If you're looking for perspective on your life or career, you might want to check out the view from a tree stand in the deer woods. It's amazing what it can do for you. I know because I know what it does for me every fall and winter after the bass tournament season is over.
I'd never say that I look forward to the end of the Bassmaster Elite Series season because I love fishing so much. But it's also true that I look forward to many of the things that the offseason offers — a chance to spend more time with my family, a chance to catch up with work on our pecan farm, a chance to work with my sponsors, a chance to unwind after months and months of competition, even a chance to get ready for the next season.
Sometimes I think that the offseason is what makes the season possible in the first place.
And sometimes I think my time alone in a deer stand not only makes me a better outdoorsman, but also a better bass fisherman and a better person. It's just about the only time I have without the usual interruptions of life, like phone calls, emails, meetings, schedules and appointments. I'm grateful to have the family, friends and career that give me those opportunities, but also appreciative of the time I can spend alone, looking down from a tree — not through a windshield — with my cell phone turned off and only nature around me as far as I can see.
That time makes me a better outdoorsman — hunter and angler — because it puts me in direct contact with nature. I may be wearing high-tech clothing and carrying a sophisticated bow or rifle, but I am alone and aware of all that is happening around me. When I unplug from the modern world — even just a little — I tune into the natural world and feel better for it.
That time makes me a better bass angler because I pattern deer a lot like I pattern bass, tracking their movements and seasonal activities. I know where they eat, and I know where they rest. I learn some of their secrets.
That time makes me a better human being because it forces me to truly think, to be thankful for all I have and to prioritize the things that are important in life.
If you spend enough time in a tree stand, you'd be amazed at how much of your life you can put into perspective.
When I climb into the stand, I'm usually there for the day — sunrise to sunset. Occasionally, I'm interrupted by deer, and occasionally I shoot, but only if the buck is very large and we want the meat. I don't measure my day in the stand by what I kill.
My young son, Kade, is at an age where he wants to go with me every time, and soon he will be old enough and big enough to do that. I'm really looking forward to that time. For now, he thinks it's all about the hunt, even though I return most times with no meat to show for my efforts.
Eventually, though, he'll learn that there's a lot more to be gained from time in the woods than a deer or two. And that's a lesson he can only get from nature.