How many times have you said to yourself, “If I only knew then what I know now”? When I think about that phrase, one early season archery deer & elk hunt comes to mind. The general archery hunt took place here in Idaho in the late 80’s in the limit entry rifle area of unit 45. The hunt opened in the later part of July and extended into September. A couple friends and I were new to bow hunting and after scouting a little we found a good area. We saw a few elk here and there, but the bucks, wow! It was common to see bachelor herds of 20+ bucks. The best thing I could compare it to is the old Dwight Schuh video “Too Many Bucks”.
It was our first time bow hunting early season deer and looking back it was comical. I could have written a book and titled it “How Not to Bow Hunt Deer”. We were shooting our new Golden Eagle bows with probably one of the first mechanical releases on the market. Although I should have been, I wasn’t shooting sights. I wasn’t shooting any deer either, and not for lack of opportunity. Every night around the campfire we all told a common story about the one that got away. We never did take a buck out of those hills but we did learn and laugh a lot, and if we only knew then what we know now we probably would have filled some tags.
One thing I do know and remember about that hunt is how physically demanding it was. It wasn’t the terrain that was demanding; it was the hunting technique. I think we were more so chasing them rather than hunting them. I can’t imagine how many miles I jogged and ran trying to cut off those bucks. By the end of season I felt like I could almost keep up with them.
Over twenty years have passed yet it doesn’t seem very long ago I was hurdling that tall sagebrush. Conditioning was never an issue in my early twenties. If I wasn’t working I was hunting or scouting to go hunting, everything from elk to whistle pigs. I periodically jogged and lifted weights and with the passion I had to bow hunt it was easy to get over the next ridge. By my mid-twenties I was engaged to my wife, Carole, who has a true understanding of my passion for the outdoors and has never put unreasonable limitations on my hunting. We have spent many hours together hiking and sitting in blinds and tree stands. After the wedding, thirty seemed to come pretty quickly, followed shortly by two beautiful boys named Jess and Luke. Time soon became a desirable thing. Between my family and work I wasn’t getting out as much and I soon realized the hills seemed to be getting a little steeper. Although I still had a desire for the hunt it was getting harder to get over that next ridge. By my mid thirties I realized that I wasn’t twenty anymore. I knew it was time to get back into shape both physically and mentally. Life can be so wearing and it is so easy to look past the important things – one of which is your health.
I never thought I’d be the guy taking a handful of supplements every morning and surfing the Internet trying to figure out why my body is doing what it’s doing and how to fix it. What I do know is that forty has come and gone and for the past several years I have made it a priority to take care of myself both physically and mentally. It is so important to set goals and strive to achieve them. I love being in the mountains, so one thing I do now is plan on running the Robie Creek race. Robie Creek is a half marathon that takes you up and over the Boise Front foothills. I’ve only ran it twice over the last few years but I’ve tried to train every year as if I was doing it and if I don’t run it, who cares. I win either way.
Next to bow hunting, dirt biking is at the top of my list as far as fun exercise. The past several years I’ve been racing desert and endurance races. You want to talk about demanding! Not only are these examples physically challenging, they absolutely build your mental strength as well. We all know it takes both to be consistently successful in the field.
Another thing I’m doing again every spring is bow hunting rock chucks. This is such a great way to get out of the house and practice shooting at a live animal. I love setting up my double bull and video camera for those little critters. It’s a bonus now because I get to take my boys. This was the first critter I ever shot with a bow and it might be the last. I have regained so much youth back into my psyche over the past few years and guess what, the hills are getting less steep and it’s easier to get over that next ridge.
Obviously these are things that motivate me. Find something that challenges and motivates you. Think back to those days of shed hunting, mountain biking, skateboarding, or just walking the green belt. Whatever “it” is, start doing it again. Now! And if you are doing it, keep it up! Strive to stay young at heart and body. Chase those bulls down this September and have fun doing it. “Know now what you already know now!” Good hunting and God bless.