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Hunting lessons learned from 2015

Glassing with Zeiss 15 power binoculars
 
The off season. It’s nearly here. With the 2015 seasons slowly winding down a week away, my 2015 season is officially over. It’s now time to regroup, rethink application strategies for 2016 and start preparing for next year. 2015 was full of lessons and now is the time to reflect and take notes for next fall. 

Mid-August, 2015
 

 Hiking through the desert elk country of Nevada
Nevada: The deserts of Nevada provided many memories from the fall of 2015.

August 15 was the official kick off for my 2015 season. The Nevada elk season began officially on August 25 and I spent ten days before its start to familiarize myself with the unit and scout; I felt confident that locating a quality bull for the hunt would be no problem. Good friend and goHUNT team member Dave Loescher had a tag for the same unit and we were both confident that finding quality bulls would be no problem. Upon arriving in the unit, I looked up good friend Greg Krogh, who was also hunting deer in the unit at the time. Greg provided some great notes and advice on areas to look and how to generally approach the hunt. 
 
After a week in the hunting area, one thing became incredibly evident; no matter how good the tag or how good the hunting area, big animals are just hard to find. I will always remember the first good bull I saw that trip. It was during the sixth morning of scouting! And it was quite a little humbling.
 
The hunt was a grind from day one to day 28 when I was finally able to harvest a good bull. As I look back on the hunt, harvesting my bull is not the first memory that comes to mind. My number one memory from the hunt is being absolutely humbled as a man and as a hunter. While I did come out with a bull, Nevada took a lot more from me than I did from it! 

Mid-October, 2015
 

Glassing for mule deer in the Henry Mountains of Utah
Henry’s: Glassing with good friends in the Henry Mountains. Amazing country!

October 18 marked the beginning of the Henry Mountain’s limited entry rifle deer season. Good friend Steve Thurmon was the lucky tag holder this year and a group of vastly more experienced guys than myself had assembled in the Henry Mountains to assist on his hunt. Wet, cold weather characterized much of the hunt. The scenery, paired with the sheer number of giant deer, made the Henry Mountains an experience that I will never forget. 

Late-October, 2015
 

 Taking harvest photos of Stephen Spurlocks 2015 whitetail
Taking harvest photos of my 2015 whitetail. Always good to have some great photographers in camp!

My return to whitetail country was welcomed this fall. Whitetails are the species I hunt the most and it is always nice to get back to hunting the animals you know best. This year was a little bit different; for the first time in many years, I had a rifle tag. Hunting in an area I hadn’t spent much time, the first few days of the hunt were spent scouting and getting a lay of land. On day two of the season, I located a buck that I initially passed on, but soon realized I needed to go back in and harvest. On the seventh morning of hunting, I was able to harvest the best mainframe 8 point of my career. He was a truly awesome animal and one I will proudly display in my trophy room for the rest of my life.

Continued below.

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Early-November, 2015
 

Greg Krogh glassing for Nevada mule deer
Nevada deer hunt: good friend and mentor, Greg Krogh, glassing for mule deer on a beautiful Nevada morning. 

The return to Nevada to head out with my dad during his deer hunt with Greg Krogh of Mogollon Rim Outfitters was something that I looked forward to all fall. The weather quickly turned from unseasonably warm to frigid as a large cold front pushed across central Nevada. Hunting each day with either Greg Krogh or Clay Campbell proved to be an educational experience. These two guys know big mule deer and spending time with them each day enlightened me more and more on the merits of mule deer hunting.

While we weren’t fortunate enough to harvest a deer on this hunt, we were able to look over a lot of bucks and the lessons learned will certainly serve me well on future mule deer endeavors. 

Early-November, 2015 

The big ten point whitetail buck

The “Ten.” One of the ones that “got away” in 2015. Cool old buck!

Returning to the land of the whitetail with an archery tag in my pocket, the anticipation for the coming rut was high. After hunting this particular property for years, I felt pretty tuned into the day-to-day deer movement. My trail cameras revealed several good bucks on the property. After a little scouting and a review of the trail camera, I decided that one particular 10 point would be my chosen buck this fall. 
 
After seven days of hunting and multiple sightings of the buck, a traffic accident on the way to the stand early one morning ended my pursuit of the Ten.

Lessons learned from the 2015 season

The 2015 season flew by. Looking back on the ups and downs of the season, a few themes seem to stick out.

Lesson 1

The off season gets shorter and shorter. Even now, less than a month out from the 2015 season, planning and preparation for the 2016 is in full swing. I don’t know if I am getting older or because the hunts are getting more strenuous, but the need to start preparing earlier and earlier is more apparent every year. There is no such thing as starting too early!

Lesson 2

Big mule deer are hard to find and even harder to kill. Mule deer are the one western species that I’ve pursued that always seem to win. I wish I knew a secret about mule deer that I could share with everyone, but all I can really say is spend as much time as you can in areas that produce quality bucks. Maybe it will happen for you! And if you discover any mule deer secrets, please let me know! I plan to hit the reset button on mule deer in 2016 and try again!

Lesson 3

Stand on the shoulder of giants. This year, I had the good fortunate of spending significant time in camp with some of the best in the business. On the elk hunt, I shared camp with Dave and Pat Loescher. On the mule deer hunt in Nevada, glassing each day with Greg Krogh and Clay Campbell provided me with more unique insight. These guys have decade’s worth of advice and guidance. To summarize their success, I would say what separates them from the rest of us is 1) their unending drive and never give up attitude, and 2) there commitment to doing things right when it counts. Besides that, all these guys glassed me into the dirt. This is a skill I certainly need to refine this offseason.

Lesson 4

Persistence pays. There were several points in the 2015 season when I was ready to pack up and head home. Through the support of the guys listed above as well as always maintaining the belief that it could happen, I was able to stick it out and harvest a couple of beautiful animals. Looking back, it jumps out at me that during none of my hunts this fall did things happen quickly. Each hunt took a week or longer to develop. Looking back, half of success seems to be “showing up” while the other half is “sticking it out.”

Lesson 5

Simplicity works. Each year, I look back at my gear and take notes on changes I want to make for the following season. This year I simplified my archery hunting setup. I removed my sidebars and other items from my hunting setup and that worked out well. The longer you spend afield, the more likely things will go wrong and making this changes to both lighten my bow and remove moving parts proved extremely valuable.
 
Glassing for elk in Nevada with Elite bow
 
The 2015 season was full of great memories and lessons learned. As we all start planning our 2016 season, take some time to look back and appreciate your accomplishments from 2015. Take those lessons and apply them in order to make 2016 your best season yet!

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