Hunting lessons from a piece of steel and an ancient philosopher.
Never thought that would happen.
I'd gotten my approach to hunting all wrong.
Hearing a loud and clear "MISS" was the first sign.
It took only a fraction of a second for Andrew to tell me I hadn't hit the steel target.
It took me years to determine the problem.
And even more time to find the solution.
A solution that would allow me to become a better hunter; And make the most of my hunting time and budget.
Along my journey, I gained inspiration from unexpected sources.
Socrates, the philosopher. Via Warren Buffett, the oracle.
I then reframed the art of hunting in one simple term.
It has guided me ever since. I hope these ideas will help you become a better hunter.
And avoid some of the mistakes I made along my journey.
I was a passionate hunter long before I got my hunting license.
I've pursued this passion for over 27 years across three continents.
I always bought the best gear I could afford.
And studied everything I could get my hands on that had to do with hunting.
My thirst for knowledge and enhanced skill took me to WMS firearms training in Wales.
It was a windy day at the range.
I'd shown up with a new semi-custom rifle. It was set up for accuracy and long-range shooting.
This seemed critical to my success at the time. A heavy and accurate Lothar Walter barrel. A Schmidt & Bender Police Marksman II scope. And fine-tuned loads with long sleek bullets.
To my surprise, the first exercise of the day was timed.
And at short to medium range.
I failed miserably. In front of a crowd of seasoned hunters.
I couldn't hit the target within the allocated five seconds.
I'd spent a lot of time and money becoming a better hunter. But it hadn't been enough.
How could I figure out what to spend my time and money on?
To get the most value.
So I could become a better hunter?
I felt stupid. Looking like a fool in front of the other hunters on the shooting course. I was also annoyed with myself for wasting so much time and money.
At least it was a steel target and not a live animal on a much-anticipated hunting trip.
Still, I'm not entirely embarrassed about my mistake.
I had good intentions. Optimization means pursuing even the smallest improvements.
Investing in good gear helps unlock them.
It comes down to determining what improvements are worth paying for regarding both time and money.
And when it comes to training, hunting is such a broad topic.
Everything I learned in order to get my hunting license was important.
But only a fraction of it helped me to become an efficient hunter.
It's difficult to separate the important nuggets from the rest.
Especially for folks like me, who have an appetite for learning and improving.
That day in Wales changed me...
Long story short, I embarked on a journey to become a more efficient hunter.
Along the way, I discovered tools that helped me.
The 80/20 rule contributed to a big part of my success.
Somewhere along the way, I read about Warren Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger.
I read about how they use mental models to make better decisions.
One of the models they use is called "First Principles Thinking".
It’s a tool that dates back to the days of Plato and Socrates.
It’s about truly understanding how something works.
It's the mechanics. The never-changing truths.
Keep in mind, first principles are not about ethics. That's another kind of principle.
This is about understanding the key building blocks.
Elon Musk refers to principles as the trunk and large branches of a tree. The knowledge you can hang ideas and skills from.
He sees them as a way to develop your own understanding of a given topic. Here's what he said:
"...boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations..." (Source: Medium).
When it comes to hunting, first principles refer to the core knowledge and skills that guide us in our goal of finding and harvesting an animal.
Essentially, first principles can be applied to all scenarios.
Regardless of technology, fashion, or fad.
In essence, developing a set of hunting principles can help you cut through the noise.
To determine the precise combination of gear and training that really matters for a specific situation.
Principles will help you determine if that new “must-have” scope is a necessary tool, or merely a toy.
The window of opportunity
So far, so good...
It was clear: first principles thinking could help me clarify how to best spend my hunting resources.
But first, I had to figure out what those principles were.
Believe me, this was easier said than done.
One morning, I was in a high-seat trying to spot a fallow deer.
All of a sudden, I had a bit of a eureka moment. The woods were thick, but I was looking down a forest track.
It was the only place I had any visibility.
The track was my window into the woods.
If a deer stepped onto it, the track would become my window of opportunity.
I know, it sounds like such a simple concept. But it really helped me reframe my hunting process.
Now, I define hunting as managing a window of opportunity.
Create it and use it.
As a group of fallow deer ran across the track, it was clear I wouldn’t have much time to take a shot.
I had to act fast.
Much like that day in Wales. Same situation, but greater insight.
I later developed other principles. But the ability to "act fast" is the one I like to discuss most.
For the following reasons:
- It seems somewhat counterintuitive.
- It’s ignored by many hunters.
- It has deep implications.
- It's not just about shooting fast. It's about reacting fast.
From the second you acknowledge an opportunity until the moment you've harvested an animal. You have to act before it's too late.
I wish I'd known about first principles when I first began hunting...
I would have used them as a framework for knowledge.
Just like Elon Musk does.
I would have learned much more, faster, and questioned new knowledge and ideas.
I would have made better choices regarding gear.
And focused my training more carefully.
If I had known about first principles beforehand, I would have fared better that day in Wales.
Fortunately, Andrew is a great coach. He quickly got me on target. And in the end, I learned an important lesson.
On that day in the tree stand. I was fast enough.
I knew I had to be ready.
A fallow buck stepped onto the track. It paused to look around. It was just long enough for me to take a shot and harvest it cleanly.
A clear demonstration of the value of "acting fast".
To take advantage of an open window of opportunity.
You can benefit from first principles
Developing a set of principles can help any hunter, whether a novice or veteran.
They will help you avoid mistakes.
Help you build and develop your hunting knowledge.
And guide you through unfamiliar situations.
“Acting fast" is a great place to start. It’s the principle that matters most in the moment of truth.
Whether you stumble upon an opportunity. Or engineer it yourself.
Now, I'm not suggesting that accuracy isn't essential. I still enjoy tweaking loads beyond what's practical and meaningful. However, accuracy is a standard we can define for a given scenario.
For most forms of hunting, with modern tools, this is straightforward to achieve.
"How fast" is the unknown factor.
Becoming fast enough touches on many aspects relating to gear and skills. And it takes serious work to get there.
How to get faster?
Developing the ability to act fast can seem daunting.
It's not just about trying to move more quickly.
That's actually a bad place to start.
It requires a structured approach. And a bit of work.
Personally, I had accepted the value of "act fast" but quickly realized I was only scratching the surface.
If I wanted to become a better hunter.
And spend my time and budget better.
I needed to formulate a plan.
Enter Muda and Nagara — Japanese terms. Borrowed from the system that enabled Toyota to become a world leader in the auto industry.
This system and term helped me define two simple concepts.
I'd like to share them with you as I think they will help you make the most of your time and budget.
All the best, Christian
PS. I'll also share another lesson that involved "acting fast". ...The South African bushveld served as my classroom. And my teacher had long spiral-shaped horns.