Stalking success

“Why’d you shoot the fork?”

“Don, there were so many horns I just chose a body.”

Thus, my first ever deer was a tall 2×2 rather than one of the three 4-point bucks that were in the same group. I saw horns and panicked.

I’m glad it worked out the way it did because if my first ever deer had been a 4-point, I would have had nowhere to go. You earn a 4-point, you don’t get one on day one.

I like having success proportional to time and effort, though it is nice to catch a break once in a while.

I have discussed my desire over the past month to find a hooting grouse and make it dinner but I was way too early in the season. Patience would bring mating season.

Now, it’s primetime and when I heard my first hoot of the spring, I gave chase. The thing about this whole process is that when you first hear the hoot, it’s a long way away. The sound carries so far that you think you are close, but you aren’t. I picked my way through knee-deep snow patches that dropped to waist-deep without warning, then started up a steep slope that was totally free of snow. I knew I was really close when I could almost feel the sound, but that only got me to a general vicinity. I had it down to about 10 trees, then five. Each time I moved to get a better look to glass the top the sound changed directions. I figured that if it did that, I had moved to the other side of the tree, so I exposed myself to the sound as much as I could and looked from there. I picked a tree. Had to be there. I rose my binoculars and the entire glass was filled with bird. When I put them down, I couldn’t find the bird, so I worked my way up the tree and found it. I had a shot and took it. The branch moved. Then the bird flew.

I missed. I spent 30 minutes on an old snowy road, then hiked 30 minutes up a steep incline to then spend another half hour finding a bird among the tangles of spruce and cedar trees.

I let out a breath, looked around a bit to see where it may have flown, then started down.

Hunting celebrity Steve Rinella says that unsuccessful hunts aren’t so bad because you are still adding things to your mind, even if you don’t add anything to your freezer.

I found a specific bird in a forest. I had done enough right to put myself in a position to be successful. If nothing ever goes wrong you can start to think that it’s all just about deciding to do something and because you want something to happen, it will.

When I woke up that morning, I would have classified myself as someone who didn’t really know what he was doing. Now I know what I am doing, and merely lack depth of experience. Sure, you can’t eat an experience, but as Rinella said, experiences aren’t just about filling your stomach. You can do that by going to the store.

Jeff Lund teaches and writes out of Ketchikan.

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