With hunting seasons coming to an end, many of us have come home empty handed on one or more hunts. This can be very frustrating in the age of social media in which we are constantly seeing other people’s success as they post harvest photos online. But is there benefit to coming home empty handed? This may seem like a “it is good luck for it to rain on your wedding day” kind of article, but I promise I am not looking for a silver lining in disappointment. The reality is that unless you are hunting on private ranches or with professional guides, you stand a high probability of coming home empty. If you just take success percentages posted by state wildlife agencies, it becomes clear very quickly that you may only have a 10-20% chance of actually filling your tag.
With this in mind, what are the positive aspects of coming home empty handed and how can the seeming disappointment be turned into thanksgiving?
Lessons are best learned through failure
John Maxwell is fond of saying, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” We would all prefer to learn through success, but we all know that learning through failure is more effective. The pain and frustration of failure make lessons stick so much better. I once missed out on the buck of my life when my rifle would not load a round due to my magazine not being seated properly. You can bet I never made that mistake again.
You were outdoors
Can you really complain about being outdoors for an extended period of time? Sure, it didn’t end the way you had hoped, but you still got outside and spent time in beautiful country. Can’t complain about that!
You have a greater appreciation for the times when you do fill your tag
I once went twelve years without filling a deer tag… Granted, I was hunting Coues deer in some brutal country, but it was frustrating and the “Coues are tough” reassurance was losing its affect. When I finally tagged a nice whitetail after that drought, I was beside myself! So many would have thought it no big deal, but I was ecstatic! Coming home empty just makes those successful hunts that much sweeter.
You have more info, experience, and knowledge for next year’s hunt
Thomas Edison is well-known for saying, “I did not fail 1,000 times. I found 1,000 ways to not make a lightbulb.” When you come home empty, you have learned where the animals weren’t or what not to do during a stalk. You are now better equipped and more educated for next year’s hunt.
An unfilled tag is better than no tag at all
This might not be the best reassurance, but it is still true. Lots of people would have gladly gone hunting and come home empty as opposed to staying home after not drawing a tag.
So often we dwell on what we don’t have and forget all that we do have. Even if you come home empty, remember all of the blessings that you experienced as a result of your hunt. Coming home empty from an archery elk hunt was disappointing, but the memories I have from that hunt were totally worth it and I would gladly do it again. Next time you are tempted to be frustrated by your lack of success, remember that success takes many forms and instead be thankful.