The Struggle with Josh Smith

*Editor’s note - Today, we’ve got Josh Smith of Wild Carrot Deer Attractant sharing the story of his 2018 deer season and the lessons behind it. I think you’ll surely enjoy it. - Alex

By Josh Smith

“The Struggle”

As the 2018 whitetail season draws to a close and I take a few weeks to reflect before scouting begins, I find myself at a crossroad. Close encounters with quality bucks and a pair of empty post-season hands leave an unsatisfied hunger to burn for nine months, while the overwhelming sense of pride from the experience of my first team sit with my two young sons wells up in my eyes almost daily. There is much to digest from the last few months in order to both lock in a plan for next year, and to embrace the changes as I define the husband, father, and hunter that I am determined to be. 

This season proved to be a tough one as a new day job, a new business and a new (November?!?!) baby looked to make use of any time that I wasn’t able to wrestle away to hit the woods. Knowing this was going to be the case, I put in stand time heavily early in the season. I was logging considerable hours in relation to what little time I could carve out, and I could see the stress it was having on my wife and kids (4 of them now!). The support of my wife is absolutely essential, and fortunately she understands my passion for all things outdoors so she held down the fort without complaint as I bailed to chase whitetails day after day. I was hunting hard, hunting often, hunting tired, and hunting poorly. 

For the weeks surrounding the birth of our second daughter, I fought the urge to find myself in a tree, and lost on several occasions. I had recently had a run-in with an East Tennessee public land giant, and the thought of him scouring the ridges in search of a hot doe weighed on my mind daily while we celebrated our new little one. I found that the harder I worked to be present in both worlds, the less successful I was becoming in each arena. 

As family life began to settle back into a routine, I resumed my schedule of hunting at every available opportunity. Giant mature bucks are rare enough, and our location only adds to the value of this treasure I was searching for. I stand hunted, still hunted, and hunted from a blind. I was reaching the point of burning out, and I felt it with every passing sit. I was so intent on bagging this one particular deer that I likely over hunted the area and blew my chance.  

On what was likely a choice forged in the frustration of what looked to be a downer of a season, I decided to take my boys (5 and 7) on our first hunt as a trifecta. We stumbled loudly to our blind through the pre-dawn air, breaking sticks, kicking leaves, farting, laughing and certainly spooking every deer within earshot of what must have sounded like a Smoky Mountain hurricane. Once we reached our destination, we settled in and enjoyed at least 18 seconds of silence before our first Q&A session.  I had determined beforehand that I wanted the boys to enjoy themselves and remember this day for the great time that we shared in nature, and everything else was secondary. We broke every rule in the book. We cooked oatmeal, we chewed gum, we talked, we took turns peeing out of various windows, deer watched, bird watched, and peed again. I was fortunate enough to pay attention to what mattered most, and I watched as the most critical hunt of my life unfolded before my eyes. 

Josh’s two sons checking out a rub.

Josh’s two sons checking out a rub.

This season has been exactly like every other as it delivered its share of ups and downs, but the lessons were of a different nature this year. As I sit down to reflect and plan for various hunts of assorted creatures in the coming months, I find that I see my calendar a little differently than before. I see it through the eyes of a father. 

An important take home lesson - hunting is about so much more than just a kill.

An important take home lesson - hunting is about so much more than just a kill.