Western Hunter Magazine July/August 2019 #70 - Page 43

Beginning Again e left the house at 4:30 a.m. and hiked through the dark to reach my tree stand. I was in a huge hunting slump. Last year, my friend Rick and I had tracked a buck until the blood trail dried up. We did the same thing with a cow elk earlier this season. I practice often with my bow and commit to ethical shots, yet archery tends to be painful at times. These two failures weighed heavy on my mind as we walked in that morning after mule deer. I climbed into my tree stand and let the magic of the early morning mountains wash over me. The anticipation of everything was becoming sharp as the sun began to rise. My mind ran wild as I con- sidered the day’s possibilities. As a relatively new bowhunter, I ached for suc- cess. I felt on edge and ready to draw my bow at noises that turned out to be squirrels, chipmunks, and birds rustling through nearby brush. After a couple hours, I heard a different noise; more distinct to a bigger animal. I looked up the chute I was in and spotted a bobcat family through the trees! A mother and three kittens were playing as they leaped on and across tree stumps 60 yards from me. Watching these animals go about their day unaware of my presence was truly special. I was experiencing something incredible that no one else was seeing, and it was simply amazing. The moth- er finally pegged me at 30 yards and stared at me for several minutes, growling a curious noise that sounded more like a purr than a growl. W Humble Pie At this point, I went and joined my friend, Rick, who wasn’t far from me. It turned out that he had his eye on several bucks in a basin, so it was time for some spot-and-stalk action. Rick pointed out three bucks that were shifting their beds as the sun would hit them, but they were generally staying in the same area. After we felt they had bedded for the morning, we made a game plan. Rick would spot for me and I would work my way around the back side of some cliffs that cut through the basin. If I could pop up in the right spot on the cliffs, I’d be right on top of them! The play seemed perfect and realistic. Working my way over there, I felt excitement building. Rick guided me in and before long I was in position. There was one problem, though; I could not see the bucks. The clumps of trees all blended together from my new viewpoint, but I was pretty sure I knew where they were, so I settled in to wait. The wind was howl- ing when suddenly the bucks blew out! Just like that, the stalk was over. Earlier in the morn- ing, we had watched a couple bucks disappear around the cliffs to the back side where I cur- rently sat, so I immedi- ately shifted my atten- tion that way. I saw one good buck walk into view, but he was out of bow range. He was facing away from me and slowly walked into the trees. With the wind swirling, I decided to sneak around and drop into the area from above him. After an hour of slow, quiet movement and scanning through thick trees and brush, I deter- mined he had given me the slip. I contemplated the opportunity missed, cursed the wind and a thou- sand other things that didn’t align, and then started the long climb out of the basin. For me, those long, arduous hikes after close calls or missed shots are tough. I’m stuck replaying what happened and what could have been. I’m also faced with the reality of my failure and the hard mental/physical drain of the journey ahead of me. I slogged up the hill, attempting with each step to adjust my attitude, learn from my failures, and get my mind right for the evening hunt. buck suddenly jumped “ ...the up ten feet from us! A mad scramble ensued, with us jumping out of the way while my buck thrashed its way through a bush. It took one bound and then crashed to the ground.” info@westernhunter.net WESTERN HUNTER 43