Remembering back years ago when I took the plunge into the deep pool that is hunting makes me laugh. I used to think hunting was just this thing that only happened in the Fall. Not worrying about stuff like my shooting until a month or so before a hunt was fairly common practice. Scouting was also a thing that never crossed my mind. When I truly wanted to progress as a hunter though, everything changed.
This was a turning point in my life and where it hit me how hard this hunting stuff can actually be. Time would tell that this was not a once a year thing like I had previously thought. In fact, it was a year-round affair. A process and one that demanded my attention if progression was the goal. Each one of those years that have gone by, that process has remained the same. It always will. Which is why both you and I need to trust it. Trust the process.
Just like a pair of boots, this process is not a one size fits all type of deal. We are each unique individuals that come equipped with different strengths and weaknesses, as well as time. Not everyone has the same amount of time on their hands. For example, maybe one hunter simply doesn’t have the time to be out scouting every weekend, but they are an excellent shot. Their process is going to lean heavily on their shooting because they can practice in their yard or on a local range. In turn, they will be able to stretch the distance and take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself in the limited time that they have. On the opposite hand, there might be a person that knows the mountains like the back of their hand, is a fantastic stalker, but knows they aren’t the best shot out there. They’ve been blessed with the time to learn country and animals intimately. With that, they can really take their time and get into spitting distance of critters regularly, which offers them that closer shot that they need for success. These are just examples of course, but do you see where I’m going with this? You have to play to your strengths and assemble YOUR process from there.
Along the way, we are bound to run into obstacles that will test us. Things that will attempt to push us off of the path that we are on. Except for serious injury, these are mostly mental demons if you ask me. The long and short of it, hunting is hard. In fact, it's very difficult. Going into a world in which you are the outsider and trying to outsmart the insider? It’s a test and one that doesn’t go unnoticed. Animals aren’t worried about showing up to dinner on time or what they are going to buy their Mom for Christmas. One thing is on their mind and that is survival. It is their everything, and with all due respect, they should outsmart you and I. So, just know that if you head out and don’t see anything, that’s OK. And when that rain keeps making everything muddier than muddy can get, that too is OK. What needs to remain a constant throughout these “tough times” is your persistence.
What is life without a little adventure right? Sometimes the road is a bit bumpier than we might like, but if we just keep on trucking at a steady pace, we’ll get to the end no doubt. If all of the intricacies of the process are trucks, going through the motions and remaining steadfast is the gas that fuels them. Without that persistence, the process doesn’t work. And without that persistence, you never would have known what could have been. Quitting doesn’t get anyone anywhere, except a ride home most likely filled with regret. That’s such an awful feeling and I’ve been there more than once. Instead of that rubbish, stay focused and continue to go through those motions we mentioned. Your very presence in the field doing what you know will open opportunity. Yes, sometimes doing this stuff can feel arduous and monotonous even. “Another day behind the glass not seeing anything.” Negativity tends to be a byproduct of adversity. My response to that is: KEEP LOOKING. You will not see what you are not looking at. Closing oneself to opportunity is not how one gains opportunity.
This past January was a grind here in Arizona. After 8 days of backcountry hunting and failed attempts the stars began to align. We found a great Coues buck for me to put the sneak on, so of course I did. That pursuit was short-lived, as the buck rutted his does up the hill away from me. Back to the glassing spot I went. After arriving I realized he didn’t go far at all, so I decided to make another run at him. That second attempt ended with a 60-yard shot and filled tag. After 8 days of grinding and getting my rear end handed to me, it finally all came together. The more footprints that I’ve put down the path of a hunter, the more I realize that the harvesting part isn’t the hardest part at all. What is hard about this game is simply staying in it and remaining focused. Trusting the process one step at a time.
Josh Kirchner is the author of the book, Becoming a Backpack Hunter, as well as the voice behind Dialed in Hunter, a blog that not only documents his own journey, but provides gear reviews, tips/tactics for western hunting, and encourages other hunters to chase and achieve their goals. Josh is a passionate bowhunter that has been hunting with his family since he was a small boy. When he is not chasing elk, deer, bear, and javelina through the diverse Arizona terrain, he is spending time with his wife, daughter, and two herding dogs.