This year was a year of firsts for me. With only recently starting to hunt there are many new opportunities. Now that my seasons have come to an end I thought I would share what I learned. Especially what I learned being unsuccessful.
The Elk Hunt
The first hunt I had this year was an over-the-counter archery elk. In Utah, I am lucky enough to have this option. Elk tags are plentiful and the elk have good numbers.
If you’ve ever wanted a heart-pounding, adrenaline-filled hunt, do archery. I had a great opportunity at two spike elk and was within 40 yards.
What did I learn and why did I eat tag soup? Lesson number one, adrenaline.
Adrenaline is something many hunters experience. However, while holding a pin on an elk’s vitals, was new for me. I have been lucky enough to harvest a few mule deer with a rifle but this year I had a strong desire to use a bow.
Needless to say, the adrenaline I had pumping through my veins caused me to miss at 40 yards. The instant fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness in the knees all hit me as soon as the elk ran off. I had to sit down for a good 20 minutes before I could walk over to look for my arrow.
If you are new to hunting or at least new to the archery game, be prepared for a new wave of adrenaline to hit you. Recently I heard a quote where a hunter said, “Don’t get excited before you take the shot. There is plenty of time for that after. Excited before equals mistakes and misses.”
It is definitely something I will keep in mind from now on.
The Bear Hunt
My second hunting opportunity this year was black bear spot and stalk. I have never hunted bears in any way and was honestly shocked to draw the tag.
I applied for the permit for the first time not expecting to draw it. Everyone I had asked about bear hunting told me it would be at least five years before I drew. Wrong. Draw odds are always tricky but several websites can provide you with good information. You can click here to check out TopRut.com.
Lesson number one? Expect the unexpected. Because of this surprise success, I was certainly not prepared like I should have been prior to the hunt. I had no clue where I was going to go within my unit. In fact, I have never even seen a black bear in the wild. I was unsure of what gear I was going to take and who I could even call on for assistance.
Upon actually starting the hunt I learned the importance of scouting and using OnX Hunt.
The OnX Hunt app became my best friend on the mountain. It was vital to find trails, private versus public land, and to be able to mark waypoints/ and animal sign. There were several times during the hunt where this became critical.
I put on dozens of miles and several thousand feet of elevation gain. Lesson number two? Patience. That is to say, more patience than you can think of.
My bear tag was only good for spot and stalk. No dogs and no bait allowed. As a result, I expected to spend a large amount of time glassing. However, I underestimated the amount I would be doing.
Unfavorable weather with blizzards, being absorbed into a rain cloud, and beef cattle all played a role. But it took strong willpower and extreme patience to stay behind the optics. I had to force myself almost every day I hunted to not get up and just hike. I knew that my chances would be better to stay put and glass instead of making noise and getting my scent all over the mountain.
In the end, I was unsuccessful on this hunt too. I came across tracks one day but have still never laid eyes on a wild black bear. Neither of these hunts has taken my love for hunting. In fact, it is the contrary. I have gained an even deeper appreciation and love for it.
Tags don’t fill the freezer but I also learned a lot about myself as a hunter. Hunting is about sharing your knowledge and experience with others and improving the next generation. These lessons will be with me on future hunts and I will pass it on to my children as well.
If you’d like to read hunting stories like this you can check out our Hunt 101 section by clicking here. Unsuccessful hunts happen but they are only truly unsuccessful if you let them be!
Do you feel that you learn more from successful or unsuccessful hunts? Let us know in the comments!