- Brett Pauly
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Patience and visualization are attributes many athletes say are keys to success. Cincinnati Reds catcher Jason LaRue claims the same holds true in the field of hunting.
He learned the traits at a tender age. LaRue's father, Derald, began bringing him into tree stands when he was 2 and would nudge him awake whenever a whitetail deer appeared. LaRue applies the traits at least twice a week in the offseason when he is home in Boerne, Texas, tracking deer.
The 27-year-old former All-American from Dallas Baptist University recently explained to ESPN Outdoors his hunting passion and how his baseball skills assist him in the field:
EO: "Jason you said you see comparisons between the baseball field and the hunting grounds. How so?"
JL: "The main thing is patience. Patience in baseball is just about the whole key to the sport. In hunting, that's one of the main keys. If you don't have patience, if you want to move all the time, you're going to spook the deer. They're going to spot you before you can spot them. I think if you can be patient in whatever you're doing, hunting or playing baseball, then you're going to be successful."
EO: "Ballplayers often say the ability to visualize a hit can net positive results. Is there anything to that and does it apply in the outdoors?"
JL: "As a hitter, visualization is a big key. And I think as a hunter it should also be a big key, because in order to be fully prepared you need to be able to go over in your mind and visualize. And see a deer walking out or something, and see yourself looking through your scoop or your peep sight on your bow. And putting your scope or peep sight through the kill zone. And see yourself shooting it and see the deer fall and see yourself make a good shot. And I think if you can do that over and over, that's almost as good as actually going out and practicing and doing it. I think mental is a key to both things hitting and hunting."
EO: "What is your specialty in the field?"
JL: "My specific thing I like to do is whitetail hunt from bowhunting to even shooting a gun. I've tried rattling deer up with horns, tried some grunt calls and have gotten some attention from deer that why. I prefer to do the bow, just because it's more exciting for the deer to get closer to you. It's more of a sport. They can spot you a lot easier when you're bowhunting, so it's more of a challenge."
EO: "When did you get your start hunting?"
JL: "My dad went, you know, as much as possible. He's hunted every since I was a baby. He was telling me that from the time I was like 2 and 3 years old, I would go and sit in the deer stand. I'd sleep and, when deer would come out, he'd wake me up and show 'em to me."
EO: "What did you take from your dad's hunting experiences and preferences, and how are they different from yours?"
JL: "He would rather go and walk and sit for a while and see if anything will start moving. He's tried some grunt calls. His favorite thing is just to go and walk. I like doing that. But then there are times that I want to be 100 percent sure that I'm going to see an animal. So I'll go sit in a deer stand where it's got a feeder at it, and I'll sit there and hunt it just so I can see animals. It's not like it's as much going out to shoot one, but, you know, if a big buck or something walked out, I would surely pull the trigger. There are times when I don't want to get skunked and not see any animal. I would just like to see some sort of movement of deer and stuff, just to be able to watch the deer and try and learn as much as possible from their feeding habits and the way they come in and stuff."
EO: "What has been your most memorable day in the field?"
JL: "I was a freshman (at Texas' Smithson Valley High School, where he was all-state in baseball) and I shot a 10-point buck with my gun and it was probably a 130-class whitetail (on the Boone and Crockett scale). I was out hunting by myself. I was on a stand. It was right at dark. I looked down and I was fixing to get out of the stand. Then I saw a deer standing there, and I said, 'Well, let me see if I can see it through my scope.' And the deer put his head up and all I could see was horns and I knew it was a big buck. And I put it where I thought his shoulder was and I shot the sucker as perfect as could be. I was dragging the deer back to where we could get a car to it. My dad came and picked me up. It was pitch black and I was sitting on top of the deer when he pulled in and saw the deer in the headlights. And he gets out and says, 'Oh my god, son, what are we going to do? We may not have enough money to mount this thing.' He was pretty excited for me. It was awesome. That was probably the most memorable moment."
EO: "What's your favorite food?"
JL: "That's got to be a steak either a porterhouse, T-bone or strip steaks."
EO: "The last movie you watched?"
JL: "That's a hard question; I'm not big into movies."
EO: "The last book you read?"
JL: "'Attitude is Everything,' by Keith Harrell."
EO: "Last thing, Jason; what is your dream hunting trip?"
JL: "At least one day to shoot about a 170-class whitetail. Two other things I'd really love to do is go on an elk hunt and a mule deer hunt. Never taken either one. Only thing I've done is hunt in Texas. I would ultimately like to, one day, backpack on horses and shoot an elk and shoot a mule deer."
See Jason LaRue's player profile on ESPN.com's MLB pages.
An ESPN Outdoors Q&A with catcher and bowhunter Jason LaRue of the Cincinnati Reds