TWO LEGS v. FOUR
Woe is the man with a bow in his hand. Woe is he whom the odds are against. The elk is in the dugout on the third base line, and the home team is the clear favorite in this contest.
Being a product of Farmington, NM, baseball was my sport. I played all through little leagues, high school ball, and even a little bit of Junior College ball, lots of time spent on the diamond. Many of the games I played, we found ourselves against impossible odds. Down several runs, deep in a count in the 9th inning, no runners on, etc. etc. etc. In order to come back and win those games, we had to have so many things go our way, a ground ball that finds its way through the middle, a chance error, a lucky break on a pitch sitting on the corner that was decided as ball four instead of strike three, or even a late walk-off home run. Those things rarely happened, but when they would all come together, it felt like magic, like the stars were aligned and we were meant to win even if it was the last thing we ever did. I loved those games. Unfortunately, you end up on the losing side most of the time when you are in those situations, most of the time you go home thinking “man, if only that line drive would have found a hole” or “if only that umpire wasn’t against us all game.” Those are the experiences I liken to trying to kill an elk with a bow. It seems like there are so many things that have to go right, the stars have to align every time. When trying to arrow an elk, you are always down to your last out, no runners on, down three runs in need of a clutch walk-off. But holy smokes, when it goes right, you remember every detail just like coming from behind and winning those ball games. When you finally walk up on your bull, it feels like God was on your side, like it was a miracle that it all came together the way it did.
The uncontrollable variables of elk hunting, the damned uncontrollable variables. The shifting wind, the coyote that spooked a bull, the cow you didn’t see, the rancher on the quad looking for his cows, there are so many things we can’t control as elk hunters. Those are the uncontrollable variables. On the other hand there are so many things that we can control, better yet, that we have to control in order to be successful. Our shooting, our gear, how early we hit the trail, knowledge of the area, calling capabilities, and yes, even our fitness. Every year, in elk woods all across the West, there are hunters whom the stars align for, the wind was right, the bull came right down the trail he was supposed to, he stopped broadside at 20 yards to bugle, the hunter draws, releases, and drops his jaw in disbelief as he watches the arrow fly two inches over the bull’s back. “What happened?” he asks himself, or, “I knew I should have practiced shooting from my knees!” he snaps. Or in other scenarios a hunter might cuss at himself swearing that he should have gotten into better shape before the hunt, maybe then he would have been able to control his breathing and settle his pin where he wanted to.
I have hunted elk enough years with a bow that I fully understand how truly difficult it is to succeed. I also understand the role that variables play. That is why I try to spend as much time in preparation as I can. There is only so much that I can control when it’s finally my turn, so I’d better be ready. Be it shooting, studying maps, hanging trail cameras, learning the game trails and how they travel, lifting weights, or hiking with a loaded pack, I need to be able to do my part.
The fourth morning of a hunt is rough. I am not sure why but the fourth morning is where my fatigue starts to play a role. Mostly mental, some physical, yet it’s fatigue all the same. This year I am training with intentionality to overcome that fourth morning fatigue. My goal is that on morning number four, I have just as much energy as I did on morning number one. To prepare for that, my training routine this year is very physically challenging and even tougher mentally. I live on the far West edge of town where civilization meets the desert. About a mile from my house lies a sandy hill with 93’ of elevation gain from top to bottom. At one point I am sure it had some firm footing but it has since been reduced to nothing but sand by the four wheelers and dirt bikes that climb it. My routine consists of hiking laps up, down, and around this sandy SOB. Roughly 0.3mi and 93’ of gain per lap. Doesn’t sound like much on paper, but after 10 laps you have covered 3 miles and 930’ of elevation gain in 6 in. of sugar sand with 40 pounds on your back. Therein lies the physical challenge. The mental challenge comes in the form of passing the truck every 4.5-5 minutes and knowing you could quit each time. It comes in the form of sand gnats. It comes in the form of blowing dust in your face. It comes in the form of boredom from taking the same exact footsteps for 45-50 minutes every afternoon. However, I know that by choosing to continue lap after lap, day after day, that I am building up will power and discipline. While the increased cardiovascular performance and overall fitness gains are a huge advantage in the woods, it is really the will power and discipline that I am after. That is what I will need on September 4th, the fourth morning of my hunt. The discipline and mental toughness I am building on that sandy SOB is what will keep me going on September 14th. I am going to hunt equally as hard and equally as effective all fourteen days of my hunt.
The Route (google earth image)
The Sandy S.O.B.
Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.