There’s always a fish or deer or quorum of widgeon that peck at you during the off season. If not, then it’s a lake, mountain or muskeg.
This off season was a bonus. Not only was it a flock of geese that flew too high for my 12-gauge to reach, but also that 4-point buck that spooked before clearing brush as I stood 17-yards away at full draw. They aren’t bad memories, but they are reminders that you’re never as good as you think you are when it comes to hunting, fishing or outdoorsing, even if you’re admittedly an intermediate at best.
I had a mountain in mind when this alpine deer season started. I bought a 21-foot North River in October of last year which extended my range and put this mountain on my list. But logistics and weather got in the way during August. I figured not putting boots on that mountain would figure into my off-season regrets. Then, September dawned sunny and warm. I was granted a reprieve and helped my buddy, Dave, pack off a 4×3 from the mountain I thought I’d have to wait another year to see.
Sure, it would have been cool if I got the buck, but two of my close friends have taught me that a good hunt is a good hunt, and being content packing meat or even at peace with it not working out, is a necessary mindset.
So one would think that I am in the clear so far. That I have navigated nearly two months of hunting season without regret. Not true.
There is another mountain. (There always will be).
I call it Proposal Hill because during a hunt in August, it’s where I asked my girlfriend to be my wife. She said yes, then we hiked off the mountain with the deer we had just processed split between our two packs.
That’s not the problem. The problem is I want to go back because I am sure there are goats on the back side of it. The weather was terrible in August, so I was just happy it broke enough that I could get a buck and propose. No need to get too greedy, right?
I went back last weekend and the weather broke again, and again, there were no goats. But there has to be. There have to be white spots on the faces of the ridges that shoot off from the side of the peak I haven’t seen. The terrain is rocky, the elevation is higher than 3,000 feet and I have buddies who have taken goats on neighboring mountains.
The third time will have to be the charm, but until then, I will experience the haunting feeling of hope, paired with waiting. There is no doubt I will continue to love the mountain even if it ends up being goat-less, however, part of the charm of the outdoors is that you can never reach the point to where you feel accomplished, experienced, or otherwise successful enough to let it go. I e-scouted this mountain over the summer and it is everything I had hoped it would be in the two times I’ve been up it. But what lies beyond the peak is still a mystery. For now.
• 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.