What Hunters Can Learn from a Professional Gambler

“It’s too hot,” “There was one stick in the wrong place,” “The bulls were quiet.” The list goes on and on when we don’t fill tags. When we fill tags? “I had practiced the shot all summer,” “Just like I planned,” “I knew they would use that drainage.” During a slow hunt we blame factors outside our control, but rarely acknowledge luck after success. Rethinking decisions will lead to tagging more trophies and filling more freezers.

Don’t Fool Yourself

What can hunters learn from a gambler? More than I realized. In Thinking in Bets professional poker player Annie Duke describes the human tendency to credit skill for wins and blame bad luck for losses. What separates world champions from the rest is the ability to look past self-serving biases and learn not only from failure but also success.

Every Hunt is a Gamble

We bet on moon phases, weather patterns, and our own abilities. Luck also plays a part. While one week, unit, or calling strategy may have better odds than another, nothing is guaranteed. Avoid falling into the trap that catches poker stars and hunters alike. If you eat tag soup, resist the temptation to blame the circumstance. This mindset may protect your ego, but it won’t lead to improvement.


Resulting, when decision makers work backwards from a result to determine whether they made the right choice, they impede progress. For example: A hunter sleeps through his alarm, wakes up at 10 am and shoots a bull 100 yards from camp. The result was a successful harvest, and a hunter could claim that waking up late was the right decision. Naively, they might sleep in more often and believe that rising early doesn’t matter.

Maximize Probabilities

Let’s say that on one of fifty mornings a hunter can wake up at 10 am and harvest an elk. And, on one of twenty mornings with a 5:30 am start they’ll harvest an elk. Though sleeping in would sometimes work, waking up early every morning would lead to more kills over the course of time. Strive to maximize the probability of success; don’t credit shortcuts after the fact for a lucky outcome.

Learning from Failure

So, the cards didn’t fall your way. Objectively analyze the hunt, determine which areas need improvement and disregard those that were impossible to predict. Resulting can also occur after a failed hunt. Don’t count out a drainage or scrap a strategy because you went home empty handed. It may have been your best bet.

And Success

As for success, recognize that luck contributed. Stay humble and appreciate the fact that events could have easily gone differently. You likely made mistakes and still filled your tag. Work to avoid those missteps in the future, you may not get away with them next time.

Good luck ;),


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