When it comes to intentionally developing toughness, most people quit. Why? Well, it's all mental and becoming mentally tough is, well… tough. It requires you to consistently put yourself in uncomfortable situations and to push through the discomfort to completion of the task or experience.
“I don’t know if they’re still here,” I whispered as we knelt together on the grassy forest floor. It was too quiet. Only a light breeze shifting branches made any sound. Much different than the previous afternoon when we had four bulls screaming relentlessly back and forth, all within 100 yards of this very spot.
Archery elk is unparalleled in adventure consistently yielding the highest of a highs and lowest of lows. September never fails leaving me mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. So, naturally, I look forward each year to my second favorite hunt—eastern Montana rifle mule deer. This hunt promises mild terrain and loads of action. 2019 was no exception; Ben and I had planned and anticipated our eastward trek for the last 365 days. We were finally burning rubber and as the miles rolled by, my imagination ran wild anticipating monster muleys rutting through sage.
It seemed as if it would never end. We camped in it, trudged through it, tirelessly made fire with wet wood, and tried to make light of it. And there we sat in the truck as the never-ceasing, pounding rains clattered against the roof, windows, and doors. Even worse, the wind had picked up and now howled in all directions. Four days had passed and I felt like I had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this hunt, yet had nothing to show for it. It looked as if day five would define me before I even stepped foot into it.
I am fortunate to live and hunt in a state that allows me to hunt the rifle and archery seasons. I can hunt bucks and bulls for the better part of three months! It is a blessing that helps me fill my freezer each year.
The 2019 Montana archery season is winding down. A summation of this season using one word: humbling.
What makes a successful hunt or hunter? Is it a huge set of antlers, memories made, the experience, or meat for the family? If you look at social media, a successful hunt results in trophy antlers. But there is more to it. Was the hunt on public or private? Was it a special draw unit? What was the animal genetics there? Did the hunter find the bull or buck by his skill or by paying outfitters, guides, and scouts to do all the work for him? Ultimately, a successful hunt is in the eye of the beholder. Where I grew up, a small two-point blacktail was a trophy and reason to celebrate. Success is relative and may not even be about the animal. A successful hunt could mean leaving the field thankful for God's beautiful creation, for camaraderie with friends, or for a time of refreshing solitude.
At church recently, my brother-in-law was talking my hunting skills up with a fellow church member I didn't know very well. He quickly came over to ask if he could go hunting with me this fall. Not knowing how to navigate through the urgent and slightly awkward request, I introduced myself and started asking a few questions.
September looms ever closer and the anticipation is overwhelming! I keep dreaming of that first bugle of the year—the high, throaty notes building as they cut through the morning dawn, over bubbling creeks, through crisp meadows, and finally dissipating into misty timber. Many hunts with family and friends are already on the books with more amazing memories to be lived.
But for now, it is time to prepare and the preparations are quite fun in themselves. Gear is organized, food stockpiled, bows tuned, bodies strengthened, calling finessed, and maps plotted. Around the busy preparations, I find it important to reflect on lessons learned. There are mistakes I don’t want to make twice. I reflect on bull encounters when I was at full draw. Bulls that were less than 30 yards distance. Bulls that live all the wiser due to my mistakes.
I am well known for being a little on the cheap side. I am also well known for not being much of a technology guy (despite the blog). I have been the butt of many good-natured jokes over my lack of technology. In fact, I was recently in a jesting match at work over my lack of a Netflix or Hulu subscription. My wife and I don't watch TV shows and we typically rent movies the old fashioned way—from a movie store. Apparently, way weird.
The spring bear season was winding down. In fact, it was the last week to hunt this unit and the last day I had to fill my own tag. This season had been an absolute blast thus far. I had gotten to spend a fair amount of time in the mountains and was blessed to see numerous bears. Mr. Big had yet to show himself.
As our nation faces an obesity epidemic, a common topic of interest in social media, news articles, and conversations is the negative side effects of sugar. Sugar is apparently addicting, causes inflammation, and feeds cancer—we would be better to do away with the toxic sweetness. While there are threads of truth to the claims, the perception of sugar is often taken out of context and applied as blanket statements to everyone.
This spring I was blessed to get into the bear woods with a lot of great action. Ultimately, my season ended in a filled tag, but that is a story for another day! Today, one hunt lingers in my thoughts. It was a beauty of a day and I covered 14 miles in stunning country, got a fantastic workout, and didn't see any big game. Yes, I did not see any game but had a blast. I learned about the hunting area and how I can better attack it next time. I left refreshed and more knowledgeable.
It seems as if there is always some piece of gear to upgrade or fix. In today’s world, nothing is cheap. If it is cheap, it probably sucks. Here are a few ideas to get you on the hunt without totally breaking the bank:
Protein gets all the fame in society's current trend with nutrition, and it is critical for many essential functions in the body. However, it is often misunderstood and over supplemented. This article will expose a couple trending protein myths and provide guidance about the why, when, and how much in regard to protein. Optimize your body's recovery from difficult training and save money by knowing the protein basics.
Like carbohydrates in our previous article, fats are a critical part of a hunter’s diet. Fats are essential for immunity and anti-inflammatory processes, provide structure for cell membranes, act as an important energy source, and contribute to brain and heart health. Certain vitamins could not be absorbed, and hormones could not be produced, without the contribution of fats. Fat and carbohydrate work together to fuel the body: carbohydrate is preferred for the higher exercise intensities, and more fat is burned at lower to moderate intensities.
There is an immeasurable amount of information thrown around the internet about nutrition. It is overwhelming! Which information is correct? Does it pertain to my fitness level? My goals? My body type? We often hear guidelines meant for the average, relatively immobile American and think it is a blanket answer for all people. In reality, every person is different and has different needs. The hunter who goes hard all day every day will have different needs in season than out of season. Further, the mountain hunter will have different needs than the tree stand hunter. To get you started on what your needs are, you first have to understand the basics—which many people skip. This article will be the first in a series covering the major nutrients and how they pertain to the backcountry. The basics on carbohydrates:
Whole, halved, quartered. Hide on, hide off. Gutless, gutted. Packs, backs, bikes, trucks, and ATVs. I feel like I have taken game animals out of the woods in about every fashion except for the use of pack animals. Early on we often did things the hard way because we didn't know any better. Today, I predominately use the gutless method to quarter my game and carry it out of the woods in my pack. I have acquired some… unique pack out stories over the years in my hunting journey. One, in particular, comes to mind.
In the middle of July, I was hiking out of the mountains after a successful day of elk scouting. The setting was beautiful at 9000 feet. Despite the summer's warmth, ice and snow stubbornly clung on the steep declines to the west beneath a bluebird sky. A mountain goat clambered among the rocks, adding to the majestic scene. As I glanced to my right, a flash of tan caught my eye. I did a double take and observed two spike bulls and a 5x5 had wandered to the top of a nearly vertical ice field dropping about 100 yards. I guess they wanted the fast way down. Maybe they wanted an adrenaline rush. Whatever the reason, I know what I saw next.
I grew up rifle hunting blacktail deer in western Washington. It was not until my senior year in college that I finally picked up a bow in pursuit of elk. I have never looked back and it has become quite a passion. There are several things I wish I had known as a new elk hunter that would have saved me a lot of time and missed opportunities. I am far from having it all figured out, but I have learned much. If you are a new elk hunter, here are a few things that will hopefully give you a boost up the learning curve (it's quite steep):