is called follow through and will be covered in a future post.

Click here for Step #3: The Release Arm

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Step #1: Proper Archery Shooting Stance

Archery Shooting Stance

Proper form is the foundation for shooting accuracy. Over the next few weeks, we will cover proper archery shooting form, literally from the ground up. Believe it or not, proper form has more influence on accuracy than aiming! Therefore, we will begin with your feet and end with your eyes. Always remember, archery is executed by drawing the bow past your chest, not towards it. Therefore, your body must face 90-degrees away from the target, and this is accomplished with proper foot placement.

Steps:

1. Place an arrow on the ground, pointed at the target.

  1. Line up your feet with the arrow so that your toes are almost touching it.

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3.  You will now be facing 90-degrees away from the target.

4.  Space your feet shoulder-width apart.

5.  If you are right-handed, move your left foot (foot closest to the target) back 3 to 4 inches from the arrow and then point it slightly towards the target (about 45-degrees).

stance002

6.  You are now in the proper shooting stance. It’s that easy! Proper foot placement provides the most stable body position for shooting any kind of bow. Remember, any deviation from this stance will put you off balance and adversely affect shot accuracy. In the future, before you even nock an arrow be sure your feet are set. Very quickly this will become habit.

For the next lesson, click here: Step #2: Gripping the Bow

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Adverse Conditions = Success

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Adverse Conditions = Success

In teaching advanced archery, one of my lessons revolves around “adverse conditions” training. What I mean by adverse conditions is that when you’re shooting arrows in your backyard, you are generally shooting at a large target, on a flat surface, at a known yardage, and in fair weather.

But the inexperienced bowhunter quickly figures out that in the mountains, everything is different from practice. Now you are shooting kneeling down on a steep hill, through some brush and limbs, at an unknown distance, with a fly buzzing around your eye, and aiming into the sun. No wonder so many bowhunters have such poor success! In the real world, whether fighting the mountain or fighting the rat race of life, we are constantly battling adverse—or at least unpleasant—conditions. We must learn to welcome adversity and use it to become stronger.

Adverse Conditions Training

The secret to successful shooting is to practice in adverse conditions. This is achieved by placing as many mental and physical obstacles between you and the target. Have your shooting partner yell or poke you right before you shoot. Shoot at unknown distances. Shoot with a strong crosswind. Shoot through heavy cover or around obstacles. Do whatever you can do to make practice harder and it will pay off in the woods.

From years of real-life hunting experience, I’ve learned that the biggest obstacle is yourself. Even if you shoot 10,000 arrows in the preseason, you’re never really ready when that buck-of-a-lifetime steps out in front of you. When it finally happens, I guarantee you’ll come unglued! My brother, Russell, relates a story of this happening to him many years ago when he was still new to bowhunting. A small, two-point buck stepped out right in front of him at only fifteen yards. Sure enough, the pressure caused him to send his arrow plowing into the dirt at the buck’s feet!

So how do you prepare for that kind of pressure? The following are some of the best ways I’ve found to create high-pressure practice:

  1. Don’t shoot square targets; shoot realistic 3D targets. If you don’t have a 3D target, you can always dangle small balloons from a string in front of your target. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to hit them as they dance around in the breeze. Not only will this prepare your mind for realistic situations, but it’s a lot more fun.
  2. Compete! At least once or twice a year, sign up for a 3D tournament, even if you aren’t that good. Competitions–especially ones with lots of money on the line–always raise adrenaline levels. If you aren’t up for a formal competition, you can create competitions by practicing with a couple friends. Put a couple bucks on the line and watch the competition soar.
  3. Sprint to and from your target to get your heart rate up, shoot quickly, and repeat. I admit, it’s not a fun way to practice, but it helps.

Remember, overcoming adversity is how we grow stronger in life and bowhunting. Anticipate it–even welcome it–and you’ll be better for it.

What are you doing to make practice more challenging?

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Zen Bowhunter Blog: Maiden Voyage

 

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My New Zen Bowhunting Blog

It’s happening early this year! That hunter instinct is creeping in, and the bowhunt is still two months away. I guess it’s just been on my mind…

…hence my new bowhunting BLOG.

Welcome everyone to The Zen Hunter blog. The purpose of this blog is not to sell anything, but to help people, bowhunters and Zen seekers alike. In this blog, I wish to share my experience and expertise in the field of bowhunting while expanding on the subject of Zen, archery, and hunting.

At this point you might be asking yourself, “What is Zen hunting?”

Basically “Zen” is the grasp of the spiritual universe outside of physical observances. It is a concept (not a religion) stmming from the Eastern philosophy of achieving a ‘oneness’ with the world, usually associated with meditation, formal or informal. Zen is associated with the sixth sense which allows a subtle command of physical elements outside normal human understanding.

Zen hunting is simply the application of Zen to hunting, just as Zen can be applied to anything else we do, ranging from gardening to swordsmanship.

My Qualifications

Your next question might be, “What qualifies this blogger (me) to write on such subjects as Zen and bowhunting?”

Simply put, I’ve been an avid bowhunter since 1996, and over the course of these past 18 years I have found my own personal Zen via regular trips alone into Nature. In just the last five years I have arrowed three Pope & Young trophy animals, all within 20 yards, and all with very little effort on my part. Throughout this period I realized that ‘Zen’ is a process of letting go. In other words, the less you try, the more you gain.

As the years pile up behind me, I’m beginning to realize that the natural progression of life is first, to explore ones passions, second, to master the things you’re passionate about, and finally, to share this accumulated knowledge with others by teaching.

In 2012 I published my first book on Zen hunting, entitled, Zen Hunting (eBook now available on Amazon). The idea for this book was first conceived in 2002 after a particularly enlightening and successful hunt. It then took ten years to really understand the magnitude of this concept and materialize it into a sprawling, 200-page book about the meaning and purpose of life!

For today, just remember one thing: hunting is more art than a science In order to achieve the greatest success in hunting, you must be willing to expand your consciousness beyond just the killing and the gear.  My mission is to help people along this path.

As this post is now in peril of running amuck, I will digress. Stay tuned for regular postings, and please, comment and/or pose questions at will. Thank you for reading!

Below is a short excerpt from my book:

July

There’s a certain point in mid-July when everything begins to change. Midday shadows grow longer, inch by inch, day by day. The slightest change in the earth’s angle to the sun is detected deep inside of me and it stirs my whole being. A switch is flipped and my senses sharpen with anticipation for something great. The air and the ground comes to life as if charged with an electrical current which flows through all things, and through me, then out again, bringing all of life into focus and oneness.

By August, the weather is hinting of fall and the great harvest. Afternoon gusts of dry, hot air carry with it nostalgic aromas of ripening vegetation that will accompany me into the depths of the woods and back into the womb of Mother Nature.

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Archery, Zen, and Hunting