Contributors to this thread:
Getting into Sheep Shape — Mentally
A lot said about getting into sheep shape especially now that the 2020 Sheep hunters are probably hard at it? What about advice for getting into shape mentally? Any pointers for the first timers or even the veterans about how to get into ‘Mental Shape’ for the upcoming hunt?
Realize that once the money is spent, it is gone. You will never get it back. Enjoy the experience as much as possible and with that, you will not only enjoy your hunt more but you will more likely have a better chance at success. Good luck!
Just realize and accept that you are probably gonna die. It’s hard. Don’t quit.
Take some method of communicating with home. And something to read or do on bad weather days.
Other than that, I kept thinking “just keep climbing. Just keep climbing climbing climbing” ;)
For what it's worth, I have been on a few Dall sheep hunts and Mountain goat hunts, it seems like there are hunters that have it and those that do not, mentally. If someone makes excuses in life, as a general rule, it seems they do the same in the mountains. When someone wants something bad enough and they are willing to "make it happen" then they will succeed. Put yourself into uncomfortable situations and push through it. Make your workouts harder and more miserable then you would normally, and push through it. Those that do that will succeed and those that make excuses and limit themselves should hope for a lazy dumb deaf sheep. :)
Having been fortunate to have done several archery sheep hunts, two things come to mind:
-ALWAYS be OPTIMISTIC! My daily mantra is: "Today is the day I'm going to kill my ram!"
-No matter how difficult it is , you are still sheep hunting in some of the most beautiful country the world has to offer!
I hunted sheep this last year. I had a long way to go to get into sheep shape physically. I think working hard to be in best physical shape between drawing tag and the hunt helped a lot with the mentally part. Then pushing myself in sheep country before the hunt by working as hard or hard before season with a pack of similar weight that I would be when hunting proved mentally I could handle the hunt.
I think mentally the hardest thing I had to deal with was that I hunted the first 13 days of a 16 day season before killing. As I began to run short on days and realizing the hard work put in before the season and during it. It dawned on me that I might come up short it was thought that you can't seem to shake and always in the back of your head. You really start second guess your decisions did you choose the right spot for the day, when I found sheep do I move on them immediately or do I watch them and see if I get a stocking opportunity I think is higher percentage.
Great input. Anyone use affirmations to help with the mental part or just me? Helped me big time on my Desert Sheep.
One more thing I started a thread on getting in "Sheep Shape" before my hunt. Busta'Ribs posted the following on my thread. This is one post I remembered during my hunt and I think it really helps put into perspective when things get tough.
Another thing worth mentioning. Every sheep hunter suffers on a sheep hunt, and that’s all part of the mystique. You can be the most physically impressive stud on the planet, you’ll still suffer. The training simply reduces the suffering. And hopefully, it reduces it to a level you are willing to tolerate. Which brings up another really great point about sheep hunting and that’s the mental fortitude it takes to pull through the low points. I’ve hit those on almost all my high country hunts, the “what the eff am I doing here” moments when the elements, the terrain, fatigue, poor hunting or whatever just grinds you down. The funny thing is, I get back home and no matter how bad the hunt went, as soon as I’m back at my desk I’m wishing I was back in the mountains suffering again. So that’s what I focus on when I hit the low points. “Stay Positive” right? It’s easy to say, and seems so obvious. But you can get worn down. Just keep in mind the time we spend up there is a blip in our lives, it’s so precious, so suck up the pain and suffering and take one step and a time, and don’t give up, ever. Because you’d be shocked, a lot of guys do, they take that precious opportunity they have to fulfill their dreams and they bail because it’s too hard
Yep, Busta nailed it right there!!!
I don’t have the same pressure as most because my sheep and goats are dirt cheap, mostly OTC and yearly if I want.
But you have to go into it with the hunt experience foremost and not the actual kill. You can hunt everyday, all day, for many days, but you will only kill once. We all get discouraged, then careless sometimes. It’s when we are trudging along, not really in the game, when we look up from our feet and there is that animal of a lifetime staring at you within bow range.
Mark has it right “ today I’m going to succeed!” should be our every morning mantra. It sometimes only takes a few minutes to kill a ram. Those few minutes can just as easily be the last minutes of a two week hunt as the first or second day.
Be ready for those few minutes!!
Starting Jan 29 2019 decided I was going to get in sheep shape and hunt sheep hard. I started at 303 lbs (6'2") and on Jan 29 2020 I was 228 lbs and the previous hunting season I had been on legal rams 3 different times; just couldn't get a good shot.
One thing that has always kept me going when training or going up the mountain is something someone once told me. "Your mind will give up long before you body does" I keep reminding myself of this as I will not let my mind break on me. I will keep pushing and I have pushed my body a lot longer than and harder than I ever thought.
The other thing for me is small goals. When I run on my treadmill I will start with a 1 mile goal, once there I will set my goal for another mile, once I enter a goal I will either complete it or pass out trying. When hunting I will commit to 10, 20, 50, 100 steps between breaks. These smaller goals really help me get up a mountain with out feeling overwhelmed
I love the comments of Zack, Adak, Mark and Busta. You may be able to fool yourself, but you can't fool the mountain.
You are either "all in" mentally or you are not. It is just that many don't know what "all in" means until that point in the hunt. For some it is during their first climb when they realize "it" was just too big. For others it is later in the hunt after the first or maybe multiple failed stalks with time still left in the hunt.
It is the combination of will, endurance, and optimism. It is understanding the things you can control (effort, attitude, training and practice which all give you confidence) and knowing what you can't.
I think it is important to "be in the moment" from the time you arrive until the time you leave. One can not allow doubt to creep in. Keep putting one foot in front of the other with the constant reminder of, "Today is the day" ringing in your head. Know when you come down the mountain on the last day of your hunt, you gave it all you had and had more to give if you had more time.
With the ever increasing costs of a sheep hunt and the significant investment of time away from family, a very real challenge is to keep those external pressures at bay. I think one has to be very honest with themselves and their personal circumstances when considering the very real possibility of coming home empty handed.
The attached is a great video and one I thought encapsulates many of the points made in this thread.
Take care. Mike
That is a GREAT video. Thanks for posting. Great advice/thoughts in this thread...Bustas comments especially hit true for me.
I've been fortunate to be on a number of sheep/goat hunts here in Colo and Alaska. Mine have all been self-guided. I try to cover every small detail possible prior to my hunt to push things in my favor. Whether it is researching maps, contacting pilots, updating and going through my gear, etc. I also want to have total confidence in my weapon and my shooting ability. I live fairly close to where I sheep hunt in Colo so I spend just about every possible spare time scouting and figuring out strategies for success. By the opening day of hunting season I usually have rams named and the entire unit almost memorized! This also physically prepares me for the hunt and gets me used to hiking with similar gear at high elevation. It's nice having confidence that I've done everything humanly possible for success.
Once hunting season opens...it's "game on!" I'm prepared for the worse weather and conditions. If things don't go as planning I have several back-ups in mind. It's always essential to have a positive outlook and attitude no matter what happens. Sometimes it's worth it to slow down and take a look around at the gorgeous scenery and animals! If things don't look favorable I tell myself that things can turn around in a flash for the best! I just have to make it happen!
With that said, there is nothing better than having a sheep tag in hand....and a great place to spend quality time in the outdoors!
A bit of a cliché, but it's still true: "The toughest sheep territory is between your ears."
Thanks for the great input Everyone ... advice that is worth its weight in gold!
Sisu, a Finnish word meaning guts, grit and determination has carried me through many a sheep hunt. It is a never give up, stubborn attitude that you go into the hunt with and don't let go of despite what the odds may appear to be.
PVDesert, where is your sheep hunt taking place? On a scale of 1-10, physically challenging? my best, Paul
In the end it’s simple; no matter how tough it gets up there on the mountain, never forget where you are, how lucky you are to be there, and how quickly you will be back home wishing you were still back up there suffering. If you can do that, if you can stay focused on that through the low points, you will be prepared to handle just about anything the mountain can throw at you. Mentally, that’s the best you can hope for.
I agree with Busta 100%. When I hit the wall in the mountains, I stop and take a good look around and remind myself how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to hit that wall.
I wish I had been better prepared mentally on my first Sheep hunt. I was prepared physically but was ill prepared mentally...lucky to have got my Stone Sheep. My second sheep hunt was better and I found that affirmations help me through the few low spots. The hunt ended with success quick so I didn’t feel the true mental test of a 10 day hunt. I guess I can feel a tough hunt coming for me in 2020. I want to be in the toughest mental shape of my life so thanks for all the great input. I may be a sheep hunter somewhere in between the just have its mentally and those who are trying to have it mentally?? Either way my goal going into 2020 hunt will be good physical shape and amazing mental shape!
Wanting it. I did that in 1976 thru 1985. Work till late July and hunt on the money. Wanting it....,
I ate a cheese burger and put one foot in front of the other. If a person wants it it can get done
Wake up every morning welcoming 'Lucky Day #X!' Don't guide the guide - he knows what he's doing; that's why you hired him. And when you start getting a little down, just remember 'How many guys are getting to do what I'm doing right now?' and be thankful you are. It's too great of experience to waste it on feeling sorry for yourself.
Not much to add that hasn't already been said, by guys w/much more experience than I. One thing I would add. If/when you have those pain, fear and agony moments, just flush them out by stopping, taking a breath, and looking around you. Trade those in for...."I am hunting the most amazing animals in the most amazing place in the world. How can I be this lucky". And just soak it all in. Cherish it. Because there is 1 thing that I can GUARANTEE you. You will either love it or hate it. And, if you love it, once it is over and you are down off the mountain, you will give your left nut to be back up there chasing those phenomenal animals. I have been on 2 of these hunts. 1 as a hunter, 1 as a companion. There has not been a single day that goes by, that I don't think about hunting sheep again. That is no lie.
I think most guys that like to hunt sheep appreciate the grind, the discipline. You either love it or you hate it. There isn't a lot of middle ground it seems to me. I'm with some of the other guys because on pretty much every sheep hunt I have been on (more than I should admit :) at least once during that hunt I asked myself, "Self what the f*** are you doing up here?" But as others have also stated as soon as I got home and healed up I was itching to go again. You have to learn to appreciate the country, the personal challenge. You really get to know yourself when you are a sheep hunter, what you can do and what you cannot do. You think you are tired but that was a week ago. Hiking is easy, you just put one foot in front of the other. When climbing a mountain the first hundred yards is a hell of lot harder than the last 100. That's when you commit to "I'm going up this sucker." Just my 2 cents.
PVDesert...you could start your MENTAL training by doing a thousand deep knee bends with a pack while your pal sprays the garden hose on you. Then rest a minute...repeat for 14-16 hours a day for a week while sleeping each night in your rock garden in a sleeping bag. Keep telling yourself its gonna be worth it. At the end of a week if you still think it is going to be worth it you were successful getting yourself MENTALLY prepared. When you get done you'll be ready to go! Have an awesome experience. Good Luck!
You want to get mentally tough just go through Seal Training.:)
3 words, "Embrace the SUCK" It is gonna suck, but later you will grow to love it and even crave it!
One suggestion I can offer is don't be in a hurry to get home. Things happen and conditions change. To many hunters get caught up in what going on at home and really there is nothing you can do that will change that. Relax and let the hunt unfold.
I've been on several adventures with JDM and like he says "today is your lucky day" is his motto. I wake up and say "Today is good day to kill a sheep" or whatever I am hunting or helping hunt for that matter is GREAT day. Enjoy the experience and good things will follow.
Mentally tough is not an overnight thing. Every experience you have be it successful or not builds that metal toughness. If your only hiking experience is walking a 1/2 mile from your truck to a stand and back in the darkr that's not much of a challenge. Hiking off a 14er and hunkering down in a blizzard not sure you are going down the right drainage towards the truck 3-4 miles away in a whiteout makes that 1/2 mile hike in the dark look like a cake walk.
Personally, nothing gets me more physically and mentally prepared than extensive scouting prior to the hunt. You can hit the gym all you want, but nothing compares to actual hiking at altitude. Knowing that my quarry is there, based on my scouting, is what drives me mentally. I don't think I could stay in the game mentally without that knowledge in advance.
GG...That's great if you live where you hunt. Being a "flatlander" I don't have many options for "extensive scouting". My mountain hunts are guided. A small hill near my house is my "physical" training ground. Climbing it all winter in snowshoes takes care of the "mental" part of the program. I haven't struggled much ever with the mental aspect of a mountain hunt with the exception of one Stone Sheep hunt that went on for 17 days without not only seeing a legal ram but only seeing ONE sheep. I was mentally checked out by the end of that hunt. But that hunt was the exception, not the rule for me. Doing everything you can physically before you go, goes a long ways towards the mental aspect. At least for me it does. "Embrace the Suck" is definitely my mantra.
Go train with the SEALS. Then you'll be mentally ready.
I can't relate to the "embrace the suck" mantra. I enjoy hiking at high altitude. I do it even when I'm not scouting or hunting. But, you're right, it helps to live where I hunt.
I could never do a guided sheep hunt, or any other guided hunt for that matter. Figuring out an area and the animals, and calling my own shots, is as satisfying as punching a tag, for me. I guess that's why I don't do a lot of out-of-state travel hunts.
All good advice above. Don't forget about the mental side of shooting in sheep conditions. That in itself can be mentally taxing come the moment of truth. Practice far and short and angles standing kneeling , sitting on your butt. Be prepared to drop a bomb or be point blank. My desert was at 11 yards !!
Good post by JohnMC above.
As said, "Wanting it", "Self-Pride" and "Not going to be THAT guy" was what got me thru the down days last summer. Wanting it - I spent most of my adult life to date, wanting to be a sheep hunter, but circumstances of work, $, family, etc., etc., kept me from going. I completed those jobs and then after 35 years could finally be a sheep hunter. Did I want it? Words cannot describe!! Not being THAT guy - I'll never forget the story my guide told me while we waited on the strip for our apprentice to show up...a couple years previously in this exact spot, his client climbed out of the cub and refused to walk 1/2 mile up the ravine in front of him for a shooter ram my guide had been watching while he waited. It turned out Daddy had bought this trip for his boy (30 something yr old man, I guess) and told him he was going sheep hunting. He refused to go up and they camped on the sheep for 2 days hoping it would drop lower Basically the river bottom was the next level) which it never did, and then proceeded to call in the plane to fly the hunter out early. "Not going to be THAT guy" Day 6 of my hunt the weather moved in and it started to snow. On top of the mountain, under a full pack my pole stuck in the rocks and threw me off balance and I proceeded to fall smack down on my right hip on a big rock. It took 2-3minutes to get myself up and a horrendously long, grueling time to get back to camp. It continued to snow for 2 days. Locked in my tent and dealing with a badly injured hip, my guide asked what I was thinking (trying not to sound like he might already know the answer)? Deep in my brain I wanted to tell him I was thinking I'd be better off getting off this god forsaken Mt and back someplace comfortable to take care of my hip, but what I was really thinking was "I was NOT going to be THAT guy!!" and told him that the only way we were not going to finish this hunt was if I physically could not stand and walk where I needed too... His slight nod and upward grin told me he believed we were in this for the long-haul and it made me proud to know he believed me. The next day I killed my ram!! BTW, my hip still hurts, but I get to look at that ram on its pedestal while I suffer thru it!! ;-) Mental toughness comes in many forms and no two are the same. Prepare yourself for what you can control and then deal with what you can't, if and when it happens! Good Luck, be prideful, want it and "DON'T BE THAT GUY!!" It worked for me.... Kip
Thanks wkochevar— I love Don’t be that Guy!
That’s the mental side of sheep hunting right there, WK, great story!
Kip, that's a GREAT story! It's also an analogy for life on what to do and not do and who to aspire to be and to not be! Congrats on your ram! Hard earned and definitely something to be prideful.
I was a little older when I went on my sheep hunt (rifle). It was a horseback hunt. I doubt I walked two miles in 8 days. We spotted sheep, climbed I suppose 1500 or so feet, in about an hour. There was a group of eight rams. My buddy and I each dropped one of them, about two seconds apart. Advice about having something to read or occupy yourself when it’s too rainy or foggy to hunt, is a great idea. We were socked in a couple days and that was miserable.
I love the quote by the late JasonHairston of KUIU....”I wish I knew” Thank for everyone’s input it will all help me and others I am sure! I wish more was talked about on the mental side of sheep hunting but I guess it is not that easy to discuss. It is hard to put into words or video just exactly what it is? A lot is talked about as far as gear and being in physical shape to help with the hunt but when it comes to mental it seems to be described mostly as you either have it or you don’t. I believe it can be developed and I hope to share more down the road...thanks again for all the help on this thread.
I have not hunted sheep but have done a mountain goat hunt in BC in some pretty rugged terrain and climbed up to shoot a beauty 100 inch Sitka blacktail at 2200 feet that we watched for several hours. I think it comes down to how bad you want it and having the mindset to just not give up. I was in very good shape for both hunts but being a flatlander especially in BC at the altitude I was not prepared for that. Keep pushing one step at a time to make your dreams come true! Good luck!