Success in Memories
For most outdoorsmen, success is measured in results. Big whitetail mounts on the wall, meat in the freezer, or fish in the boat. After all, it is the end-goal of the outdoor sports. We're supposed to go home with something in tow.
As we all know, not every hunt can end with the prototypical definition of success. Hunting is a game of failure. You take ten hunts to get that big spring turkey. You may even take ten years. It's all of the "failure" that really mounts to make that harvest so special and so sacred in the end.
Going to the woods and coming home empty-handed is not ideal for any of us. We all spend that hard earned money to buy tags, gear, and to travel to that hunting spot. But the ante is upped when you become a serious outdoorsman with production implications. Anyone who is creating outdoor content for you is under some kind of strain to get the job done.
The pressure is on when you have to fill air-time slots that cost thousands of dollars. The outdoor industry thrives on the kill shot, and you're falling behind if you don't get those kill shots on film.
All of this may sound like we're turning hunting into work, and some people out there may. It's easy to put the pressure on yourself when you have people watching and anticipating those kill shots.
A little bit of perspective is always a good thing, and that is just what everyone got on an April weekend in Ohio.
Things get hectic when hunting season rolls around. Hunts are planned, content is needed, and the pressure can get palpable for those in the outdoor industry. The Mass Pursuit TV crew knows the routine, but you can never account for the unexpected. You can only adjust.
MPTV Co-Host Jason Norris and Field Producer Joe Mustafa had long been planning a spring turkey hunt on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. A perfect place to chase spring gobblers. Joe is a well-accomplished deer hunter, but he has never harvested a wild turkey. It would be the perfect time for Joe to bag a turkey while producing some springtime footage for MPTV.
Then life happened. The property owner had an unfortunate family emergency and the hunt was cancelled. Leaving Joe with a week of his life blocked off and nowhere to hunt turkeys. Also leaving a void in precious spring turkey hunting footage that could help to build a show in the future.
The beauty of the outdoor industry lies within the tight-knit community that it truly is. When the call went out for a last-second turkey hunt, I was sure to offer up my spot in Eastern Ohio. It was a no-brainer after all that the MPTV team has done to help get Affiliated Outdoors rolling early on.
I was not convinced that we would get a turkey kill on film, although I had been seeing a ton of birds leading up to the hunt. I was convinced that we would have a great time just being together and sharing turkey camp, and I was exactly right.
Believe me, I would trade a turkey for myself to have filmed a turkey kill for Jason or Joe. I'd do it in the blink of an eye. You reach a certain point in your hunting career where you get more joy out of seeing others enjoy success, and I guess I am there in some regard. But helping them to fill out that footage would have made my season without a question.
Again, life happened. We hunted hard and left no stone unturned in trying to get at least one Ohio gobbler on the ground. But as is often the case, the birds won. Fair and square.
A resounding chorus of gobbling on the first morning of the hunt turned into a quiet mid-morning. Thanks to Ohio's noon hunting cutoff in the early season, we were also very limited in our hunting hours. I still feel that we would have eventually caught up with a bird or two if we could have hunted those late afternoons and evenings.
Nonetheless, we gave it a full-court press on the second day of the hunt. Rain and temperatures hovering in the low 40's were not going to keep us down, and the turkeys must have felt the same way. Day 2 was easily our best day.
We split into two groups, with Jason and I on the ground in the corner of an open field and Joe manning a ground blind on top of some high ground. Six longbeards and a whole lot of heart pounding later, we still got skunked by those Ohio turkeys. Belly crawling through soaking clover plots to flash a fan at two giant longbeards and all.
Much like the first day of the hunt, day 3 saw the birds get loud on the limb but quiet after fly-down. A deceiving sunlight made for a beautiful spring landscape despite a heavy Ohio frost in the last three days of April. We exhausted all efforts in trying to get that kill shot, but a kill just wasn't in the cards.
It would be easy to view this hunt as a failure, and I definitely feel bad that the boys traveled all of that way for a close but no cigar situation. Jason trekked just over 9 hours to make this hunt, while Joe trekked over 5 hours. All of those miles, travel expenses, and time away from families without anything to show would point toward calling this hunt a failure.
However, I can confidently say that all three of us are walking away from it thinking anything but. This hunt was the textbook example to illustrate how success is not always dictated by what you bring home in the back of the truck. Success can be measured in memories.
Between the near-misses and puzzling quiet periods on the hunt, I can say that I made two great hunting buddies. Having met Joe for the first time on this hunt, I would call it a success just getting to hang out alone. Sharing the blind and field with Jason for the first time was a definite treat. I can tell you that I'll never forget belly crawling across the wet clover to get close to two huge gobblers.
Jason and I still say that we could have killed those turkeys had the cameras been absent, and we're sticking to it!
In all seriousness, it was the memories made during the slow portions of the hunt and in simply spending time throughout the weekend that made the hunt special. The little things like visiting Jason's brother Dave Norris of StandOut Design, LLC. at his lakeside campground. Making friends with the crew of Hog Heaven BBQ of New Philadelphia, Ohio while recording episode 10 of the AO Podcast.
I have never laughed more over a weekend filled with tough turkey hunting and near-misses. Not one of us got down and out after the turkeys whooped our butts. Not because we didn't care, but more because we had some perspective on the whole thing.
You can't control the turkeys or deer but you can control your attitude. You can control how you approach the downtime during a hunt or a fishing trip.
If you let your pride get in the way and allow the pressure of getting a kill to dictate your attitude, you won't get the full experience. There is a balance that can be achieved, and I think the MPTV crew is on top of that balance. The show is important and success is the goal, but the finer details are just as important.
Building relationships and having a good time while doing it is just as important as walking out of the woods with a turkey over your shoulder. Sponsors and viewers don't want to hear that on every episode, but it's something that needs to be discussed more in this industry.
I know of three hunters with a lot of camera equipment, miles traveled, and money spent who still walked away with full hearts and lifetime memories. That was a take-home lesson for me early in my career in the outdoor industry, and I have to thank Jason and Joe for setting the example.
Sometimes you just have to slow down and enjoy the ride with great people.