Hunting is a fickle passion. Just when you think you have mastered it's secrets, a season like the one I just experienced rises up and kicks you in the teeth. Unlike my hunting partner, pictured above with his Colorado elk, I was not so fortunate. I should have known trouble was brewing when we failed to draw elk tags, AGAIN, in our home state of Oregon. Undaunted, we planned our Eastern Oregon mule deer hunt and hooked up with a top notch Wyoming outfitter for another late season muley hunt. Well, needless to say, two hunts later my freezer is still empty and there is a nice 4-point Oregon muley who lived to see another year. Although I was unsuccessful, this season reminded me of several important lessons including:
1. Be Humble:
Even the best of hunters is going to go through dry spells. Remember this after you have harvested that 350" bull elk, because as surely as you forget it, the hunting fates will take it upon themselves to remind you. When you are on the peaks of your hunting success, remember that there is typically a valley just on the other side.
2. Be Gracious:
Everyone has hunting partners that they hunt with year after year. As evidenced above, my hunting partner Greg had a much more successful season than myself. Remember to be excited for someone else's success, as well as your own. If you can't relish in your partners success, you might soon find that your hunting party has been reduced to a party of one!
I missed an opportunity at a nice 140"-150" class muley in Eastern Oregon because I got cocky and forgot how quickly hunting situations can change. Watching this buck approach from 200 yards out to within 50 yards of my spot, then just as quickly catching my scent and disappearing in the opposite direction was, at the time, heart breaking. But then I remembered that I will back in this same spot next year, and so will that buck. And maybe, on our next encounter, the hunting gods will smile in my direction.
4. Be Thankful:
The thing that most non-hunters don't get, is that hunting is not only about harvesting that trophy elk or mule deer, but rather it is about the fellowship of your hunting companions, the opportunity to commune with nature, and the ability for a person to reflect on the important things in life. So whether it has been a banner year for you in all your hunting endeavors, or like me all you will be eating this year is "tag" soup, remember that time in the field is a gift. Savor it.
Until next time, Happy Hunting.