You may have seen the YouTube videos of the Dude Perfect guys making some crazy sporting shots with footballs, basketballs and archery gear. Pretty entertaining stuff.
But they strike a dis-resonant chord for me – and I suspect most men. Not so much in what they do (we know it took many shots to get the perfect one). What gets under my skin a little is the name, Dude Perfect.
In every area of life our efforts and worth are measured. We strive for perfection in sports, school, and work. We know how far we often fall from perfection because someone is always keeping score. Report cards, game stats, annual performance appraisals, and the dreaded “we need to talk” phrase from our significant other. Even if none of those afflict you, there is that inner voice that we somehow don’t measure up.
Maybe the inner voice is a stern parent that you could never please. Maybe an older sibling that seemed to succeed effortlessly, while you had to bust your hump just to get by. Perhaps it is a family dynamic that identifies you as the black sheep. Whatever the source, we all have that inner voice that dogs our every step.
I am amazed when I hear interviews with men who meet all the success measures of the world – money, acclaim, records, fame – and they are still haunted by that inner voice telling them they don’t measure up – that they need “just a little more”.
It translates even into our pleasurable pursuits. Think of how easy we are to market products to that will catch us more and bigger fish, hit a 325 yard tee shot, or tag a buck of a lifetime. So we fork over the money for the hope of the perfect day on the river, fairway, or woods.
But then there are days when you do everything “wrong”. You know it. You don’t prepare. You don’t practice. You don’t lay out your gear ahead of time to prevent forgetting critical items. You know you haven’t a chance for perfection, but you go through the motions anyway, knowing that you won’t be able to perform perfectly.
This year an elbow injury threatened my whitetail bow season. I was unable to practice much at all – normally something I spend a lot of time doing in the months leading up to the season. I was hunting a new stand, and wasn’t sure how the deer traveled in this area because my trail camera had been knocked off kilter by curious livestock.
Regardless, a friend and I took a couple days off work to hunt. We forgot to check the moon phase for our hunt – and it just so happened to coincide with the latest “super moon” – typically not great for deer hunting.
I hadn’t made a trek to my new stand in the dark before, so it was a bit difficult to find my stand the first morning. I saw a few young bucks on the morning hunt, but no shooters. We went back to the cabin for the afternoon, ate lunch and did some chores.
Normally I change my hunting clothes for the evening hunt, assuming that the clothes worn in the morning have now picked up food smells from lunch, sweat from the hike out and camp chores, and smoke from the campfire. This evening I didn’t, because I knew I wasn’t going to do well. All the signs pointed against it. I was going to have to tell friends the old “nah, I didn’t shoot anything, but it was great to be in the outdoors”. Which is true, but it’s far short of being the dude perfect.
So in the afternoon I grabbed my gear and went to my stand. I didn’t use my scent free sprays or rubber boots because I figured I wasn’t going to see shooter deer. Once in the stand I realized I had set my feeder timer for too late in the evening and wouldn’t have good shooting light by the time it went off. I made a quick decision to climb out of the stand, re-set the timer, and hit the timer test button to throw some corn and make sure the feeder was working. This is a major no-no because you can really drop a lot of human scent in the process. As I stood to climb down, I spooked a doe who was walking in at that moment, further confirming my feeling that this hunt was a lost cause. But, I told myself, getting the timer set right would hopefully set me up for success later in the season, so I climbed down and completed the task as quickly as I could.
I climbed back up in the tree and in five minutes was covered up with deer. My faux paus with the feeder didn’t seem to matter.
Soon I heard a buck thrashing a tree to my north, unseen in the woods. The deer at my feeder paid the noise no mind and continued to feed. Suddenly they all looked up and to the north. I reached for my bow as I could see legs of a deer coming down the trail. Into the clearing stepped the largest buck I had ever seen while hunting. After several minutes of trying to lower my pulse rate and waiting for a good shot opportunity, an arrow flew and the buck was down.
After the recovery and a prayer of thanks, I could only laugh – I had done almost everything wrong, and was rewarded with my best buck ever.
Reflecting, I remembered that there really has been only one dude who did everything perfectly, and I am not him.
I am dude, imperfect.