The healing power of the mountain
With one phone call and a job change, my life was turned inside out. The phone call was heartbreaking and devastating. The new job meant a new state. Both happened exactly one month before archery season was to open. Everything I knew was gone and I was starting over.
I wasn’t sure how these two things were going affect my archery season. My mind and time was completely occupied by the new job and the heartache I was going through. I needed to focus on the upcoming season, but found that to be difficult.
As my mind faded into bugling bulls and crisp sunrises, I found comfort away from my life that had changed so rapidly.
There has always been something magical about shooting thirty arrows on my way to work. But this year, it meant even more. Shooting my bow proved to provide comfort in a world that had changed overnight. It took my mind off things and provided comfort and ease.
Preparing for the hunt started earlier than ever this year.
Scouting and going through equipment instantly rejuvenated my spirits and opening day jitters began to set it. I knew there would be no sleep and the excitement of the day would have me up before my alarm had a chance to go off.
I was fortunate enough to hunt two states this year, Wyoming and Montana.
Opening day of the Wyoming archery season. Excitement is always high on opening day.
The Wyoming sun sets on a productive opening day.
The month of September brings unreal weather changes. Twenty-four hours earlier it was 55 and sunny.
Being on the mountain made me feel whole again. I was focused. Not just on the hunt but on life and the things that matter, family and friends and sharing the outdoors with them. My Wyoming hunts were unbelievable. I was able to call in three bulls on public land to 21, 10 and 14 yards. I was able to film the bull that came into ten yards. Why hadn’t I stuck one? I was a non-resident and the only tag I had in my pocket was a leftover cow tag.
After leaving my Wyoming hunt, my next stop was Montana. It was a hunt I had looked forward to since I drew the permit. The hunt would reunite me with one of my favorite people of all time. We had similar jobs and similar passions outside of work. We pushed hard on the mountain and shared ethical standards. Those two combinations make us perfect hunting partners and our bond thick and never ending.
The hunts varied from high elevation subalpine hunts to mountains that transitioned into the plains to the low elevation plains of eastern Montana.
Glassing some bucks and bulls in Montana.
Chasing bulls with my stick and string. The hunt was incredible. In a five-day period I was able to hear more bugles than I could count, see hundreds of elk and have a 360+ bull just about run me over. He never provided an ethical shot and ended up walking out of my life.
Working my way through an aspen patch working a last day bull in Montana.
As the archery season came to a close I struggled with the reality that I would not be wrapping my elk tag around the antlers of a bull elk. It was frustrating yet the hunt was fulfilling. I lost sleep over the fact that I couldn’t close the deal. I was into bulls almost every day, lots of bulls too! In fact, more bulls than cows. There were more questions than answers.
The archery season would immediately transition into the rifle season. Even with a new job I was able to take time off in November to travel back to Montana and hunt with my dad. It’s always a special time getting to hunt with dad. He raised me on the prairies of eastern Montana. He taught me life skills through hunting that have gotten me to where I am today. To say he is my role model would be an understatement. Hunts with dad are always the best hunts. The frustrations of archery season and unanswered questions were quickly made clear to me.
For as long as I can remember dad has always given me the first opportunity on harvesting animals. As I have gotten older I have insisted that it is his turn to pull the trigger first, especially if we are fortunate enough to find a giant bull or buck. On this November morning dad and I completed a masterful stalk on a heard of public land/over the counter elk. As it worked out dad got the first shot.
Helping dad with the ‘gutless quarter’ technique. It seems like being as far from roads on public land is paramount. It was no different in our case. We had a monster pack out ahead of us.
Our four quarters ready to be hauled back to the pickup.
As time moves forward my dad is getting older and I would like to think I’m just entering my prime. He has pulled and hauled more of my animals back to the truck than I can recall. On this particular day it was finally my turn to return the favor. I couldn’t have been happier to haul the majority of his elk back to the pickup.
Two days later it was my turn. We spotted and stalked this bull from two miles away. I was able to harvest him at 150 yards.
I began the plummet into a dark place in my life. The mountains, the plains and friends and family replenished my soul. Hunting means many things to many people and as I found out, each season might have an effect completely different than any other season. This season healed me and there is a sense in me that thinks it saved my life. Life made sense to me again and for that, I will always be thankful for my opportunities and for being a hunter. It was my escape and my season reassured me of my role in the world.