2013 was supposed to be my year, my lucky number 13, I figured the deal was already sealed, sadly I broke my own deal. I focused too much on luck and not enough on hard work, I slacked in ‘13 more than I had in the last few years. I still put in time and effort, I shot once a week minimum, scouted, went through some gear and worked out. The problem was simple though, I didn’t PUSH myself harder than the year before. I had allowed myself to hit cruise, and without even noticing my cruise dropped off into a slowing coast…..
2012 I had a Utah general season archery elk and muzzleloader deer tag. I knew that with the job schedule I had that I would have to push myself each day to make the most of what short time I had on the mountain when the season rolled in. I worked out each day, shot almost every day and scouted when I could get away from work. My biggest thing holding me back was my job. A shop manager of two oilfield companies didn’t have a lot of free time and the phone was ringing constantly. I worked out harder as the season got closer, I dialed in my gear a little more each trip, read more info on hunting than the years before and scouted areas I hadn’t ever even seen previously. Sadly I came away with two unfilled tags that year. I can’t say the opportunity wasn’t there though. I actually passed on a few good bulls, I had set a goal that for every mile back I hiked was a point added to the rack. At 4 miles back I wanted a 5 point minimum bull, I hunted fairly hard and really tested myself on my first hard DIY solo back country trip. I learned a lot about my gear, my preparation and myself that year.
I came away from archery beat down from rookie mistakes, lack of experience and saddened at my unfilled bull tag. I had however spent time closer to smaller caliber bulls than ever before, I had acted out coming to full draw on a few deer that would out score any deer I had gotten with a muzzleloader. I had experienced something very few people have, I had to slap some small spike bulls with arrows to avoid being stepped on, I had trail cam pictures of bucks that I didn’t know existed on the mountain I had hunted all these years with my dad. As muzzleloader season rolled around work was getting busier and I was stuck with no time for a back country trip nor had I prepared for one. My focus had been on archery, something that has taken over my very core. I made some time for the muzzleloader season but was rushed and couldn’t get within range on the bucks I was after. I had seen much larger bucks and plenty more during archery elk hunting. At the close of the seasons I knew that archery was the only form of hunting I would go for from then on.
Though unsuccessful I felt confident of what would happen in 2013, after the previous season’s experience I “had” to come out of the wild tagged out. I switched jobs to find one with less demands for myself, I was too young to spend so much time working now and I wanted to free up time to hunt. I told myself that was the difference between tag soup last year and my freezer full this year was the time and that I had set unrealistic goals. Though I do feel that setting a goal for the size of my bull was a mistake and I should have been more concerned with just getting a bull down. That wasn’t the main issue, yet I told myself that with more time and lower standards I would tag out. Without even realizing it I was actually telling myself that the time was there so the work and dedication wasn’t required, that I would be happy shooting anything anyways. When the season approached and I went to hit it hard I realized that I was nowhere near the standard I had been the year before. I was worn out earlier, my shooting was still good but shooting once a week versus once a day left me less comfortable and confident at full draw. I stumbled with some of my newly acquired back country gear, and I noticed the weight on my back a lot faster. I spent the last month before the hunt opener absolutely beating myself down to try to make up for the lack of effort I had put in through the year.
My biggest factor, more than anything, turned out being that my mental game was shattered. By the close of the month long season I was ready to give up my DIY solo backcountry style. I had been going after great bucks only to be busted, winded, unable to keep up and even encroached on by other hunters. The year before I had only seen one hunter even slightly close to me, this year I couldn’t get as far away and other hunters had closed the gaps, probably by working hard during the off season. I missed the non-typical bull I was after, the range finder battery died and instead of me being confident with guessing the range from practicing all year I doubted myself changed my mind and my pin only to shoot over his back by a mere inch. I allowed myself to get within bow range of many bucks and bulls only to then allow myself to be defeated in one way or another. Though I can say that some of the events were caused by other hunters or things out of my control, the biggest cause for my failure was me because I failed to seal the deal….
2014 has to end differently for me, and only I can create that. I’ve added to a common quote that has always been a favorite to try and remind myself to push harder this year.
Not all who wander are lost, but those that try to cruise never gain speed or momentum…..