The author never saw the buck he captured on his game camera. In fact, he didn’t see many bucks at all after the first weekend of November. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

The author never saw the buck he captured on his game camera. In fact, he didn’t see many bucks at all after the first weekend of November. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went To The Woods: Is ‘my way’ overrated

It seems that plans unravel more than they unfold.

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

I felt like a coach who was sitting on the bench waiting for the clock to run out. No need to foul. The lead had been blown, and the deer were sinking their free throws. Admit defeat. Wait for the horn. Better luck next year.

What had started with two missed bucks with my bow on the first weekend of rut, ended unceremoniously as I peeled off my soaked rain gear and warmed up in my truck. I started the month with two tags to notch and five weekends (plus Thanksgiving break) to do it. But after that first weekend, I only saw one more buck. By the time my 8-mile Thanksgiving loop across three creeks toward the far reaches of a muskeg I figured would be too much work for at least some hunters, was complete, I was accepting defeat.

It seems that plans unravel more than they unfold and nothing really goes my way. Do not mistake that statement as bratish. I am no victim. It’s a simple statement that the way things happen is rarely as I planned them. In fact, with little things like hunting or minor direction adjustments in life, I almost welcome the change in course, though not usually at the time.

My way as a sophomore in high school would have 30-year old me living in Arizona working as a sports trainer for a college basketball team. My way as a junior in college would have 40-year old me being a beat writer for a newspaper, following college sport teams around the country. My way was writing a sidebar at the Final Four, not freelancing about the outdoors.

What I wanted was different than what I got. Looking back, I’m much happier this way. I can’t prove it because I didn’t do the other two, but if purpose and enthusiasm for life are indicators of happiness then I’m doing fine.

The two bucks I missed were in areas I had never hunted and had not planned to. My way would have been going to the spot where I had seen bucks the last year and set up a game camera in the spring. That didn’t work out. Circumstances forced me to learn a new area just as I had started to figure out the previous. I had found one of those “my spot” type areas I could maybe even refer to as a honey hole. This was going to be the year.


I don’t want to turn this into some “lessons learned” cliché — though I have been known to write those, too — because anyone can say the right thing but not really believe it, or do the right thing next time.

What I do want is resilience. I never ask for opportunities to be resilient, but the only way I grow resilience, is by being resilient.

If anything, this season was a reminder that it is not just a matter of making a plan and watching it work. Hunting is not simply going to the woods and picking up meat.

I never really thought it was, but I am more confident in my hunting program, so I do believe I am in a much better position to be successful, but it’s largely been the failures that have been the most instructive.

I’m a freezer half-full kind of guy, in more ways than one. Little about the season went to plan, but It was still one of the best four months I’ve ever spent on mountains and in the woods.

• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.

More in News

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Monday, Jan. 18

The most recent state and local numbers.

White House, tribes joined to deliver Alaska Native vaccines

The initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments.

Even as coronavirus numbers are going down and vaccines are being distributed, pandemic-related facilities like the testing site at Juneau International Airport, seen here in this Oct. 12 file photo, are scheduled to remain for some time, according to city health officials. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Vaccines are coming, but pandemic facilities will remain

Testing sites and other COVID-19 operations will continue, officials say, but infections are trending down.

After violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., join other senators as they return to the House chamber to continue the joint session of the House and Senate and count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Murkowski on impeachment: ‘I will listen carefully’ to both sides

As for timing, the senator said, “our priority this week must be to ensure safety in Washington, D.C.”

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau City Hall. The City and Borough of Juneau has distributed nearly $5 million in household and individual assistance grants since October. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
All housing and most personal assistance grants processed

About $5 million in aid is flowing to households and individuals in Juneau.

A child plays at Capital School Park. The park is in line for a remodel that will fix the crumbling retaining wall, visible in the background. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
A new life is in store for Capital School Park

Public input is helping craft a vision for the park’s voter-approved facelift.

Expected heavy snow and high winds Thursday evening prompted Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to issue a warning of increased avalanche hazard along Thane Road. (File photo)
Avalanche risk increasing along Thane Road

Be careful and plan for the possibility of an extended road closure.

Most Read