Serious hunters usually have a "honey hole" or "secret spot." I know I do. I can remember when I first dove into the hunting lifestyle and the jealousy I felt towards these folks with "secret spots." It seemed that they had it all figured out and I was envious. What I wouldn't give to have my own "honey hole." For a newbie, that can just be downright frustrating. I wanted to see success so bad I could taste it. From local hunting forums to private messages, I was willing to talk to anyone in order to squeeze out any bit of information. Most of the time I would get very general answers in response to my very specific questions. While I appreciated the interaction, I couldn't help feeling a bit frustrated when I didn't get a more specific answer. It wasn't until years down the road when I realized why.
(Now, before you think that this is going to be about being selfish, put the brakes on.) As I continued farther down the hunting lifestyle road, I realized something. Serious hunters work their tails off to have the consistent success that they do. This was all too evident by my lack of success at the time. So much of my time was being put into researching, hiking, and glassing. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed—and still enjoy—every second of it. However, even by doing all of that stuff at the time, I still had very little to show for it, other than some much-needed tranquility that I received. At least, that's how it felt at the time. I look back now and see I had way more to show for it than I thought. The puzzle pieces were being gathered, but I was too blinded by my desire to fill tags to see it. These seasoned hunters that I would chat with had already earned many of those puzzle pieces. Who was I to take those away from them? It's up to me to put my own puzzle together. Like a lot of people these days, I wanted quick success with the absence of all of the work it took. No matter how frustrating that work can be sometimes, it is the very thing that shapes us into the hunters we want to become.
Instant gratification is huge today. If I want to know how to do something, I have the internet at my disposal 24/7. Need to take care of Christmas shopping? A couple swipes of your finger and that's that. Our lives have been built upon a foundation of convenience. These veteran hunters who were withholding information from me were going against that grain. Why wouldn't they just tell me right where to go and what to do? Today, I thank them for not doing so.
To deny yourself the hardships of the adventure is to deny yourself glory. I worked my tail off for three years before I finally got my first Arizona black bear. The feeling of accomplishment after it all came together was something that I will never forget. From the brutal pack out to the phenomenal company I had to share the moments with; I wouldn't trade it. Had someone made it "easy" for me, that bear wouldn't have meant what it did. Fast forward to present day and I have a very different frame of mind when it comes to getting information from people. I almost always want general answers now. Everyone wants success, but, now, I want to earn it. That genuine feeling of accomplishment is a feeling I will forever chase in the mountains and it's one that you shouldn't deny yourself.
To those of you who are successful year after year, my hat is off to you. You have no doubt put in the work and earned your stripes in the field. I am sure that if you are part of an online community on social media or hunting forums, there have been folks that have reached out to you. They are looking for information whether it is for hunting spots, tactics, etc. Here's my take on that. Don't be so quick to be standoffish with these people. A lot of them are the future of our lifestyle. No, you don't have to give out your "secret spots," but drop them a line with some general information. For instance, I will never give out specific areas, but I will talk bear habitat all day with someone. If someone is showing that they have put in the work, I don't have any problem chatting about bears with them. Why? Because I see myself in that individual. I was where they are; we all were. That is the precise reason why I won't give specific areas out. It's because I want them to feel what I felt when I tasted success for the first time. Also, if you're worried that you are sharing your hunting locations when you post photos online or text them to friends, you should check out this great article by Brady Miller called Are you giving away your hunting locations?.
If you are just getting into this stuff, then the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to soak it up. Soak up everything around you. Truly be in the moment and realize what's sitting in front of you. Who cares if you don't know what you're doing. All of us started somewhere and you are no different. Your success will come in time and I promise it will be worth the wait. Tough hunts build character and make us better than we were before. Those hunts are the ones where you should be taking notes the most. If things always panned out for you right off the bat every time, you wouldn't learn anything. Most people can learn how to shoot a bow or a gun. Most people cannot learn how to deal with tough grueling hunts. I think this is what separates the consistently successful from the unsuccessful. And, before you know it, you will have your very own "secret spots."