The nice thing about doing something for a long time is learning from experience—and that includes mistakes, too. A legend in the world of hunting, Larry Weishuhn, also known as “Mr. Whitetail,” claims he is not an adrenaline junkie, though surviving 13 helicopter accidents might cause one to question his self-assessment. During a recent interview, Weishuhn reflected on a few lessons he had learned over the years.
1. Sports vs. games
Hunting and fishing are the only true sports—everything else is a game, according to Mr. Whitetail. “The first animal you take, or the first fish you catch sticks with you more than your first tackle in football,” said Weishuhn. As a motivational speaker, he would counsel people to remember what is important. “Golf might be the only game that comes close to being able to enjoy it for most all of your life, but even then, I think you can sit in a deer stand even longer.”
2. The Bell curve
“People and animals are truly individuals,” said Weishuhn. “I’ve watched animals act and react so differently to similar situations. Some might like a weird smell, some don’t. It is incredible to remember that animals follow a ‘Bell curve’ of dumb to extremely intelligent, just like people.” Larry warned against going out with preconceived ideas about “this is going to happen” or “things will [be] set up this way.” Adapt to each unique situation.
3. Woodsmanship bests technology
“I like trail cams, rangefinders, and GPS systems as much as the next guy, but I’ve learned to use the technology to enhance my woodsman skills, not replace them,” said Weishuhn. “I still carry a compass. You never know when you’ll be in trouble and without batteries.”
4. Be a good observer
Weishuhn tests himself to improve his memory. He doesn’t even have to be hunting, either; he found a way to utilize something he dreads—shopping trips to the mall with his wife. “Man, I used to hate those trips, until I realized I could glance at someone, look away, and challenge myself to remember everything I could about them. Height, hair color, eye color, weight, clothing, shoes—the whole deal. That skill helps me in the outdoors, as I have to stop, look, listen, and pay attention to what is going on all around me.”
5. Be fully present
“I still daydream and can get distracted,” admitted Weishuhn, “but in general, I’ve found my hunt will be much better if I pay full attention in the moment.” Compartmentalizing the other stuff in life, stresses on business deals, or just putting the mind in neutral is a spectacular thing. “Going to the woods allows me to back off problems or worries, and quite often solutions arise from quality time outdoors.”
6. Trust the hunch
First trained as a wildlife biologist at Texas A&M, Weishuhn became a professional hunter, authoring books and thousands of magazine articles in the biggest periodicals in the business. With many television shows under his belt, he experienced incredibly dangerous hunting situations. “I learned a lot in those situations. If I have that hunch, that little voice that says, ‘This really isn’t a good idea,’ I’ve learned to pay attention.” Sometimes learning came the hard way, and he later felt lucky to get out of a situation alive. Looking back on near-disasters, he could point to the hunch when he saw something and the thought popped into his head—turn around—and he didn’t. He tries very hard to listen. “Maybe it’s both experience and listening to the Good Lord say, ‘Hey Dummy,’ I guess.”
7. Operating automatically vs. instinctually
“It isn’t instinct,” said Weishuhn, “but your mind is automatically picking up all sorts of data, collecting it, processing it.” Weishuhn values practice and repeated experiences to be prepared for the next opportunity. “Eventually it may seem like it is automatically happening, but it comes from putting yourself out there and taking in a ton of information and processing it over and over.”
8. Keeping the wild in wildlife
Larry recently returned from Africa, where his goal was to take a hippo on land. He walked through muck and mud up to his waist with crocodiles all around. “I enjoy being in the wild parts of the world where water and safety are often in short supply,” shared the Texan legend.
9. Seek great stories and people
These days, Weishuhn hunts with primarily two types of people: total novices on a first hunt (who will one day develop into true woodsmen) and people with tremendous experience from whom even Mr. Whitetail learns new things. He appreciates both ends of the spectrum. “These people are extremely interesting and good storytellers. Of course, I’m okay with embellishing a good story to make it a great story,” said Weishuhn with a laugh. “They make great company.”
K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.
Image courtesy Larry Weishuhn