How to Be Fearless Outdoors
Hunters of all ages—but especially young and inexperienced hunters—can suffer from fear of being alone in the outdoors. And it only gets worse after dark. Most hunting success comes very early or very late in the day, and this means venturing out in the dark.
Whether your fears are rational or irrational, conquering your fears is vital for success in any walk of life, but especially in hunting. A successful hunter must learn to be comfortable in nature.
There’s no shame being afraid; after all nature can be a dangerous place. People die all the time from predator attacks, lightning strikes, hypothermia, heat stroke, dehydration, getting lost, etc. These are very real concerns. Fortunately most fears can be eliminated with a little woods experience and some common sense preparedness. But first, what is fear?
What is Fear?
Is fear even real? Where is fear? Can you point to it?
Fear is just an abstraction. It’s a negative state of mind conjured up out of one’s imagination. In most cases you are simply reacting to an uncertain future . Other times you are reacting to bad associations from past experiences. Only rarely is fear justified, as with an immediate emergency. In these cases, fear can be deadly.
Reaction to danger causes panic, and panic only makes a bad situation worse. I’m not saying that danger isn’t real. Life is full of danger. But when danger arises, a fearless man acts, not reacts.
With a little practice you can learn to control your reactions and thus lose your fears. Let’s explore some methods.
Prepare for the Worst
Successful hunting in modern times usually means venturing into some pretty nasty country. If you aren’t prepared for wilderness conditions, then maybe you should be afraid. Being prepared for dangerous situations gives you confidence and alleviates fear.
The following are some basic preparedness techniques that will help you gain confidence afield:
- Always bring enough food, water and enough extra layers to survive a night in the wilderness. Have a way to stay warm and dry: carry a rain poncho, space blanket, and a fire starter kit. Pack a reliable flashlight and a water filter. You should also carry a signaling device such as a satellite phone, a mirror or a whistle. If you are hunting in an area with dangerous predators, maybe carry a sidearm.
- Having a basic first aid kit is another good idea. The most important item in my first aid kit is duct tape. Quartering an animal in the backcountry can be a dangerous task. Duct tape and super glue can go a long way to close up deep cuts and lacerations.
- A space blanket is the first thing I pack for any backcountry hunt. Space blankets are made from a very thin, lightweight Mylar material that reflects heat. On a recent winter hunt trip I had stove malfunction the very first night out. In the two hours I spent trying to fix the stove, I could feel my body temperature dropping steadily. When I realized a warm meal off the menu I immediately busted out my space blanket and wrapped it around my sleeping bag. It was a real lifesaver. Knowing you have a reliable way to survive the elements goes a long way in dispelling fears of being alone in the wild.
Facing Irrational Fears
Fears can be also be eliminated by simply changing your perspective on life. More than anything people fear the unknown; with death being the greatest of the unknowns. But is death really that unknown? All creatures die, so how is life any more mysterious than death? Going through life fearing the inevitable is nonsensical. Why worry about things outside of your control? Why be distracted from living because of concerns for the future?
There’s a lot of philosophy here, but what it boils down to is this: The only thing worse than dying is not really living. Focus on living while you’re alive; dying will take care of itself. Conquering fear of the unknown begins with losing your fear of death and embracing the unknown.
Fear of Failure
Lastly, we should address the fear of failure. Fear of failure is very real and should be avoided. This is my biggest fear. Bowhunting gives my life purpose. I put so much time and energy into bowhunting that when I fail I feel useless. But nothing good can come from fearing failure. It makes a person desperate, and desperation causes a person to make bad decisions. It also compromises your ethics. Worst of all, desperation takes the fun out of life and hunting. Hunting is recreation and should be always be fun!
Bowhunting is a privilege; the act of bowhunting is reward enough in itself without having to kill something. Bowhunting isn’t business; it’s not a game of numbers. Hunting success is a measurement of one’s skills, for sure, but it’s not the full measure of a man. You can still fail with dignity, knowing you did your best.
You are in the woods for a higher purpose. You have something to prove to yourself. Fear is never a reason to give up. Back home there is only failure, but in the woods there is glory.