Hunting season only comes around once a year. But, as excited as hunters get, it can be difficult to be in the field away from family for long stretches of time. Beat homesickness with these tips.
Sitting in the high deserts of Arizona with a tag in my pocket brought on a sense of warmth. It was finally here — the day I had been waiting for.
For the next week or so, I’d be out solo looking for bears. Living out of my truck never sounded so appealing.
But, as the days went on, my enthusiasm began to wane. What was once something I couldn’t wait to start was now something I couldn’t wait to finish.
It wasn’t the hunt pushing me away; it was thoughts of home pulling me back. I was homesick and didn’t know how to deal with it.
That was 7 years ago today. And since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about mitigating homesickness on hunting trips. Here’s how I prepare for the feeling of homesickness throughout the hunting season.
Bring a Little Piece of Home With You
If you don’t miss your family back home while out and about on hunting trips, I’d question your sanity. It’s completely natural, but it’s no reason to not go in the first place.
Long ago, I remember being on a fishing trip with some friends. To my surprise on the first night, I found some notes in my bag. They were notes for each day I was to be gone and were written by my wife. Each one had a short paragraph written in it about what she was planning to do that day.
This surprise became routine and bled right into my hunting trips. Taking a few minutes each night to read a note my wife wrote gave me a little piece of home. It made me feel like she was closer to my camp than she was. In turn, it would set me right for the next day.
Having little things like this to remind us of home is a great way to ease the homesickness that often comes with long hunts.
I’ve got a buddy who lets his kids decorate his bow. He sees that every day out there in the mountains. Different approach, same results.
Communicate While You’re Away
Back when my wife was writing me those notes, satellite communication wasn’t even in the question and cellphone reception was par at best. The notes certainly helped, but it was largely a one-way chat. There wasn’t really any way for me to converse back, though.
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Instead of notes, I carry a Garmin inReach with me. This little device lets me keep in contact with home via text message. Luckily, there’s no cell reception required.
Being able to communicate like this essentially whenever I want is massive. Again, it makes home not feel so far away. So each night, instead of reading a note my wife wrote, I chat a little through text.
Just being able to say goodnight is calming. Not only are these great for staying in touch with home, but they’re also great to have in case of an emergency out there.
Bring a Buddy on Your Hunt
Solitude has a way of inviting thoughts of a cozy house and the warm embraces of loved ones. There is no time when you’ll feel more vulnerable than when you’re alone. That vulnerability sends hunters home often and washes away any enthusiasm they had for their hunt.
Not seeing animals seems worse than it is, weather reports seem more concerning than they are, and missed opportunities are more debilitating than ever.
We are our own worst enemies. When we’re alone, we are left with nothing but our own thoughts.
Having a buddy there can be a game-changer. Both of you can feed off of one another when things get tough and lift each other up when quitting seems like the only option.
I’ve had many instances throughout the years when hunting partners have been the difference between giving into that homesickness and staying in the mountains. Just joking around with one another over a campfire is enough to curb the call of home.
Remember, You Asked for This
On a last-light hike to my backcountry camp in Idaho, I ran into a fella sitting in his own camp by himself. It was prime time for bears and he didn’t appear to be hunting at the moment.
After exchanging some conversation, he told me he’d be heading out the next morning. He’d only been there one night. His wife was driving from out of state to pick him up.
I felt for the guy and tried to convince him to stay, but the next morning when I arrived at the trailhead, he was down there waiting. He told me he was “just a bit homesick.” Perhaps, in reality, he was simply a loving husband and father who couldn’t bear to be away while embracing the uncomfortable experience at hand.
That last part is what I want to emphasize here. When we’re out there sleep-deprived, missing home, enduring bad weather, and not seeing any animals, remember something: you asked to be here.
This is what you signed up for. The thing that you’ve waited all year long to do and romanticized about with your buddies is not all cotton candy and dandelions.
There will be struggles, both physical and mental. There is nothing wrong at all with missing your home and family when out and about. Nothing.
But there is something wrong with denying yourself an experience you’ve dreamed about all year.
Embrace both the stunning views and the sleepless nights. Embrace that 90-minute climb in the dark every day as well as the haunting bugles that fill the forest. It’s all part of it. So is missing your family.
Stick It Out & Good Things Can Happen
On day 8 out there, I was at my wits’ end. Not only was I deeply missing home, I hadn’t seen a bear the entire time.
I remember calling my wife and telling her I was thinking about coming home. She knows how much I look forward to these trips and quickly bandaged up my mental fortitude.
Later that day, with no plan but to be present, I ended up seeing my first mountain lion. After watching the lion almost snag a deer right across the canyon I was hunting, it occurred to me that I had a lion tag in my pocket as well.
Soon after, I’d lay my hands on that lion. All because I didn’t go home. Home is where the heart is, but adventure awaits out your front door.