Contributors to this thread:
What's your definition of success?
Bowhunting Success. How do you define it?
No matter the quarry, many people have variations of their perceived success.
Being in the best spot possible for success. I don't have to shoot something to have a successful hunt. Anytime I feel like I have made the best choices I can, that is success to me.
This really depends upon the hunt and who is on it with me.
Personally: Harvesting a respectable specimen of my targeted species in a fair chase environment with a clean kill.
With my kids or better half: If we have a good hunt and make some memories then it is more than a success.
Like Btotsky it varies but I play to win. Sure I love the game and the memories but it's the thought of a gold ball that keeps me going.
If I don't punch a tag, it's an enjoyable hunt. If I punch a tag, it's enjoyable AND successful. Personally, in order to meet my definition of success, I have to achieve the ultimate goal, which is filling my tag. Otherwise, it's like kissing my sister...it may be a kiss, but there's certainly something missing! ;-)
Being able to be out hunting. Every day is a gift and it is never guaranteed. Never a bad day, no matter if you tag something or not.
Bowhunting is always enjoyable, but "Bowhunting Success" to me, is putting meat in the freezer.
Notched tag and a heavier pack than what I started with... All trips are a success but not all trips are successful.
For me, my goal is to fill my tag. Depending on what tag I have in my pocket, it may be to kill a doe, a respectable species or I may be hunting one specific animal. I love the chess match that is played leading up to filling the tag but until the tag is punched I don't consider the goal fulfilled thus success is when I fill the tag.
Killing an animal that I am happy with within the specified season. If I go on a one week destination hunt I have to do it in that week. If I am at home hunting whitetails it just needs to be by the end of the season. The measure of success for each sit is a very different thing, but the end goal would be a mature whitetail with a large and/or unique rack, or be a mature deer that doesn't have an exceptional rack but for whatever reason I want him due to history etc. Basically - whatever floats my own boat :)
Whenever someone says good luck, I respond with "I'm already having good luck. I get to go hunting today. 99% of the world never does this once, and I've hunted for over 50 years."
A successful man is one that tries and fails and gets back up. The un successful one is one that doesn't get back up. A day in the woods, is never unsuccessful. Game or no game, you are the winner.
I love the hunt and I hunt as hard as my conditioning will allow. I'm not crushed if I don't tag out, but I do measure a successful hunt by filling my tag.
Great adventure with none of MY blood involved....!
Depends on the hunt. Mostly if I had a good time. But sometimes I'm a meat hunter, sometimes I'm a trophy hunter, and sometimes I'm an adventure hunter. In those cases, I want meat, a trophy, or adventure or a combination thereof. I don't expect an animal on any given hunt, but the importance of getting one goes up and down based on the hunt.
Success doesnt come from what you can do, it's overcoming what you thought you couldnt
Giving it my best effort in spite of the conditions or circumstances.
Pretty deep question. I would say an unsuccessful hunt is one in which I either wound an animal, injure myself, or become befallen by some other tragedy. So I guess one could look at that and conclude just about any other outcome is by definition successful.
That's a gross oversimplification though. There are many barometers of success, and a hunt can be both successful and unsuccessful by different measures.
Digging deeper, I've learned it's mostly just the experience of being out there doing what human males are supposed to be doing as much as possible with whatever time I have left on earth. Hearing a bugling bull screaming so close it hurts your ears. The anticipation of crunching leaves on a frosty November morning. The highs and lows. Staying in the moment, enjoying the good times, and learning from the many screw ups.
Filling my freezer is important too. Since I started cutting up my own deer my family hardly eats any beef. I love to cook, and the meat is very important to me. But that doesn't make each hunt binary--successful or unsuccessful. I know I have enough doe tags in my pocket and a rifle in my closet if worse comes to worse there.
Similarly, an elk hunt 2,000 miles away brings about some differing expectations than a quick after-work deer hunt. DIY elk hunting as an Easterner--between paying an arm and a leg for the tag, the crazy logistics, physical preparation, limited lifetime opportunities, and much more, it's just different. The elk hunts I didn't kill weren't unsuccessful, but let's just say I am on a mission to kill an elk when I am out there. It is not a fun or casual hunt like I often have at home. I am there to deflate lungs.
Keeping up with work and not having my wife too pissed at me during hunting season seems to be about the hardest success to attain. Look, I know she puts up with a lot, and there is a fine line of strategery involved in wrangling my impulsive nature to make sure I don't burn her out early season and my rut hunting goes smoothly.
Trophy wise, my definition of success has morphed over the years. Went through a period where I was a tag-filler. Felt a lot of pressure to fill my tag. Got to the point where that was pretty easy, then I changed some. I felt a lot of pressure to kill big bucks for a period of a few years. Hate that stage of me as a hunter, came to the realization that was bullcrap, and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself just trying to impress other people...for what? So I just shoot whatever makes me happy in the moment now and really don't give a hoot what others shoot either.
Long-term, just leaving the bowhunting world better than I found it. It's easy to be selfish in hunting, but I think it's important to give back personally. I've thoroughly indoctrinated one friend so far, he's a good guy. I'll never amount to some bowhunting legend or have a significant influence on what I view as many negative trends in the hunting industry. But if I can sit there in my ground blind with a crossbow as my days on earth are winding down, and know that I positively influence a few of those closest to me, I'll take it.
Spending time with kids and buddies. The rest of it is gravy.
I have found when I focus on those who I am spending time with it almost always works out.
Having everyone back at home (or camp) safe after hunting with an animal hanging from the buck pole is a successful hunt to me.
Tag filled with the legal bag limit. Everything else is just a camping trip or picnic with good memories.
To paraphrase the "official" definition of success is to achieve a goal. Therefore you cannot have success without achieving your goal. Obviously goals are individual. I am surprised how many people have a hunting goal that does not involve the killing of an animal. I am not saying this in a negative way at all, I am just surprised.
I don't often hear of hunters that come home empty handed if you ask them if they were successful on their hunting trip that they would say "yes." Just in my own observation. Many had a great time though.
When I was younger I needed a downed animal to be successful . At this stage it's more about the process ...I like to do my homework , plan the trip, have good gear and I like seeing new territory. It's been quite a while since I felt " unsuccessful ".
Some of my most "successful" hunts I never got to full draw. If I have a deer work through and didn't realize I was there (especially if they're within shooting distance) I consider that a victory. Last year I let a mid 140ish 8 point 4.5 year old walk and he chased does on the ridge I was hunting for about a half hour. Had him quartering away at 15 yards one time and just got the cell phone out to take a little video of him. So like a lot of guys, successful hunts are kind of relative and it's a fluid definition from one day to the next, but the big thing is making good memories and interacting with, or closely observing, the wildlife. Hero shots with big antlers are fun too...
Simple. Enjoying the outdoors, every hunt is a success.
Waking up and still able to loose an arrow...
For me it is not complicated. Success in bowhunting is being out there, with the priority of filling the freezer with a healthy animal. I took a preference point for elk this year and an OTC cow archery tag. I did not get a cow elk. The wife got a buck with her bow, so we have meat. Archery season was a success. I will also hunt 3rd rifle season OTC for bull elk.
Looking back on it and having a positive memory of the experience
25 years ago I would take big risks, spend money I didn't have, lose jobs, lose girlfriends and abuse my body to get an arrow in a critter. Now I am not driven by the kill as much as I am by the experience. Plus I have a kid starting to hunt so ill be taking a backseat while we get him some experience
Giving it my best effort, and enjoying the total adventure. Sometimes I punch my tag and other times not. I look at it this way an unpunched tag is better than a good day at work.
"I'm already having good luck. I get to go hunting today. 99% of the world never does this once, and I've hunted for over 50 years."
-Well stated, bk.
Having the freedom to be able to get out in God's creation.
As others have stated- gotta say it's filling the tag. I can have an enjoyable and educational experience when I don't tag out, but it's not successful.
To me, success means achieving a goal. My goal is to fill the tag so that's my definition of bowhunting success. I live for the challenge and enjoy the process immensely.
I like the question! For the most part there's not a wrong answer.the measure of success on a hunt is always an opinion, each individual's opinion. Monday afternoon I broke out of work in time to walk the half mile from my house back in some state land and shimmy up a tree with my climber. In an hour and a half I had 8 Tom turkeys feed all around me , 2 grey fox hunt down the ridge past me , and double lunged a 2.5 yr old whitetail buck. Now if the buck part hadn't occurred, I would have had an enjoyable hunt . Since the buck part did occur, I had an enjoyable AND a successful hunt!
Having the health to bowhunt and then having a shot opportunity.
I can have a great hunt that isn't completely successful, but I'm with yooper, Nick, Ike and wyobullshooter. Well, as far as filling a tag goes. Not the sister kissing part.
I'm not dejected if I come home without punching a tag, but I am more content having successfully loosed an arrow.
An interesting corollary is that I have a couple of unsuccessful hunts where I frequently relive the "almost" on a couple of huge deer. I didn't punch my tag. I didn't even take a shot. The memories aren't filled with disappointment. I feel the adrenaline rush.
Sometimes, I just don't make any sense. I'm not going to over analyze it.
Varies from trip to trip, but the simple answer is a notched tag. I hunt for the experiences but a successful hunt is a great experience coupled with a downed animal.
Success doesn't define my trips either though. I got more out of my unnotched Colorado Bighorn Ram tag than I did my moose tag this fall. Every hunt is a unique experience.
To give an example, I hunted last Monday (rifle) on an MLDP property that I'm blessed to be invited to hunt on. I have one spot to bowhunt and one spot to gun hunt. We are literally eaten up with hogs. They are every where ! I passed a 3.5 year old eight and a 4.5 year old eight. Both easy rifle shots. I never picked up my gun. I did however, kill three pigs with two shots and got to see three, yes, three bald eagles feed on one of them for close to two hours. That was a successful hunt to me, not because I killed the pigs, but because I was into deer from daylight until around 11:00 am and after a three hour break more deer until dark. I've hunted here three seasons now and haven't killed a buck, but I don't care. I've passed plenty. I hunt three other places, and this place is managed for 5.5 or better. Who knows, this may be the year !
Every Hunt is different for me, so different expectations and goals. Sometimes just being out is a win, other times....something needs to die. Love em both.
Sorry, forgot to post the picture. Juvenile on the left looking like a stump. The two adults are pigging out !
It seems like every 4-5 years I have to start over......new ground to hunt and decode due to any of a number of factors. Success is going in cold, figuring out the lay of the land and collecting data from sign and potential food sources......then ending up close enough for a shot. Whether I take the shot or pass, it is a success to have figured out the puzzle and been in the position to score. Being primarily a meat hunter, a big old doe is nearly as fun as antlers.
The hunt. Try to hunt new ground every year. Did not kill a deer last season of my choice. Had a yearling at spitting distance, just to young and dumb to kill. I drew on her and let her walk.
The thrill of getting close to my quarry, making memories' for myself and with friends , and filling the freezer with organic free-range protein!
Depends upon ones expectation going into a given hunt.
Success is taking off work to go hunting. (And still getting paid) Awwwwwe who am I kidding, just getting to go hunt is enough for me.
Meat for the freezer and a glass of crown in my hand, otherwise I failed
Very rarely does a successful hunt end with a kill to me. I pass a lot of deer and sometimes don't want to kill, I enjoy watching them do their thing more than drawing blood. Sneaking in to a deer or whatever my quarry may be's bedroom undetected, see them and sneak out undetected is a successful hunt in my book and I take much pride in doing so.
I agree with Carcus. I am a meat hunter, we try not to buy red meat, so if I am not successful I get no steak.
Just being in nature and experiencing all mother Earth has to offer. Everything else is a bonus.
When I get to go hunting it's already a success. If I get the opportunity for a shot that's a bonus. And it only took me around 40 years to get to this point of view!
But the best part is that since I did, I love to hunt even more.
Sittin' in a treestand in awe of all that the Good Lord has created for us, and thanking him for each breath we take!
I think it depends on the situation. The last few years I’ve hunted by myself, 3-4 miles back, out of a 30 pound pack. Not a lot of luxuries in a 30 pound pack. I’m there for one reason. To kill an elk for the freezer. If I was hunting out of an rv or wall tent with a bunch of family and friends it would be a different story.
To me, a successful hunt is one where I have reached my main goal of tagging an animal. I have seen some wonderful things in the years I have been in stands or hiking through the mountains. I have experienced some great hunts with my family. Those things are all cherished and appreciated, but at the end of the day - I don't find ultimate success in a tag not notched. I finally drew my Wisconsin archery bear tag after 9 years. Pounded arrows all summer, studied anatomy of bears and tactics. I honestly, had never felt better about my ability or my chances. First night sit, I had a nice boar come to the bait. I watched him for 40 minutes, just in awe of having such an animal at 13 yards (I was in a ground blind). When he presented a shot, I drew and held steady - completely confident in the shot; I KNEW that I would make this shot. I hit the release, the arrow hit the very bottom edge of the blind window and I watched my arrow sail over his back. He stayed on that bait for another 20 minutes, never knowing I was there. Never presented another shot and I didn't see another bear the remainder of my hunt. Great experience, neat moment...but unsuccessful in achieving my goal.
A successful hunt to me is seeing the animals I'm going for. Whether it is turkey, deer, elk, etc. If I get a shot and fill a tag, that's a bonus. But I at least want to see animals.
Dry Creek - if you’re feeding Eagles, please use all-copper slugs.
It was really important to me to fill a tag until I had done it once; I guess it’s like some other things in life… Once you know it’s going to happen again, you can kind of relax and enjoy the process of getting there a whole lot more.
CT Private-land white tails, the hardest part is getting access to property; if you can do that, filling the tag just turns it all into work. But I’m not All About the inches.
Elk Hunting... To a real degree, I’m damn Lucky to be able to get out in Elk Country im the first place. I stay Motivated as long as I can find ‘em; I’m Happy if I can get close enough to feel the Predator Mode kick in; I feel I’ve Succeeded if I can get to full draw undetected; and I’m Blessed if I make a good, clean kill.
I only feel as if I have Failed if I can’t even get in the game or if I screw up.
So JMO, my last Elk hunt - despite all the other stuff that would make the trip qualify as a disaster of epic proportions....
The days I made it onto the hill, I did see some animals, so I was motivated to keep after them. Even got to put the sneak on the biggest mulie I’ve ever come across while hunting... No tag, but still good fun. And I had 2 shot opportunities: on one, it was a Personal Failure because I had a cow trotting my way and I got busted on the draw because I didn’t know when to do it. Frickin’ Contraption. On the other, it was more of an Equipment Failure Because I had a whole herd of Elk file past within range and my drop-away was frozen solid. Frickin’ Contraption.
But the only REAL FAILURE, IMO, is a Failure of Judgement that leads to a lost animal. Not talking about a 20-yard broadside, 8-ring hit that walks off with the rest of the herd without leaving a blood trail, but Foreseeably Stupid Stuff - Hail Marys, bad shot angles, jumpy targets, shooting when you know you’re too jacked up to be able to focus on your shot process, or even just ignoring the obvious limitations that will be imposed by the tracking/trailing conditions. Basically all the stuff that people do when they are more concerned about drawing blood than killing clean. THAT is Failure. Coming home “empty handed” is just a normal part of the game.
Deep question most definitely. Not a simple answer. It is a variety of factors to have an fulfilling and enjoyable hunt. When I go on an urban deer hunt, "success" can be as simple as being in the woods with an opportunity to kill a deer. I guess it is a combination of experiences and opportunity. I define opportunity as a reasonable chance at killing a critter. (The killing is up to me) I am not into taking my bow on a camping trip. No way I would experience the same feelings if I only had a camera. Putting an arrow into a critter is the goal of each and every hunt. The journey of the hunt helps cement the experience.
Success to me is when I prepare, give it 100%, and notch my tag. I can have great trips, but I am not successful until I notch a tag. I can camp anytime I want...
If I asked that question every ten years to the same Hunter I'd probally get a different response each time. I'm on my last phase where killing a animal is more trouble than it's worth. Why do I still go out, I have been asking that question a lot lately. I can enjoy my last years of hunting and never kill another animal and it would be fine with me.
Bowhunting the hard way for mature animals.
Like others have said, success for me is a kill. But I've stopped going by a day to day thinking with big game hunts. More season to season. So a good kill will mean a successful season, whether it took 1 day of hunting or 40 days.
A raghorn elk kill to me is a successful elk season. But I could kill 20 whitetail does at home, and if I don't kill a big target buck, it's an unsuccessful season in my mind.
All that said, I'm thankful for and I enjoy almost every single day I get to spend outdoors hunting or scouting.
I think a successful hunt for me is if I have an opportunity at an animal I want. But that doesn't mean I didn't have a great time. I always enjoy being out in nature with bow in hand.
To get all the way there and all the way back without someone from my job calling me back to work.
Hell, that's easy......just shut the damn cell phone off, or better yet leave the SOB at home!
That's starting to become one of the primary reasons why I hunt! In fact, I'll add to my previous answer about what a successful hunt is........a day WITHOUT a cell phone attached to me!
For me it’s time in the field with people I enjoy being around.
I don’t have to kill anything to have a successful season. As long as I can take away a new learning opportunity even after 42 years of bow hunting it can be a successful season.
For me its getting out,smelling the woods,maybe seeing a deer or killing one,then have enough strength and breath to make it home.COPD isn't fun and its making my retirement tuff.
banning crossguns from the archery season in Ohio, on public land at least.
Getting a Desert Sheep tag in the mail.
A lot of it depends on the hunt I am on. My 2 week elk trip in the back country, I better have a filled tag to feel it was worth it. I don't spend the time, money, and energy I do to just simply enjoy nature and the outdoors. To me that is a bonus to a filled tag, not the other way around. Any large amount of time spent away from my wife and kids needs to be productive in order for me to feel it was worth it to be separated from them for the time I was. If I wanted to simply enjoy the beauty of creation and the outdoors, I can do that in a Natl Park during the summer months.
However, an evening or morning hunt, near home, where I am not spending vast amounts of time away then I don't have to have killed to feel it was worth my time. When I was younger I used to view time spent in the woods where I didn't kill as unsuccessful. I don't have that view anymore. Now, I look at it as anytime I can go out and put another piece of the puzzle in place is worth my time, because I know eventually it will pay off. Even if I don't see much that particular it's still a piece of the puzzle.
I do certainly enjoy my time outdoors, but in the end my main goal is to kill something and put meat in the freezer. Like others I too make it a point to never have to buy red meat at the store year round. The way I and my kids like to eat, it takes some serious killing to make that a reality!!!
Sounds to me as if you either don’t know your own mind, or you have a different set for rules depending on how much money is on the table.
I have similar priorities - Family, Finances and just Finding the Time - but if I were you, I’d reverse the polarity. Fill the freezer at home, and free yourself from the pressure when you’re away. Don’t let punching a tag (or not) be the sole measure of an experience that 99+% of the population will never have.
Any hunt with my daughter.
Success is definitely coming home with an animal that you wanted....but I've come home fulfilled without an animal from something as simple as a wildlife encounter...Watching lots of rutting action...having a bird land on my arrow as I held my bow. ( something I swore guys lied about till it happened to me) Any other close encounter with wildlife that had me walking out of the woods with a smile on my face even with a quiver full of clean arrows...Again successful...No ... Fulfilled... for sure
I'm very guilty of being a trophy hunter. No women or children for me. I try not to shoot anything under P&Y minimums.
I still seem to have plenty of meat for the freezer; in fact, I give lot away to friends who aren’t as fortunate with time or as lucky as I seem to be.
One more step at 12 yards with my recurve bow on a 190” Bighorn sheep and I would have shot. Had a 30 yard broadside shot on him but passed because I did not want to take the chance to maybe wound him. It would have been Chip shot with my compound. No regrets. A couple of weeks later I shot this ram with my rifle
Having the health to bowhunt and then having a shot opportunity. No screwing up the shot or the game recovery Not hitting a game animal with a car on the way out or the way back home One of my kids, relatives and even wife going afield with me. A nice meal of trout, pike, walleye, any type of venison, wild game birds in the same meal .
I've outgrown the need to punch a tag. Now, success is having the animal I am bowhunting close enough for a shot knowing I fooled them on their home turf whether I shoot or not. I shoot lots with my camera for proof. This guy was at 15 yds lip durling over my scent rag after I had rattled him in.. He never knew I was there. Successful hunt.