One of the things that I look back on over the years that has impacted my journey in one of the most dramatic ways, is hunting multiple environments and doing so successfully. I've always found it important to be as well rounded in my pursuits as possible.
Bow hunting is one of those activities where the more you practice, the better you generally become, and the more time you spend in the field, the better you get at finding the quarry you seek. Whether you hunt above 12,000 ft. in the high country, or the low desert near sea level, the creatures that live there are vastly different, yet surprisingly, much the same.
Hunting High and Low
When I say that animals in the high country to the arid low desert are vastly different, their characteristics vary substantially, in that one will migrate, while the other does not. One will have a summer range, while the other will have a home range. One will begin growing antlers, while the other sheds their antlers and so on. Likewise, these animals all share common traits that make them predictable as they will all do many of the same things with regularity. For example, Mule deer in the high country and Mule deer in the low desert will both make beds for the day, they both stay within reasonable proximity to water, feed and cover, and they seek out undisturbed areas strategically situated to assist them in the safety and security of their surroundings.
As a hunter that continues to try to evolve and improve, I carry with me an open mind. I carry with me the tools in which I have found regular and significant success. I also keep myself in a “growth phase” and never close my mind off to learning and understanding the game I pursue. While I love success, just as you do, we all know that success is often found through much defeat. Therein lies the challenge and one of the reasons that I love bow hunting in so many diverse habitats.
Think Like a Deer
Success in each ecosystem can be found in simplicity. For example, thinking like a deer will always get you further than thinking like a hunter. When it’s 120 degrees outside, you’re going to want to stick as close as possible to a water source. You wouldn’t go too far from it as that takes energy and you also need cover, close to feed. In contrast, the high country has an overabundance of everything a deer needs. Strategically looking in areas with exposure, good visual stance and multiple escape routes tend to take center seat.
These factors may appear to be very simple and they are supposed to be. In essence, we train ourselves at times to over-think and overcomplicate the task at hand. Also leave room for there to be absolutely no rhyme or reason as to the “why” or the “how”, animals behave in certain ways. The most significant reason for writing this article is to encourage growth as a hunter. We often get complacent with hunting where we are use to hunting. When we see success consistently in our back yards, we often get a little bit comfortable. It happens to all of us including me. However, if you seek to sharpen your skill-set and challenge yourself, hunting different environments will accomplish the honing of your mental and physiological game. When you step foot on new ground , you turn the mental dial to “zero”. When you’re set to zero, we get “put in our place” with the realization that we have a significant amount to learn in order to gain a high level of confidence.
New Ground, New Opportunities and Dependable Gear
In my opinion, hunting multiple subspecies of Mule deer in over a dozen different ecosystems has made me not only respect Mule deer resilience, it has also taught me how to maintain a higher level of mental sharpness and awareness crucial to successfully punching tags with a bow in hand. Now I realize that many already presently do this, and I’m certain that many of you also feel the same way, however, if you are seeking a new pursuit, or find yourself wanting more out of your hunts by searching for a new growth curve, I highly recommend taking your hunts to new ground. Extending your hunts into new country will generate challenge, stimulate growth, and most of all create new opportunities! After all, that’s what we’re all after; the pursuit, the thrill of the hunt, the opportunity and the memories.
A second component is going at it prepared. Having the correct mental attitude and ensuring that your ability is up to the task is paramount, however, having the right equipment is equally important. Having the right gear can help you seal the deal and achieve the task at hand. For example, one thing I cannot leave home without is a set of big eyes! I am absolutely obsessed with the use of giant binoculars. They are as crucial as my Hoyt bow and every other piece of equipment I utilize. The other requirement is quality concealment with layering capabilities to keep you hunting stronger, and longer. This past year, I have been putting the new line of SKRE gear to the ultimate test across the West. From 122 degrees during summer to sub-freezing temps during migration hunts, I was covered and efficiently hunting in adverse conditions. I can go on and on about equipment, however, the fact is that your equipment is half of the equation to success. A best in class bow, like the carbon series of Hoyt bows, Zamberlan boots, the Vortex Razor HD line of optics, Gold Tip arrows, Spot Hogg sights and accessories, Grim reaper fixed blade heads like the micro hades, and of course a stout pack that makes the hunt possible in an equally necessary way. Without a good pack like a kifaru, many of the hunts I go on would not be possible. Every piece of equipment is absolutely essential and I am certain that you have your own favored gear list. The key here is to get the best gear you can afford.
Always Something New to Learn
The last part of this equation is up to you. Give it all you’ve got! Think like a deer at all times. Look for their sign and seek out the right conditions and you will find what you’re after. Most importantly, challenge yourself to diversify your pursuit in order to become a better-rounded hunter. It will keep you hungry, green and learning. These factors in turn will allow you to achieve a higher level of personal growth through the execution of your goals, which over time will also put more food on your table and put more shoulder mounts on your wall!