Tag Archives: success

New Deer’s Resolutions 2018


Have you set your New Year’s goals yet?  It’s not too late. Maybe I can help.

Everyone has different priorities in life:  health, career, education, family, etc. For me, bowhunting big bucks is priority one. Nothing in this ridiculous life brings me more satisfaction (and venison) than bagging a big buck with a bow. Therefore, everything must either support that goal, or be discarded. Simple.

My New Year’s goals:

  1. Harvest a 200″+ buck with my bow.
  2. Be healthy enough to hunt giant bucks in giant places. This includes eating healthy, avoiding sugar and processed foods, regular exercise, reducing exposure to environmental toxins, and reducing daily stress.
  3. Earn enough money to take the entire bow season off work.
  4. Avoid distractions as much as possible (TV, Facebook, unsupportive people, loser jobs, unnecessary projects, etc.).
  5. Help others accomplish their New Deer’s goals through education, study, writing, etc.

That’s it folks. Nothing more; nothing less.

The best way to accomplish your greatest goal is to keep it present in your mind at all times, keep it simple, and make sure all other people and activities in your life also supports that goal.

What are your goals???

Share Your Hunting Stories Here!


Share Your Hunting Stories Here

Recently I addressed some frustrations that today’s hunters have to deal with thanks to exponential population growth coupled with decreasing wildlife and habitat. What it boils down to is less hunting opportunity for everyone and ever-increasing competition afield.

For many years I’ve joked with fellow hunters about being “duded” while hunting or even during a stalk. My brother, Russell, wrote a story about his 2015 rifle hunt which perfectly illustrates my point. His exciting and insightful story will be published here on tomorrow’s blog.

By the way, each year many hunters write great stories which are never published in big-name magazines, and are therefore rarely heard. If you have a great hunting story that you’d like to share with the world, then email it to me and I’d be more than happy to share it here on the ZenBowhunter blog.

Luck in Hunting

Luck in Hunting

In reviewing my last few stories I realized that the common thread was luck; both good and bad luck. Luck vs. skill is a constant struggle in hunting, so today I’ve written some of my ideas concerning luck:

Never let someone tell you that hunting is all skill and no luck, even me. It seems that all I write about is acquiring the innumerable skills necessary to be successful in bowhunting, but rarely do I speak of luck.

Today I’m speaking strictly of luck.

I had kind of a push-pull type of conversation with a friend not too long ago. He said that hunting had a whole lot to do with luck, which was something he generally lacked. Taken a bit back, I retorted that hunting also has a whole lot to do with skill. He replied, “Yes, but luck is definitely a factor.” I replied, “Yes, it’s true; you have to have some luck on your side, but you need skills too; it’s not a 50/50 split. I’d say it’s closer to 80/20; Sure, a guy is will occasionally stumble into a big buck, but without some decent skills he won’t be consistent from year to year.” We left it at that.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the motivational sayings, such as Stephen Leacock’s, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” Or Emerson, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” These adages imply that there is no luck, just hard work. But hunting is a little different. Hard work doesn’t necessarily guarantee you anything.

First off, you need to remember that there are two kinds of luck: good luck and bad luck. In hunting, there is a lot more bad luck than good luck. This is because of the innumerable variables that are beyond your control in nature. As a result, bowhunting success is generally less than 25%. Therefore a bowhunter must acquire great skills in order to swing the odds in his favor. Occasionally a person will luck into a big buck, but more often than not he’ll luck out.

My primary motivation for this article is reflecting on yet another difficult hunting year and a failed deer hunt. Certainly I had some great opportunities–due mostly to experience and skill–but in the end it was sheer, uncontrollable bad luck that accounted most for my failure. Here’s just one example:

It was just another super-hot, super-dry day in the woods. I quickly realized that still-hunting was a terrible approach because the ground was so dry and loud. Worst of all, the drought-like conditions seemed to irritate the squirrels more than usual. The squirrels are always bad, but the hotter it gets, the more cantankerous they become…just a theory. Anyhoo, I was traveling from one bedding area to another. For once the wind was blowing hard and constant in my face, so I really didn’t have to be quiet. However, the squirrels were ferocious. As soon as I left one squirrel, another would fire up ahead of me. Their constant barking was driving me nuts! It didn’t really matter though, since there were so few deer in the area. I was hunting my 5th choice unit after all, thanks to the living nightmare of not being able to draw a decent tag in my own state, which is quickly becoming a dreary reality, but I digress… So, I was approaching a known bedding area with little hope. A squirrel fired up as soon as I entered the woods, and I thought nothing of it. As I rounded a pine tree, my eyes latched onto a pair of big, floppy ears rotating in the woods. I froze. In the dense tangle sat a big, heavy-horned 4×4, 170-class buck bedded facing away from me at only 30 yards. My dream was about to become a reality! But as I slowly reached for an arrow, another squirrel up ahead suddenly lit up into a full nutty rage. The smart old buck stood instantly and walked into the woods. He paused for a second to look back, then disappeared out of my life forever. Needless to say, I was enraged. I vowed that next year I would go into the woods two weeks before the hunt and kill every single squirrel on the mountain.

It’s easy to blame bad luck for failure, the same way that it’s easy to blame great skills for success. The trap you don’t want to fall into is relying on sheer luck, good or bad. Blaming a bad hunt on bad luck is an excuse to stop trying. Same with blaming success on good luck.

If you had an unlucky year like I did, you must remember that luck changes often. It’s like in poker: some nights you can’t get any cards, and other nights you can’t lose. In hunting you might go five years without bagging a buck, and then suddenly you bag one every year. The point is to never give up.

Today I believe success in hunting is an 80/20 split. An 80/20 split means that you’ll be successful 4 out of 5 years because you’ve acquired the necessary skills. The one year that you fail, you can go ahead and blame on bad luck. With great skills it doesn’t matter how much bad luck you have because when your luck changes, you are going find wonderful and consistent success!

My 2014 Archery Buck


My 2014 Archery Buck Story

Here it is folks, my 2014 trophy buck!  Okay, it was an off year, but I couldn’t be happier.  With only two days left in the season, I was very fortunate to find this buck up a little side canyon. After Thanksgiving, the area was being pounded by dozens of other hunters (or “dudes” as I call them).

I busted this little two-point halfway up a dense draw. He ran to fifty yards where he stood for a while before returning to feeding. For fifteen minutes I debated whether or not to take a shot. Would I find bigger buck? Highly unlikely. Do I need meat for the winter?  YES!!!

The buck stepped through a narrow opening in the trees. As I shot, he stepped again… I was worried as I watched my arrow hit several inches behind where I was aiming. The buck exploded down the canyon and out of sight.

I hurried over to where he stood and found my arrow: a clean pass through with lots of dark blood. Thank goodness it wasn’t guts!


I waited a while then wandered down the canyon. The blood trail was easy to follow as it was coming out of both sides. About 100 yards down the canyon I spied a motionless pile of fur. The shot was good, hitting liver and lots of vital arteries.


As I sat in the snowy canyon cleaning my harvest, I couldn’t believe the season was finally over. I thought about the many challenges I endured this year–blown stalks, swirling wind, dreadful heat, blinding blizzards, and a major illness that wiped out half of my November hunt. I also thought about the dozen or so BIGGER bucks I passed up for a chance at a real monster that never came.

Shot on the 28th; my lucky number!
Shot on the 28th; my lucky number!

In the end, I wouldn’t be that much happier with a bigger buck earlier on. For the trophy hunter, it’s all or nothing and I never found what I was looking for. But I’m also a meat hunter, and so this little buck means a lot. His death means continual life for me and my family.

Dragging my organic, free-range food back from God’s grocery store
Dragging my organic, free-range food back from God’s grocery store.

The Bigger Picture

It’s easy for the trophy hunter to lose sight of what’s really important. The experience, the opportunity, and the passion supersedes the kill. The reality is, we are extremely lucky to live in a time and place where we can still partake in this wonderful tradition of hunting. I know that without it I would be lost in a world devoid of purpose.

I hope all of you had a great season this year. I’m already looking forward to next year. Good luck in 2015!

Zen in Hunting: Part 3


Zen in Hunting Part 3

By now you probably have a pretty good understand of what Zen is. But how does a person go about channeling Zen-energy?

Students in traditional Eastern Zen generally spend many years in painstaking study to learn how to achieve Zen. But since most of us don’t have the resources to travel to Japan for a formal study in Zen, my goal today is to sum up some of the key steps the best I can:

  1. Concentrate on your breathing. When you concentrate only on breathing, you are brought into the moment. I’m not talking about shallow breathing, but deep breathing to the bottom of you stomach. Since breathing happens in real time, focusing on it will bring you into the moment, which is the only thing that is real. To make way for Zen you must not let your mind wander, neither into the future or the past. This is the key to meditation.
  2. Make your activity a ritual. Whether you’re sitting down to play the piano or picking up a bow to shoot, take your time and make each preparatory movement deliberate and meaningful. Break it down into many, small steps and concentrating solely on each step. Think of nothing else. By making a ritual out of your activity, you are preparing your mind for greater awareness.
  3. Practice makes perfect. Think of Zen as pure inspiration. Inspiration is useless if you don’t know the fundamentals. In archery, for instance, you shouldn’t pick up the bow for the first time and riddle the target with arrows until you hit the bulls-eye. Instead, practice nocking an arrow, setting your feet, breathing in while drawing, exhaling during the shot, and making a surprise release. Then shoot at nothing. For the beginner archer, there should be no intended target, just a blank bale of hay until the basic foundation is firmly set. Another example is a musician. The first time you sit at a piano you should not expect to play a symphony, but a single note. Zen will happen ONLY after hours and hours of practicing the basics. Only then can you conduct pure, enlightened inspiration.
  4. Let go. The Zen-masters will encourage you to stop trying. In archery, stop aiming. If you believe the skills you’ve acquired after countless hours of practice resides inside of you alone—internally rather than externally—then you can learn nothing more. You’ll fall into ruts. Your progress stifles. Zen happens by letting go of your ego and allowing a stronger, greater, faster force to take over.

Is that all there is to it? Did I miss something? Like I said from the start, Zen isn’t something to be explained, but experienced.

Practical Zen doesn’t always require you to go through a specific ritual and meditation. These are just guidelines to help expedite the process. Zen is actually more common than you think. In fact, I am certain that just about everyone has experienced Zen at one time or another. Have you ever said to someone, “Man, I’m really in the zone today?” What you mean is, you’re really in the Zen today. For unknown reasons you suddenly feel unconquerable, like you can do anything. But it’s fleeting. The problem is that most people don’t reflect back on what factors led up to that moment of fleeting enlightenment, in which case they can’t repeat it. Or they call it ‘luck.’ But luck can’t be repeated so it’s dismissed.

The goal of Zen enlightenment is to summon those powers at will and use them to our benefit. The famous virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai explained it like this: Every once in a while a person latches onto a fleeting moment of inspiration. For no conscious reason, he can suddenly play guitar beyond his normal abilities—beyond anything he’s ever practiced. But a moment later it’s gone. Vai states that his unwieldy virtuosity is the result of learning how to hold onto that moment—to summon it and use it at will. Incidentally, Vai is also an adamant student of Eastern philosophies. He is speaking of Zen.

Unlike specific religious practices, Zen is universally available to everyone. It’s your birthright. It comes with the gift of consciousness. Personally, I only at the beginning of Zen understanding. But lately I find myself making more frequent, conscious, ritualistic efforts to channel those forces. I can also recognize it when it happens and hold onto it longer.

What I’m attempting to do here is share this understanding with you. Through Zen practices we can achieve more in whatever art we wish to explore.

Zen in Hunting: Part 1

Zen in Hunting: Part 2

Zen in Hunting: Part 2


Zen in Hunting Part 2

Trying to explain Zen to people has been difficult, not just for me, but for all Zen teachers, even the Japanese Zen-masters themselves. Reason being, the meaning of Zen is not something you can just tell someone, but rather something that must experienced. In Western culture we expect things to be tangible and definable. But in Eastern culture some aren’t explained with words, but experiences.  If you ask a Zen-master to explain what Zen is, he’ll likely turn his back on you. Zen is a sacred art, and not something to be handed out to the unworthy. Its power is beyond meager words, even beyond the teacher’s range of understanding. It is something that is earned through hard work, humility, and sacrifice.

If you haven’t read the epic novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, you should probably be deported. It’s an important and powerful Western perspective of Zen. It also predicts the downfall of Western civilization via our own greed and self-centered world perspective. As time passes, especially in recent decades, the Western business model increasingly dictates the West’s values. The fallacy of the Western business model is this:
If a thing or idea cannot be quantified, monetized, or assigned a tangible value, it must be dismissed. Why do you think society hates religion now more than ever before?

Like it or not, this bias is the driving force behind all decisions regarding Western business, values, morality, emotions, decisions, relationships, the stock market, the government, etc. Have you ever noticed that every elected official is a living pile of crap, and the “good guy” politician always loses and no one knows why? He loses because his truth and his goodness can’t be quantified. The dirt bag politician, on the other hand, wins because he tells so many lies, and lies are data which can be added up and quantified. So he wins by numbers. But I digress.

Pirsig was a great prognosticator. He understood that the fallacy of the Western business model would inevitably lead to our destruction. He foresaw it very clearly, but felt so helpless in preventing it that it drove him certifiably insane.

What proved Pirsig’s theory was simple: The word QUALITY was indefinable in Western Culture. Everyone he asked seemed to have some vague idea of what Quality was, but couldn’t really define it. They couldn’t define it because Quality can’t be defined. Quality can’t stand on its own. Quality is only useful for comparing two objects. For example, this toothbrush is better than that toothbrush, so this toothbrush has quality.

Quality is very similar to Zen insomuch as it’s something to be experienced, not explained. You know when you have a quality experience–like shooting a giant buck or watching your son being born–but trying to explain why it’s a quality experience is impossible without comparing it to something lesser. And since it can’t be defined, it must be discarded by Western culture. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to see what Pirsig predicted 40 years ago is coming true: quantity over quality in all things. Don’t believe me? Just look at Walmart!

Before we continue on I want to make it clear that I am not a Zen-master; not even close! In reality I’m still a traveler along the Great Path. I only happened upon Zen because of the meditative rituals that I fell into while hunting. At the same time, I believe that the purpose of life is to follow the one true path, and that is the path leading to enlightenment. If I have a degree of higher understanding of Zen, it’s only because I’ve traveled farther along the path. And if this is true, then I can help others.

Are you seeking Zen in your life, or are other forces (dogmas, hope, ignorance, etc.) guiding you? Can the ancient art of Zen really be used for hunting? Is God and Zen really the same thing? These are all questions that I ponder and study every day, and hope to answer in future posts.

As of now, we’ve only scratched the surface. For the final piece of the puzzle, see

Zen in Hunting: Part 3

Zen in Hunting: Part 1

Secret Bowhunting Tip #1: Weight is Everything


Bowhunting Tip: Weight is Everything

Be prepared. – Boy Scout Motto

Be prepared, not OVER-prepared. – My Motto

In this article I’m going to address weight issues. I’m not talking about body fat; if that’s an issue then it’s a personal problem. No, today I’m talking about unnecessary items we carry into the field, and which are most likely hampering our success.

Utah offers a great opportunity for bowhunters who still have unused archery tags at the end of the general season. It’s called the Wasatch Extended Archery Hunt. The “extended hunt” runs from the middle of September clear through the middle of December, and encompassing the entire Wasatch Front, and even the entire deer rut. I usually see more giant bucks during the extended hunt than the whole general season and scouting trips combined. The biggest downside to the extended hunt—particularly in November and December—is the steepness of the terrain coupled with deep snow and cold weather.

In late November, 2012, I hunted the extended hunt for a few days alone. There’s always a little apprehension when venturing into those steep and freezing mountains alone. No one knows ever knows exactly where I’ll end up, including myself. To feel safer that year, I brought tons of extra gear including extra clothing, food, water, hand warmers, boots, and even some reading materials for when I got bored. In other words I over-packed, and that was a big mistake. Instead of taking three hours to drag my sled up to camp, it took five and I didn’t get to bed until 1:00 am. For the duration of the trip, my legs cramped, I blew through my water, ate more food, and had to rest more frequently. Although it was warmer than previous years, I was more tired and miserable. Miraculously I arrowed a nice buck two days later, but with so much new weight, I had to leave half my gear on the mountain and return the next day to retrieve it. Not fun!

In 2013 I returned to the same spot alone, only this time I brought my brain. Before the trip I went over the list of junk I hauled up the mountain last year and then crossed out almost half of it. Most of that ‘extra stuff’ served only to make me feel safer and had no real use for hunting. Some of the items included extra food, extra water (I could just filter water as I went and /or eat snow), extra boots, a pillow, books, propane, extra knives, hand warmers, utensils, batteries, archery tools, a handgun, extra flashlights, lighters, etc. I also noticed that my big, leather hunting belt weighed twice as much as my skinny “church belt,” so I wore that one instead.  I even cut the tags off my clothes and the handle off my toothbrush. All in all, I probably removed 30% of my pack weight, and man did it pay off. I got up the mountain in record time, ate less, and covered more ground than ever before. You’d be surprised at how difficult it is to be quiet while carrying a heavy day pack. In the end, I didn’t miss any of the junk I left home. Well, at first I did miss my handgun once I learned there was an active cougar den with kittens only 300 yards of my tent!

For most people, it’s hard to believe that such small items matter that much. But in truth, these items have a compounding effect. You never know which erroneous item will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Weight is especially  a negative factor when hunting in snow. More than anything else, a pair of heavy boots will fatigue you in the snow. For years I had two boot options for various weather conditions. One pair is a heavy, high-top, insulated cold-weather boot, and the other is a lightweight, breathable, un-insulated stalker-style boot. In 20I3 I stopped using the heavy boots altogether. What I found was the heavy boots always got too hot, primarily because of the amount of steep terrain I was covering. They were also noisy and very heavy compared to my stalker boots. Now, the stalker boots weighed only half as much (similar to tennis shoes),  but there were two minor drawbacks. First, my feet always got cold when I wasn’t moving, and second, they had minimal traction-tread. To counteract the cold, I simply wore two layers of wool socks. As for traction, I simply used a pair of lightweight ice cleats which worked wonders in the snow.

The next time you return from a grueling backcountry bowhunt, empty everything in your backpack onto the living room floor, and then make a list of everything you didn’t use. Is there still a tag on your tent? Why did you pack it into the woods? Were you going to eat it? Is there half a tube of toothpaste left in your toiletries pocket? Why did you pack extra paste?

Weight is everything; that’s what I learned in 2013. And surprise, surprise, fear is your worst enemy. Fear is why we over-pack. The more afraid we are of the mountain, the more extra stuff we cram in our packs; you know, just in case… And then there’s the great gear paradox:  the more we fear failure, the more hunting gear we carry around in our daypacks. Bowhunters, heed my plead:  You are the predator, not the crap on your back. You are too be feared, not the mountain. All that extra weight is an anchor keeping you from your goal. Pack light. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Be prepared, not over-prepared.

Click here for my Secret Bowhunting Tip #2: Success is a Decision