Exhaustion had settled into his bones.
The last bit of energy Greg Hackney had within him was used to finish in seventh place on the final stop of the regular season for the Bassmaster Elite Series on Lake Oneida.
And during that event he was primarily driven by adrenaline after winning the FLW Championship the week prior, and its $500,000 prize. The bass fishing pro had been working over 200 days non-stop, and finally was ready to relax.
How so? By hanging tree stands, patterning deer and submersing himself in the wooded passion of hunting for whitetails.
"After the fishing season, I am wore slap out — both mentally and physically," the Louisiana pro said. "But I continue to think about all the good decisions I made, and replay time after time all the bad decisions I made on the water.
"In my opinion, this isn't really healthy. You have to purge your mind of the memories of the season, whether it was good or bad, to be able to mentally prepare yourself for the challenges facing you next year."
And to purge his system, Hackney employs a compound bow, 5,000 acres in north Mississippi and the trophy whitetails his land produces.
"Almost all bass pros have something they do during the offseason to clear their minds," Hackney said. "A good many of us hunt, like me, Gerald Swindle and Marty Stone. Some saltwater fish like Kelly Jordon. Heck, I think Jay Yelas used to garden. But for me, hunting is a release that removes me from fishing, but keeps me connected to the outdoors."
Hackney believes that this connection is important, and that deer hunting helps keep his decision-making skills razor sharp.
"When I fish, I fish on feeling. I pride myself on successfully predicting the next move the bass are going to make," he said. " I hunt the same way. I feel like every move I make is critical, especially when targeting mature whitetail bucks. And every right decision I make in the woods boosts my confidence."
The decisions he made on Jan. 12 this year should increase his confidence mightily. After using a climber to tuck into a draw near a bedding area, the Elite Series angler arrowed a 140-class 9-pointer — his biggest bow buck to date.
"It had been so cold, I felt like the bucks would be cruising early in the day. So, I got on stand early near a trail to a food source, and had this mature deer in front of me 30 minutes later."
After a good shot and a short tracking job, Hackney had his hands around antlers. Cheshire grin plastered across his face, shoulders relaxed and mentally calculating the score and age of the deer, catching bass was the furthest thing from his mind. This Elite Series pro will certainly begin the 2010 season with a clear head and confidence.