Managing Expectations

Randy Newberg is the host and producer of Federal Premium’s Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg, making him the voice of self-guided public land hunters in America; where he shows the common hunter uncommon experiences available on our western public lands.  You can catch his show on Thursday nights, only on Sportsman Channel and you can get more details about his hunts on his forum

You’ve waited years for this permit.  Now, you’re on the ground, rifle or bow in hand, and it’s obvious that there are not huge bucks/bulls behind every tree.  Many people have emailed me with excitement of drawing a renowned tag, only to tell a story of woe a few months later.

Let’s face it, we’re hunting.  There are no guarantees.  Not even with the best permits in the world.  Having that coveted permit makes for dreams of what might be.  And that’s part of the fun, if you put it in the proper perspective.

Why would I write this?  Reading some old emails it struck me how excited some were while planning the hunt, yet how equally disappointed they were when I emailed and asked how things turned out.  I worry that TV is setting unrealistic expectations that create frustration and lost opportunity for hunting pleasure.

“Way over rated,” or “Not worth twelve year wait,” or ……… make it obvious that unrealistic expectations were at play.   And that’s the focus of this blog entry.  I have a fully framed and unnotched mule deer tag from the Arizona Strip, mule deer heaven, as my only reward for ten hard days of hunting; and have no regrets.

Hunting is about having fun while acquiring some great meat, hopefully with family and friends.  Or, at least for most people.  Hunts purely focused on horns, antlers, and inches, are ripe for disappointment.

I’ve had some of the most coveted tags in the country.  Those tags increased my odds of tagging a whopper.  Even on those hunts, my odds of a record book animal were dismal.  Yet, with proper expectations, the odds of fun were high.

To quote my grandmother, “Frustration is a result of unrealistic expectations.”  Reading some of these emails from stewing hunters, it seems the expectations were high; probably unrealistic for the reality of the situation.

My most recent personal example is the hunt you will see air this week.  I’m a pronghorn nut, and when I learned I beat the 40:1 odds for a western New Mexico pronghorn tag, I was dancing in the streets.  My past hunts there were worthy of great anticipation.

Upon scouting the unit, I realized the biologist was correct; two years of record-setting drought had devastated the landscape.  Range conditions we are bad as I’d ever seen.  So where the antelope numbers and size.

What to do?  Dreams of big bucks were dashed on the parched plains.  I’d driven 1,300 miles, invested countless hours of research, in addition to a lot of money.  The Gods of hunting luck were not sympathetic to my cause.

I could have done what a few others did upon seeing the situation; pack up and head home.  Nope.  I enjoy hunting; even more when I overcome difficult conditions and re-adjust my expectations to the reality the landscape dictates.  And that’s what I did.

Joined by a great friend, we decided to employ our considerable pronghorn experience toward finding the biggest or ugliest buck in the area.  And, have as much fun as possible while doing so.  Once our inventory of the herds was complete, we would make a decision of what buck among the flocks would be our quarry.

We did just that.  We laughed, hiked, sweated, laughed, and eventually hung a tag on a very average buck; one of my most memorable bucks.  I am sure some are asking, “How can an average buck be so memorable?”  Because we set out to make it memorable, no matter the result.

Upon seeing the conditions, we hit the re-set button.  Set the expectation to something realistic, made having fun paramount to the experience, and knew that there will be other hunts that end up better than originally expected.

When you have waited a lifetime to draw a special tag, it’s great to be excited.  It’s natural to dream.  For the sake of your pleasure and appreciation of the experience, just don’t let the final destination diminish what is sure to be a memorable journey.

Don’t let what you see on TV or read in magazines set your expectations.  Set your own, no matter the hunt.  And make sure having fun is near the top of the list.