Tag Archives: adversity

Moment of Clarity

It was the fifth morning into my 2015 archery deer hunt, and I was walking the same dusty trail back to camp. I left the cruel woods early that morning, chased out by the looming heat and impending failure. My head hung low as I mindlessly kicked up dirt, and was suddenly awoken by a fresh set of bobcat tracks crossing the path.

I remembered last night when I was startled awake by a high speed chase around my tent and the screeching of a squirrel. Probably a bobcat, I thought.

Now, intrigued by these delicate tracks, I pulled out my camera and knelt down to take a picture. In this moment I was suddenly gripped with clarity and crushing emotion. It was the first time in a long while that I wasn’t thinking about deer, and was just enjoying nature. In this moment I was filled with love for every aspect of the woods. Just like the bobcat, I had a place there and knew I was accepted by a greater whole. Success or failure meant nothing.

Until now I was desperately pushing a dangerous energy ahead of me, filling the tranquil forest with thoughts of killing. This, I believe, is why we often fail in our hunting pursuits. There is a connection to life that only we humans don’t understand. Our gift of consciousness gets in the way. We must conquer ourselves before we can conquer others. This is the natural order of things, and a lesson I’ve been blessed to learn over and over.

These little surprises–like bobcat tracks–add up to a much larger experience, and that experience is what I’m really hunting for. This is really why I’m there.

Like any old marriage, the woods and I have our moments, both good and bad. Sometimes we ignore each other. But once in a while I remember why we’re still together, and why I love her so deeply. In the end, I’m to blame. It’s me that fights, not her.

Sick in the Woods

Idaho 2016

Hunt Journal Entry: September 11, 2016

I just spent the last few days prowling around Idaho and still haven’t seen any decent bucks. Days are ruthlessly hot and dry, and nights are freezing, which is probably why I languish ahead with a painful head cold. My first step out of the dusty camp and my legs are sore with disease; my joints hurt, my muscles ache, my head throbs.

Foreign lands and no deer sign yet, but this remote valley looks promising. I’m headed toward the dark, north-face timber where I may get some reprieve from the glaring sun. But the route is thick with shrubs, oak brush, and cedars. Endless branches grasp at my body, tripping me and shoving me back down the steep slope.

I stop frequently to mop pouring sweat from my forehead with my camo cap. I’m still wearing the same stinky outfit I’ve donned for three days. Wind is my best ally, and my worst enemy. There’s no point trying to be quiet. I just need a vantage to glass from. I don’t know where I’m going or where I’ll end up; just following my nose and reading sign.

Moments ago something crawled across my neck. I swiped at it and monstrous orange spider fell to the ground. But I won’t be dissuaded. This is what I live for; it’s all I know. Only a year ago my arrow sailed over the biggest velvet buck I ever shot at. He’s long since vanished now, which is why I’m here in Idaho. Redemption. New woods and new hope. I push onward.

Long since out of tissue, both my nostrils drain continuously, leaving a slimy trail of moisture everywhere I go, likely the only moisture this forest has seen in months. Finally some tracks, but small. I follow to see where they lead. Maybe I’ll strap on my release; I hope I brought it. Just yesterday I was hiking in grizzly country when halfway up the mountain I realized I’d forgotten to load my arrows into my quiver. Stupid head cold!

My life has been various attempts at various activities, but bowhunting has been my one true passion, and better yet, the only thing I’m really good at. But here and now, it’s hard to tell. My brain is gripped with pressure, my body is weak. I push on because I know nothing else.

In the pines a squirrel fires up, barking relentlessly, giving away my position. I always carry a squirrel arrow, but it’s all for not; there’s always another squirrel, and the biggest bucks are always in the dark timber with them. During a heavy wind last year, I stumbled upon a giant 4×4 buck bedded in a patch of thick blowdowns. Before I could even pull an arrow, a squirrel fired up alerting the buck who quickly rose from his bed and melted away into the forest.

I try to imagine heavy horns moving through the brush, and then my arrow carrying cold steel through its chest cavity. The only way I win is if I wreak maximum carnage on an innocent, unsuspecting deer. I wince at the thought. Will I ever turn away from this bloody pursuit? Likely not, because life outside the woods has little appeal to me, and even less venison. A predator must eat.

At this time I’d like to formally apologize to my faithful and finely crafted compound bow which I’m currently dragging through an almost indescribable tangled hell. Only five years old and it’s already covered in battle scars; scratches, dents and dings. Sure it’s seen some fine moments, but this year it’s just a hiking companion. Its one moment of glory is a dirty coyote I sniped near camp in Utah.

After weed-whacking for hours I’ve arrived at a fantastic rock outcropping with views of the entire valley. Only an hour-and-a-half of shooting light and still no deer. I glass empty draw after empty draw, stacked in vertical rows below the summit. I want to underestimate the mighty buck; I try to convince myself that he’s just another dumb animal eating and sleeping his life away. But I know better. He’s an ingenious survivor, evading predators year after year with very little effort and hardly a conscious thought. How is that possible? A hunter, no matter his experience, goes to his grave having merely scratching the surface of everything there is to know about these amazing survivors. Outsmarting him is the greatest challenge, and I suppose this relentless pursuit is why it never gets old.

The rest of my first Idaho excursion was nothing short of a grim letdown. The once promised land is mostly bleak, ravaged by human intrusions, just like Utah. ATVs and trash litter the landscape and the woods are devoid of huntable game. Big bucks live short lives hidden away in dark holes far removed from human access.

Three Pillars of Bow Hunting Success

While bow hunting last year, it occurred to me that success can be divided into three equally important pillars. To put it in perspective, I created the diagram below:

Think back to your last hunt. Were you successful? If not, which pillar did you fall short on? Since each step is equally important, it should be easy to pinpoint where you need improvement.

Let’s break it down:

The first step, locating a buck, is something you can start doing right now. The best way to locate more bucks is to study their behavior, habitat, and ecology. You can also research harvest data and biologist’s reports on the unit you are planning to hunt. Then later, the scouting begins.

The second step, stalking a buck, is not always intuitive. Getting close to big bucks is the hardest step to master because, unlike shooting, it’s something we rarely get to practice. What it really boils down to patience: knowing when and how fast to move depending on conditions such as wind and cover.

Finally, shot execution. Almost everyone I talk to is pro-class shooter…until their arrow flies wide of an unsuspecting buck. Bowhunters are lucky just to get one or two shot opportunities in a season, so it’s very important to prepare for real-life hunting scenarios in advance. The best way to do this is to practice shooting in different positions, unknown yardages, around objects, and in adverse conditions such as wind.

I’ll certainly keep this “wheel of success” in mind when going into the next hunting season. I call it a ‘wheel’ because it just keeps on turning, year after year. After completing all three steps in a season, it begins again the following year. The goal is to keep the wheel from going in REVERSE, which only happens when you blow a stalk or botch a shot.

Good luck on a great buck this year!

Politically Incorrect and Proud of It!

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I’m unofficially declaring December as National Anti-Political Correctness Month! The following has been on my mind lately…

I’m not racist. In fact I’ve had several Hispanic- and African-American friends throughout my life and still do. My best friend growing up was gay as a June bug! Some of my best friends now are flaming liberals. Doesn’t matter to me; I judge each person on his character and not on his color, religion, creed, or political preference. This is normal; this is what nature intends. And for the vast majority of Americans this is exactly what happens, believe it or not.

That being said, I AM prejudiced! I am prejudiced against every “politically correct” person–white, black, green, or otherwise. Politically correct persons (PCs) are anti-American, anti-God, anti-freedom, and anti-Nature. PCs wish to take away your God- and Country-given rights to free speech, free thought, and free expression.

Modern America has been in a downward spiral because of the lies of political correctness for some time now, but it’s getting worse. More and more people are being persecuted for their belief’s, whether religious, political or otherwise. Ironically, if you believe in God or morality then you are automatically a hater. In my lifetime I’ve seen the good, intellectually honest, hard-working American become a persecuted minority!

Innocent freedom-loving individuals are losing their livelihoods and reputations every day because of this persecution. One case that sticks out in my mind is from 2014 when Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich was forced to resign simply because he made a donation to opponents of gay marriage. The evil PCs destroyed his career, not because of his job performance, but his personal values.

Another example of PC persecution is with the Washington Redskins football team and their American-Indian mascot. Today, if I support the Washington Redskins–which I do–then I’m an anti-Indian racist. Never mind that more than half the team is black millionaires fighting along-side their white teammates. Their mascot–the stately and strong, admirable American-Indian warrior–is detested NOT by American Indians, but ignorant, white, PC hate-mongers who don’t even watch football. Fortunately the NFL doesn’t care about their pitiful plight to change the team’s name, especially the team owner Daniel Snyder who in 2013 told USA Today: “We’ll never change the name. … It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.”

Go REDSKINS!

PCs are the REAL hate-mongers. These Godless, uneducated control-nuts are compelled to seek out and hyper-inflate any microscopic social issue in order to give their life some semblance of meaning. They alone perpetuate racism by bringing the slightest black/white race conflict to the forefront of public awareness. They’ve hijacked the media and the University where they elevate these ridiculous, social-non-factor issues above any relevant piece of news or higher education that might actually benefit normal people. They indoctrinate our children with a continual bombardment of liberal values, the highest being the elevation of the weak while suppressing the strong; this being the exact the opposite of Nature and survival of the fittest.

Why is rampant political correction on the rise? This question plagued my mind quite some time. It’s glaringly obvious that widespread racism has been all but wiped out here in the future where we have a black president and many other minority leaders and popular figures. But after observing several PC-driven individuals over the years, it finally occurred to me that political correction is simply a widespread fad; it’s the new “cool”. It’s ‘cool’ to accept everyone and anything with no discernment between good and evil.

For decades American values were dictated by religion and the constitution. But here in the future the bible and the constitution have been abandoned, if not all out detested. It is natural for our children–who are excreted from broken and godless homes–to seek meaning and a foundation of values to base their decisions upon. When they can’t find it at home they glean it from from pop-idols and institutions of higher learning.

Since there is so little for our children to believe in, they buy into the religion of political correction (aka liberalism) which perpetuates the values of acceptance, tolerance, equality, environmentalism, anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, and anti-God. Political correctness is simply the new “cool”.

Tragically, what kids don’t realize is that being cool means acting, speaking, and looking like everyone else–in other words forfeiting their individuality. We’ve all been there, and it’s a sham. But if you live long enough you realize that being cool means saying what you think, pursuing your own dreams, and living your own life according to your values.

The major problem with being a cool kid today is that they don’t have a choice about it. One word of intolerance and the coolest cat in class is ostracized. You MUST be PC in order to survive. From cradle to grave you walk on eggshells to protect your reputation and livelihood. Free speech and free expression WILL be punished at all levels. But I digress…

Being a hunter puts me in a minority class. I’ve been judged negatively for many years by the majority of society simply for harvesting the natural, organic, God-intended renewable resource of animal protein. With colleagues, clients, and in many social situations I find myself hiding the fact that I’m a devout hunter. I must continually defend myself against attacks on my lifestyle choice. By definition I am a suppressed minority. NO JOKE!

Well, ya know what’s funny about being a free-thinking minority? I don’t care. It’s a free country and EVERYONE has the right to think and express whatever opinion they want. If someone hates blacks, gays, Jews, hunters, Hispanics, or any other minority on the planet, who cares?! If someone burns a minority on their front lawn, well, that’s a real problem. If they blow up a church in the name of God, that’s an issue. If someone makes a Muslim joke at Thanksgiving, who cares!? Go crazy !

Speaking in poor taste certainly makes you less popular, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Acting on evil impulses makes you a bad person. Say what you think, express how you feel, turn Thanksgiving dinner into a racially- or politically-charged cluster bomb. That’s your right as an American. That’s the definition of freedom. That’s what makes our country great.

In conclusion, I implore you to do your part this holiday season to combat the evils of political correctness. If your free speech or exercise of beliefs offends some mindless PC troglodyte, or if someone gets their feel-bads hurt at the annual Christmas party, just remember that there is only one answer to political correctness: WHO CARES!

MERRRRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS!

Blog Site HACK!!! (June 2015)

I was doing so well; adding new and exciting posts to my blog, so hopeful for a promising 2015.

THEN, in June I noticed my links and photos were being re-routed to malicious websites. MY BLOG SITE WAS HACKED!

How wonderful, I thought. All the hard work and countless hours spent building my site and posting lengthy articles, now ruined. Thanks evil world! Just what I needed!

In July I began diligent studies of ways to fix this problem. Basically the hackers are so careful to hide the hack within the site code, that it’s almost impossible to fix this problem without nuking the site and starting over. So that’s what I did.

Long story short, I spent most of July rebuilding this site from scratch, spending countless hours re-uploading 88 posts and several pages of content.

Not only did I rebuild the entire site, but I then added several complex security measures to avoid future hacks. One measure tracks the number of attempted hacker logins. As it turned out, I was getting up to 60 attempted hacks per day! That’s crazy! What’s wrong with people! Pure EVIL! To say that I’ve lost complete faith in humanity would be an understatement.

Finally, as of today, it’s done. The site is back up and running. This new and SAFER site is running at full steam. Just in time for the hunting season too!

Re-Finding Your Zen

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If you’re following this blog, I apologize for my 6-week absence, the longest hiatus away from my writings yet. I guess I just needed to re-find my Zen.

As a general rule I don’t like to complain, but the past few months, as we transitioned into springtime, has been rather difficult and stressful for me. Here are some examples:

  • Being constantly let down by family, friends, and work associates
  • Having my hide tanner (taxidermy) disappear with my pelts that I needed to run my taxidermy business
  • Ever-increasing pain and difficulties with my right shoulder which has put a serious damper on the one thing I love doing most: shooting archery
  • My little “adopted” feral cat, Pickles, was viciously attacked and killed by the local dominant tom-cat. Before that, I had to shoot my old pet goat, Walter, in the head when he became too weak and feeble to even sit up any more.

My first turkey hunt was a disaster when after fighting through torrential rain, snow and mud, the giant tom I stalked and shot in the last hour of the hunt ran off with my arrow. We never found him. This was the breaking point.

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Blizzard scene from my recent turkey hunt.

And these are just a few examples! But again, I hate to complain too much because I know EVERYONE is fighting a difficult battle on a daily basis–that’s just life. Still, when too much happens at once, a person can easily lose his inspiration, his drive, and even his Zen.

This is why I’ve been away for so long. How can I write inspired Zen-prose when the well is dry? Fortunately, the answer is gradually becoming clearer, and is two-fold:

  • First, life is difficult so that we might become stronger. As they say, “the axe is sharpened by friction.” Overcoming adversity is closely associated with the meaning of life: we are here to learn.

Second, my life is currently sad and deflating, but later it’s going to be amazing and beautiful beyond comprehension. It always is. It’s just a matter of time and perspective. While stewing in my misery, I can simultaneously glance in the mirror and see a blessed, bright and healthy living being staring back with a loving, bowhunting wife at my side. I can simultaneously look outside my window and view deer feeding and pheasants strutting around in my wild, lush, and green backyard in the country, and I suddenly realize that I’m living the dream-life I always imagined.

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Loving, bowhunting wife. Awesome!

It’s all about perspective and embracing adversity. Yes, it’s taken a while to figure out how to mend myself, but I’m well on my way. My next several blog-posts will be dedicated to re-finding my Zen.

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Male pheasant strutting in my backyard.

My Wife’s New Music Video: The Climb

This song and storyline was written by my wife, Esther, and filmed by me.

What does this have to do with Zen-hunting? The concept for this video was inspired by man’s constant struggle between balancing modern life and his inextinguishable desire to return to Nature.

When you achieve this balance, that is Zen. We are not really hunting for animals, we are hunting for ourselves.

Surviving Cold Weather Hunting

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The arctic weather lately reminds me of a couple days I spent on the Wasatch extended hunt in November. This particular trip corresponded with the two coldest days of the month. Nighttime temps reached zero degrees just outside the thin walls of my little one-man tent. I was also four miles from civilization and alone.

Although I’ve spent some cold nights in the wilderness before, this trip had some real challenges:

To save on weight, I brought only enough food for two or three days/nights, including three boiled eggs. Before I got to my secret camp tree, the eggs were frozen solid, cracked, and inedible. On my way to camp I filtered a bunch water, and afterwards my water filter froze up and became inoperable. I fought the whole time to keep my water jugs from freezing solid inside the tent. My half-filled fuel canister surprisingly froze and stopped working, so I couldn’t eat my freeze-dried meals until I could warm it up. My little bottle of scent spray froze solid, and my bow also froze after getting snowed on. To keep from freezing to death, I slept in my down coat and stuffed several hand warmers down my sleeping bag. Within two days I’d eaten all my energy food just to stay warm and had to cut the trip short. As if this wasn’t enough, I couldn’t find any deer either.

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The problem with freezing temps is the shear energy necessary to survive, which leaves less energy to hunt. Believe me, morale was low on this trip. Below I’ve listed several cold weather challenges and fixes:

  1. Fuel Can Freezing:I packed a half-empty fuel canister in order to keep light. A half-empty can will freeze and lose its pressure. The Fix: Bring a full can and/or stick it in your armpit for five minutes every morning and night to warm it up. This can be very uncomfortable, but at least you can cook.
  2. Water Filter Freezing: Your water filter will freeze and be very difficult to thaw out. The Fix: Bring extra water bottles and filter as much water as you can in the beginning. You can also keep the filter in your tent but it will still freeze while you’re away.
  3. Frozen Water Jugs: The only thing more dangerous than being cold is being cold and dehydrated. The Fix: Three methods I used: Each time you see ice forming in your jugs, boil a third of the water and dump it back in the jug, sleep with the water close to your body, and keep the water in your pack close your back.
  4. Frozen Eggs/Food:  The Fix: Easy; don’t bring any food that can freeze. Also, bring lots of extra food, especially carbs! You’ll burn a lot more energy trying to stay warm.
  5. Frozen Bow: Because my bow was too big to fit in my tent, I left it in the snow outside which formed ice around the cams and took several minutes to thaw out using my breath and hands. The Fix: Either keep your bow in the tent or hang it in the tree.

Frozen Body:  My sleeping bag is rated for zero degrees which did little to keep me warm. The Fix: I slept with my down coat on, two pairs of thermal bottoms, and two pairs of socks. I also stuffed several hand warmers down my bag. While hunting I carried extra thermals in my pack.

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Speaking of hand warmers, the ones I use are called Hot Hands 2. These are way hotter than the originals, but a word of caution: keep them away from bare skin. My feet got so cold in the night that I stuffed a hand warmer down each sock. I woke up in the middle of the night with very painful burns on the top of my feet. Otherwise they worked great. When sleeping or sitting still for long periods of time, an external heat sources often a necessity.

The cold takes a lot out of you, both physically and mentally. It’s a lot easier to throw in the towel when you’re forced to spend so much energy to survive. But you have to ask yourself, where else would you rather be? The cold is just part of the extended hunt experience, and either you’re up to the challenge or you’re just a fair-weather hunter. Decide what your goal is and stick with it. A little cold weather is nowhere near as miserable as eating an unused deer tag!

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Although the freezing temps and starvation forced me off the mountain early, I returned a week later. And though I got snowed on pretty good, I really loved being back at my little mountain home. Survival and success in arctic conditions really comes down to preparedness and mental toughness. If you are prepared for the cold then there’s nothing to worry about except bagging a giant buck.

Resting on Your Laurels

It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago that this giant, 200-inch monster muley stepped out in front of me at 20 yards. It’s even harder to believe how easy that hunt was! Now, how in tarnation can I expect that to happen every year?

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After an incredibly difficult season this year, I have two words to say:  WHO CARES!?  I spent many, many days afield, marveled at God’s natural splendor, and came out with a rejuvenated spirit…many times. And at the end of the season, with hopes and dreams dashed, I still get to come home to a loving wife, a room full of magnificent mule deer trophies, and countless memories of amazing hunts.

A couple years after getting the infamous Droptine Buck, I remember telling my  brother Russell that failed hunts don’t bother me anymore because at the end of the day I can go home, take the Droptine mount off the wall, and snuggle with it in bed. Russ got a kick out of that.

What really happens is I hobble downstairs on sore feet, cramping legs, and with a broken ego and weary back. I slowly look up from the floor and stare at these magnificent creatures. If their glassy eyes could see my face, they’d see a man with many more questions than answers. A minute later, solemnity fades and I force a smile. I think these masters of the woods deserve appreciation, and I think I deserve some satisfaction, even amidst failure.

Anyway, failure is relative. I failed to meet my goal this year, but in the final hour I still brought home some sacred meat for the family. Guy Eastman once wrote that if you fail to harvest a deer, it’s okay. It just makes the ones you get that much more special. These words of wisdom have stuck with me, and I want to believe it’s true.

With only a week left in the extended hunt, I saw the looming clouds of failure building. Then I remembered Superbuck and asked myself, “How long is a trophy good for?” It seems a buck like that can keep a man going for a few years, at least.

This year, I will rest on my laurels. I think I’ve earned it.

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Understanding Failure in Hunting

Whenever you fall, pick something up. –Oswald Avery

If you are following this blog, then I apologize for my absence. My last post was over a month ago. Work obligations are somewhat to blame, but more than that, it’s been my lack of inspiration following a long and difficult hunting season.

When the general season ended with no new venison in the freezer, I was somewhat perplexed. What did I do wrong? Going in, I was convinced I’d unlocked the secret to bagging big bucks. But try as I might, I couldn’t do it. Immediately following the hunt, I  felt deflated and uninspired. Five weeks later, I’m just starting to realize that failure is exactly what I needed to keep my ego in check. How can a person ever fully understand big bucks in the first place? It’s impossible. They are brilliant, highly adaptable survivors!

All told, I spent 13 days hunting hard all over my prescribed unit, but never drew my bow on a buck. At the same time, I could have shot at least a dozen small bucks–mostly 2- and 3-points–but I was holding out for a trophy. This is what caused me so much grief. No matter how much ground I covered, and no matter how high I went, I was disappointed by the low numbers of mature bucks. I knew I could find them if they existed, but they were almost non-existent. Of the 50+ bucks I saw, only two were mature bucks in the 170-180″ class range; barely trophies in my book. Long story short, these bucks were either inaccessible or the stalk failed for one reason or another. Either way, the problem is with how few big deer there are anymore.

In observing so many deer in the wild, I was blown away by the sheer brilliance of the modern mule deer and the ways in which it’s adapted to avoid modern hunters.  Their survival tactics seem well thought out and highly effective. For instance, some of the largest bucks would keep does between them and the timberline as a sort of security fence. Basically, a bowhunter would have to get through a string of does to get to the bucks, making it nearly impossible to hunt them. This and many other evasive tactics were documented and will be covered in my next blog-post.

So the hunt was a failure, but only because I failed to provide meat for my family. At the same time, the hunt was a huge success. The countless hours spent sitting alone in nature, watching sunrises and sunsets, creeping through the dark timber, and observing innumerable animals going about their business–all these things stirred my soul and rejuvenated my being. Life’s daily problems  and stresses melted away. I saw the hand of God through all his creations, and all questions about the purpose of life were answered.

Fortunately the hunt isn’t over yet. The extended hunt began where the general season ended. Now, the extended hunt can be extremely difficult due to high hunting pressure, dry and noisy leaves on the ground, and the low numbers of scattered deer. At the same time, the odds go up when the snow flies and pushes big bucks down from the high country and concentrates them on the lower elevation windswept slopes. This occurs in mid-November, and that’s where my hunt will resume.

Yes, I failed to harvest a deer, but the season isn’t over yet. I still have an unused deer tag and an elk tag in my pocket, and I will succeed in providing meat for my family. I have learned humility through failure. I have found my inspiration and I’m full of hope. I still believe in Zen hunting, and through the process of Zen hunting, success is still a decision.