I didn’t shoot the photo above, I borrowed it from the Utah DWR. HOWEVER, it’s the perfect image to capture what goes on in my mind 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, 366 days a year.
The Utah archery hunt (bowhunt) opens this Saturday! After that, I have 4 weeks to accomplish the one thing I dream about continually. In this informal article I’d like to talk goals and priorities and how they relate to life and hunting.
Each bowhunt I go through the same process: A grand, ritualistic prehunt meditation consumes my whole being. My mind has been reformatted. Time has expanded to include the present, past and future simultaneously. I am already in the woods. For the last couple weeks, in every facet of my life, I have become useless. My soul is set upon a nearly impossible goal that consumes every minute of my day. My phone rings, people talk, I talk, I walk around, but it is all background noise. I cannot focus on anything but the glorious task before me. This is my birthright.
As the hunt nears, I also become overly hopeful. Last year my goal was to shoot my third 200+ inch deer in five years. I hunted harder and for more days than ever before, and I never did see a 200″ deer. The best I saw was a 180″. Half-way through the season I started to realize that ANY big four-point was the best a bowhunter could hope for these days, particularly because there just aren’t many big bucks left. Thanks to greater and greater human expansion into Utah’s winter range, not to mention a whole new onslaught of statewide poaching and highway casualties, fewer and fewer bucks live to maturity. So the odds of success are always declining. Does this mean I set the bar lower? The answer is maybe. When that deer steps out, I’ll decide. This has been on my mind since last season ended.
Professionally, as a photographer, archery instructor, taxidermist, and writer, this was the busiest year of my life. I worked every single day in July, mostly out in the hot sun, some days 10 hours without a break. As busy-ness began to wind down, I was discussing work with an associate of mine. He reminded me that, hey, at least the money is good, right? I said: “You know, the only reason I work so hard is so I can take off and go bowhunting. Bowhunting is all I care about. Every single thing I do, the reason I even get up in the morning, is so I can go bowhunting. Everything else is secondary. When my wife asked me to marry her, I tried to warn her. And she married me anyway. (ha-ha). I know what my priority in life is.”
There’s a saying: People like what they are good at (and people despise what they are bad at.) A couple years ago I had an epiphany: I’m good at lots of things (archery, photography, music, taxidermy, etc.). BUT, I am great at only one thing: Bowhunting. I didn’t choose it; it chose me.
Many years ago I stunk at hunting, so I would only commit three or four days to it. Nowadays I commit several weeks, mostly because I realize that quality bucks take a lot of time, skill, and yes, even luck. And the best way to be successful and lucky is to be in the field, not at home, not at work, not golfing, etc. I know my top priority and I’m sticking with it.
I also know a whole lot of very unsuccessful hunters, many whom are close family and friends. Most of them say that I’m lucky and they’re not. Maybe they’re right, but I’ll tell you right now: while I’m alone in the woods from Tuesday through Friday, or trudging five miles up some frozen canyon in three feet of snow, those people are sitting at work or in front of the television, waiting for me to get lucky. And then I stumble into some unsuspecting giant…
Long story short, trophy hunting isn’t for everyone. Most people would be happy with any deer, or at least some sort of annual consistency, some two-point for the pot, or whatever. But they can’t even accomplish that because they put other priorities ahead of hunting. They have loftier goals that have nothing to do with deer and sleeping in the woods. And that’s fine. Family first, faith first, work first, T.V., golf, meetings, music, photos, friends, fun, guns… I understand! I think that’s great. I believe everyone get’s ONE THING. One big thing that they’re GREAT at. That’s what life is about: finding that one thing! That is your big purpose for living! But don’t expect a deer too, because in the deer woods it’s all or nothing. You either commit to the task 100%, loooooong before the season opener, or fail. Hit or miss. The season blows in and out, haphazardly.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then maybe this blog can’t help you. Because this blog is about one thing: Successful trophy bowhunting. I truly believe that success in hunting is a decision. That anyone can set a lofty hunting goal and accomplish it year after year. You just have to put in the time, but most importantly, be open to new information. When I was just starting out as a photographer, I made a conscious effort to learn only from the greatest photographers and study only their methods. Yes, there were tons of ‘good’ photographers offering advice, but great photography can only be learned from the greats!
I don’t know that I am a great hunter. But I do believe in the method I stumbled upon, that I followed, and that has led to unimaginable success. I also believe that the greatest teacher is the woods itself. I know there is a natural law and how to follow it. I know how a mountain lion hunts and how it must survive by successfully taking a deer every nine days of the year. I watch predators hunt and learn from them. They are the ‘greats’ of the hunting world! And finally, I believe that the roadmap to success is fully integrated into the text of this blog. I’ve left nothing out. I don’t know how much more I can offer, but I will keep trying.
Good luck this year!