I have always struggled to explain to others whom have never been on a spot and stalk hunt why it compels me. Spending countless days sitting in wind, rain, snow, or blistering heat; climbing hills to glass for hours hoping to see the trophy of my dreams. This obsession becomes even harder to explain when someone asks, “Well, did you at least find the trophy of your dreams?”
More often than not I have to humbly respond, “No, I didn’t see a thing” or “saw a good one but I blew the stalk” or something along those lines.
The fact is, the days where that is the case, it makes me want to get up earlier and go back out and hunt harder the next day. Explaining this to someone is impossible unless they share the same obsessions.
So why does that matter? Why do I owe an explanation to anyone?
Because the person asking isn’t doing so out of ridicule, they ask out of eagerness – to know that feeling for themselves.
When my wife said she would marry me, I thought I won the lottery; I found the best gal in world. Little did I know, I had more to gain than her alone, I gained her family too. Her younger brother, Wes, is an athlete in every sense of the word and I first figured him as someone with whom I would have little in common. There isn’t a sport that he couldn’t figure out how to excel at, he was a jock and I was a redneck obsessed with hunting. Being only mediocre at best of the sports I played growing up, it took me a while to realize the point where he and I crossed common paths was the obsession part. We understood and respected each other, at least a little bit, by realizing that each was truly passionate about his own sport; mine was hunting, his hockey.
The chance to find common ground by getting me to ice skate even remotely well was slim at best. His realization of this, I think, was what prompted him to one day ask me about how to get a hunting license. I didn’t have to explain to Wes why I am nuts about being in the woods, he gave me the wide-open opportunity to simply show him.
Six months later Wes and his dad both had Arizona Coues deer tags in hand and they couldn’t wait to hit the woods. Finding deer isn’t always the hard part, in our case it was getting us all to camp and making the time to make this hunt a possibility. Greg, my father in law, made the long drive to from California the evening before opening day and could stay only 2 ½ days; I too had just the weekend to hunt. The kicker came when Wes told us he wouldn’t be back from a hockey playoff tournament in Colorado until late Saturday night – leaving us just one day to help him find his chance at a first buck. My dad, Greg, my wife, and I all glassed our butts off for two days before we were able to make one unsuccessful stalk on a group of deer we found Saturday evening. Greg didn’t get a shot at the buck that night, but we left with a plan for the morning when Wes got to camp.
Some days things just don’t go as planned, then again, some days they do!
All foggy and red-eyed Wes arrived before first light; we packed up and headed for our glassing point. Just an hour or two after daybreak we found the bucks, just like we knew what we were doing. Wes and Greg both set up for shots as we talked through who was going to try for which buck. Even the best-laid plans are bound to have a hiccup or two. After one warning shot across the bow, the bigger buck gave us the quick slip. Fortunately, my eagle-eyed bride managed to find the younger buck sneaking through the brush and Wes made a great 450-yard shot and put his buck down with one clean shot.
I typically fall in on the trophy hunter side of things. When I go hunting, I go to match wits with the oldest buck on the mountain but sometimes their wits are sharper than mine, and just as the saying goes, the bigger one got away. Maybe we can find him next year, but for now, Wes’ first buck is on the wall, a two-by-two Coues buck! Albeit not a grand trophy when measured in inches alone, his first buck was about twice as big as my own from many years ago; I can promise though, like many of us, he won’t forget this first one! He was hooked.
A critic may say “well he hasn’t experienced true hunting if he only hunted, gun-in-hand, for one-half day”, but I beg to differ. For someone who isn’t yet convinced that this hunting lifestyle is for them, to put in the time, get up early to scout before the hunt, learn totally new areas, learn to shoot, to glass, how to dress and quarter a deer, this first endeavor is about much more than just a half-day adventure. Packing his deer the mile-and-half to the road, I kept looking over at his smile. Not many people can smile that big while they are carrying a heavy load through the rough, brushy country that Coues’ bucks live in. Only people who are passionate about the adventure!
My advice to anyone who is ever asked about their obsession for hunting: Take them hunting, just show them why you love it. You might just gain a new hunting partner; after all, it’s not every day you can find someone who likes packing heavy loads out of rough canyons with you.