Defining Success
By John Floyd

As the operator of a guide service that offers big game hunts and specializing in bear hunts, I am often asked “What is your success rate?” My standard reply is to note that I have a 100% success rate at putting bears on bait sites and having active sites for every single hunter when they go afield. I add that while no ethical guide can promise a dead bear at the end of a hunt, I can guarantee the opportunity. Still, a lot of hunters shopping for their next trip want a percentage-based number, regardless of the fact that when a client goes on stand at a proven, active site and the guide slips away, the outcome is entirely in that hunters hands; discipline and behavior while on stand being key.

I’ve answered the success rate question so many times now that it really made me ponder a question of my own. How do we, as hunters, define success? Do we all define it the same way? I don’t think we do.

Caption For Photo: “Success can often have different meanings based on a hunter’s age, experience and individual goals – Photo: AJ Harris”

Some hunters would say that finding sign, pouring over trail cam photos, learning travel routes between feeding and bedding areas, studying terrain, making a hunt plan, covering lots of ground and being in position to take a shot when it counts is what makes a hunt successful. The idea here being that the hunting portion of the hunt was successful – the game was located, theories proven and an opportunity had; regardless of whether or not the game animal is taken. This is an opportunity based point of view and a very traditional one.

On the flip side, some may only see success described as filling a tag – no matter the hunt experience. What matters is the size or score. Tag filled = Success. Passing on a shot = Unsuccessful hunt. This is a results based point of view and a much more modern one. Is it the best way to gauge a successful hunt? For some it is and for some it is not. So who is right, the hunter seeking opportunity or the one needing results? I’d have to say that both of them are – for their own reasons.

I think that for us to really define success, we must realize that we all have individual goals and understand what those individual goals are. For example, Hunter A just wants to spend some time in the woods, taking his rifle for a walk as he enjoys the stillness and peace he so desires after a long week in the office; if he gets his deer, so be it. Hunter B has been trying for The Biggest Bucks in Maine patch for 10 years and this year just has to be the one; two hunters with two completely different goals – hence, two different success thresholds to meet.

Defining success when it comes to youth hunters is another, and entirely different, concept. Getting kids out of the home, leaving the video games behind to spend what may initially seem like an eternity to them in the woods, all the while remaining quiet and still for even a few hours, is a resounding success in my opinion. New youth hunters are coming into the woods over-stimulated and the experience they have waiting for game to approach must feel like coming out of warp speed to them – blurry stars and all. If they get hooked and want to do it again? Big success.

Or is a successful hunt one that ended with all participants happy, accounted for and well-fed, returning to their loved ones safe and sound with another year’s memories made and looking forward to the next hunt? I’m no scholar, but that definition of success sounds pretty good to me.

John is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He also works as a freelance outdoors writer and can be reached at or on Facebook @writerjohnfloyd

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