Goal Setting and Hunting

Effective goal setting can lead to better focus while in the field. However, it can also have unintended consequences. In this blog I explain common goal setting techniques and how I have adapted them to hunting. Thank you for reading.

Types of Goals

I was taking a coaching course recently that defined three types of goals (process, performance and outcome). Process goals focus on factors completely within an athletes control such as time spent practicing. Performance goals are achievements that build towards the highest priority or outcome goal. For instance, a max bench press contributing to winning a certain number of wrestling matches.


In both hunting and athletics the end result lies largely outside of the individual’s control. In sports, opponents’ performance, referees, and injuries all play a part. While hunting, animal behavior, weather and gear malfunctions can derail the best laid plans.

Try creating a process, performance and outcome goal for your next hunt. It may contribute to a better mindset. I’ve listed a few examples below.

Process: Scout five different elk hunting locations between June and August. Hike three times a week all summer.

Performance: Shoot a high score at the archery range. Timed hike or bike ride. Read three hunting books. Hunt a certain number of days.

Outcome: Kill a mule deer. Shoot 50 roosters. Harvest two bulls with my bow.

The Case for Not Setting Goals

I have a cousin that coaches basketball and has done away entirely with goal setting. In his experience, when kids meet their goals they seem apathetic. While failure to reach those goals means the entire season was a waste. Goals can become an expectation rather than an accomplishment. Students become so fixated on the outcome that they fail to appreciate growth, and over time develop a fixed mindset.

But, goal setting is inevitable. How could you buy a tag and not picture yourself filling it? I believe setting goals leading up to the season can actually take pressure off of the hunt. By opening day you may have already crossed off a process and performance goal. With two out of three completed, the season feels like playing with house money.

Unintended Consequences and Long-Term Goals

Sometimes goals create incentives to push for short-term gains rather than long-term improvements.

I nearly fell into this trap during pheasant season as I closed in on 50 roosters. My dog was getting a little sick, and I knew it was best to rest a day or two. But, it was also tempting to keep hammering away.

Remain willing to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. It’s hard not to hunt the same spots year after year. If you want to find deer tomorrow you’ll go to your honey hole. But, in the long-term it’s best to have multiple locations. At times the short-term goal of shooting an animal may contradict the long-term goal of consistent success. Play the long game.

Wrapping It Up

I believe in setting a range of goals that keep the hunt in perspective. And, I’ve had hunts that were successful without filling tags because I learned a lot. That being said, I know we all want to fill tags and shoot limits. Just keep your goals realistic and try to focus on the future.

Good luck out there, Stu

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