Passing it On - 3 Generations


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There is one day of the year, every year, that my wife loathes. When NM releases it's big game draw results. On one hand she knows full well that we will either be spending a considerable amount of money and an even more considerable amount of time if we are successful, while on the other hand, she knows that I am going to be a mopey baby for about 10 days if we are not successful. Last year, you might as well have called me Eeyore. Between my dad, my wife, and I we completely struck out on every single big game draw in NM. However, while I usually quickly move on and focus on work and my career and impatiently wait until the next year, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I purchased an OTC bear tag for the archery season in the mountains closest to my home. While my brother would be chasing deer with his bow, I would patiently sit in a blind and wait for a bear to step out. My luck turned quickly. After three days in the blind I finally arrowed my first bear. I was by myself at the time and was so shocked/excited/surprised that I failed to capture the moment in a way that did it justice. My wife and I enjoyed the fruits of that harvest in the form of smoked sausage and chorizo for several months.



My luck continued when I happened upon a surprise antelope hunt in October. I had never hunted antelope and on the first morning I was beyond fortunate when I connected with a buck flirting with 80? (will get him measured when the taxi is done with him).


7 months prior I was Debbie Downer when I was unsuccessful in the draws and now I was sitting on cloud 9 with a very successful season under my belt.

Well my luck in 2016 has rolled right into 2017. While I only drew one of seven hunts I applied for in NM, it is an archery elk tag in the woods that first breathed life into my hunting soul. To top it off, my dad, the man responsible for passing all of this on to me, also drew the same hunt. The good news continued coming in when I saw that my wife drew her first elk tag, a late season cow tag Thanksgiving weekend. We quickly burned through the bear and antelope meat over the winter and their currently remains only a dozen pounds or so of ground elk and venison in my freezer. I can now understand the phrase recently coined as a ?meat crisis.? The opportunity to recharge our freezer has created quite the buzz in our household.

There remained one last puzzle piece to determine how our fall would shape up, Colorado deer results. As soon as the backdoor was opened up, I peeked in to see what I could see. 591 codes for my brother and I, but no dice for our old man. Visions of block necked bucks with their noses trailing hot does quickly filled my mind and the budget spreadsheet in front of me faded to black. I was certain my brother would draw our first choice but I was unsure about my dad and I as we were one point behind what guarantees a tag. When June 1st came, I couldn't have been more pleased to see that my older brother and I would both be chasing grey ghosts on a 4th season rifle hunt.

2017, cheers to you! Time to prepare.

Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.


Active Member

I am genuinely looking forward to chronicling all of my family and I?s adventures this year through this platform that MM has created. I have never participated in the HAC in the past but have always enjoyed reading through everyone?s posts, they really make you feel like you are experiencing everything the authors are, almost as if you were right next to them the whole time. That is what I am striving to do here, to bring you all, and several others along with me for our journeys this year.

Several of my family members (mostly in-laws), co-workers, and even some friends just don't understand why I spend so much time thinking about and preparing for my hunts each year. Why would I spend so much time consumed with thoughts about the wildlife that roam The Wilds of the West? Why would I spend so much money to pursue them? Why do I so greatly prefer wild game on my plate than something that came from Walmart? To tell you the truth, I am not sure I can answer them with 100% certainty. I mean, sure, just like all of you I can answer and say that it gets me away from the mundane, reconnects me with my basic human instincts, and provides irreplaceable time with loved ones. Yet, there is something deeper than all of those things that I cannot seem to define or sometimes even understand. The best I can come up with is that I think it is about the mystery, the unknown, and the ?what if?s?? There is always the opportunity for something to happen that we never could have dreamed of or imagined, be it a good thing or a bad thing. That is what I love, the lack of control and the ability to experience God?s creation as he intended it, on his terms. I also believe that there are some very basic life lessons that can be learned by spending time in, and connecting with The Wilds. Life and death, joy and sorrow, sunshine and rain. These are all things that neither we as humans nor The Wilds can escape; it is up to us to learn how to deal with these events. In my short 30 years of life, I have yet to find a better model of tenacity or example of resiliency than The Wilds. The stability they have through all of those times is admirable and applicable to all of us.

On February 16th at 8:48am, my wife and I welcomed our first child into our family, a beautiful boy we named Eli Blaise. We are so blessed to have him. There is no possible way I can put into words the excitement and anticipation that I have to instill a respect for, and love of The Wilds in his heart and soul. I am so thankful for my Dad raising my brother and I with these values and with this passion, it has truly shaped me into the husband I am and the Father I am becoming. It is my duty to pass it on.

Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.


Active Member

I am not sure if this is just a flaw that I have or if it is experienced by others as well, but I have suspicion that there are many others in the same boat as me. I have an awfully hard time being present in the moment I am in. I always find myself looking forward to experiences that are yet to come or looking back at moments of time gone by. This is especially true when I know that in my future lies two weeks in the woods pursuing an elk with my bow. I am constantly reminded by others to remain present in the moment and enjoy life as it comes to me, and I do understand how important that is, especially now that I am a Father. Yet I still find myself in thought, sitting in a tree stand, quietly moving down a finger ridge, or searching for a spot to settle my pin on a mud soaked coat of a bull fresh out of a wallow. The anticipation of September is a heavy weight to bear. I have found the best remedy for my daydreaming, the best cure for my mental escapes, is to make my preparation every bit as much fun as the actual hunt itself. To me, sharpening my knives is an active participation in my hunt, reviewing maps and looking for clues in the landscape is like time traveling forward to September, or maybe better yet as if I reached forward into time and touched some of September in this very moment. The preparation and scouting has become a very large and a very real part of the experience and has given me a reason to stay engaged in the present moment.

Less than three weeks had passed since I realized where I would be September 1st through the 14th and I had already found myself replacing batteries, clearing room on my SD cards, and loading the pack with snacks and water for my first scouting trip. It was only May 7th but I knew temps were on the rise and the elk would slowly start filtering out of their wintering grounds back into the higher elevations in search of cooler temperatures and new grass. I spend an awful lot of time in these woods, but truthfully I don't know this Unit very well at all. This unit is just on the other side of a Forest Road from the unit we typically hunt in. While I pass the ridges, and am familiar with the peaks, I don't know them very intimately. It has been close to 15 years since I last hunted here. In fact, it was my very first archery elk hunt that was in this unit. I regularly reminisce on the close calls, the hair raising bugles, and all the other memories of my first archery elk hunt at 16 years old. I remember Dad having the truck loaded up and ready to go on a Friday night after my football game. As soon as I was done explaining to my coach why I wouldn't be able to be there on Saturday morning to review film, we were off. All those memories, they all took place right here, right in the same draws and canyons I will re-familiarize myself with this year.

My dad had pointed me in the direction of a dirt tank that he used to put hunters on when he guided this unit and told me it would be a good starting point for my scouting. I did some searching on Google Earth and fond the tank he was referring to and determined the best approach for hiking to it. After the two track logging road I was on ended at a freshly fallen ponderosa, I parked the side by side and decided to hike the rest of the way. It wasn?t long before I spotted the tank down in the bottom of the canyon. I made my way down through a thick patch of oak brush that was just starting to bud and found a nice game trail that I was sure would take me right to the tank. The trail was beaten into the ground ?neath the hooves of many hot and thirsty animals. I pictured the elk and the deer, the bears and coyotes, the mountain lions and bobcats, and even the two legged hunters that had traveled this trail before me. It's incredible to think of all the life a small tank like this has helped sustain over the years. Upon reaching the tank, I picked a nice tree that would serve as a mount for my trail camera and strapped it to the tree facing NE so as to avoid a lot of afternoon washout from the intense Western setting sun. After the camera was installed I made a quick loop around the tank and was pleased to find a freshly shed spike antler, apparently some of the elk had already beaten me up here to the high country. One last quick panorama of the canyon to get an understanding of how the elk might travel through and utilize the landscape and it was off to the next location. As I ascended out of the canyon and my heartrate rose, I couldn't help but think forward to September and imagine me trying to calm my breathing and heart rate as I followed a bull up this same very ridge. Old habits die hard.

The next spot for my camera I picked merely out of ease of access. I knew I didn't have a whole lot of time to spend in the woods so this second location was very quick and easy to get to and would not require a lot of time to get a camera installed. This tank was directly off of a two track before it peters out into a logging road that dumps into a deep and steep canyon. Driving up to it, I saw several horses and was a little bummed thinking about the space they would surely take up on my SD card once the pictures starting rolling. Because this spot was so close to a road and easy to access, I decided to mount it up in a tree about 15?. After some clearing of branches, a liberally yet accidentally applied dosage of pitch to my hair, I had the camera installed and ready to work. Upon climbing out the tree I had a hankering to climb back up, remove the camera and pick a different spot just because of a gut feeling. I decided to leave it based upon the amount of feed and water that would be available to the elk. I tried reassuring myself this was a good spot as I drove off but the bad feeling was just as stubborn as the pitch in my hair.

Got the side by side loaded back onto the trailer and it was off to town. I would make plans to return in a month or two to verify that the cameras were indeed in good spots and get my first glimpse of what was living here.

Here is a short recap video of my trip. I am trying to make short videos like this throughout the summer and fall to share with my family and friends so they can get some insight into what makes me tick. Figured I would post them here as well.

Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.


Active Member

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.


Active Member

?Perhaps no one but a hunter can understand how intense an affection a boy can feel for a piece of marsh.? ? Aldo Leopold

Our brains have a curious way about them. The way our brains connect our experiences with our emotions is puzzling and one I often enjoy to ponder. It is mysterious the way a certain place, or sound, or smell can conjure up such strong emotions from deep within us. Like the way the sound of a pressure cooker puts a smile on my face. I immediately travel back in time to my grandma?s kitchen and can hear her and my grandpa talking to each other in Spanish as I enjoy the smell of the beans as it travels throughout the house. But was it about that experience that I relate to the pressure cooker? Is it the smell I enjoyed, the good company I was in, or just that moment in its entirety? To be quite honest, I don't care what it is, I just know that I enjoy the sound because of the connection I have to it.

I think that is what Aldo Leopold was getting at, unless someone is to experience the entirety of the marsh, they could never comprehend the affection a hunter has for it. The same way the sound of a pressure cooker is a normal occurrence to most people, the marsh is just another spot between mile markers on the county road unless a connection is made with it. Imagine how their experience for the marsh would change if only they watched the sunrise over it, heard the whistling wings above it, and witnessed their father master a duck call in the middle of it. The whole sight of that marsh would be changed forever, an affection would be created and a yearning to return would be always on their mind.

That is the best way that I can explain my connection with the woods that we hunt elk in. Just being there, hell even thinking about it, brings me nothing other than pure joy. There is a street here in town that shares the name with one of the canyons we hunt and each time I pass by it, I am taken on a mental journey down into the heart of that canyon, each time I walk in my living room and see the antlers of the bull on my wall, I enjoy the memories of walking up on him with my brother and dad by my side. I am surrounded by things that remind me of this place and the feelings they give me confirm that the affection I have for it is genuine and will be perpetual.

On June 4th, I was able to make it back up to the mountain to check the status of my trail cameras. I had plans for a departure before the sun peaked up but a long day of cleaning the family cabin had me worn out and I got a late start. I made it to my parking spot around 10:00 AM and the sun had me shedding my jacket within 100 yards from the truck. The heat on my neck gave me conflicting thoughts, first that I was nervous about the tank still holding water and second, excitement that if there was still water the elk would certainly be utilizing this resource. On my way in I jumped up a couple of deer who didn't seem to mind my presence. Shortly after seeing the does, I noticed a couple of fresh sets of bear tracks heading the same way I was. Being in a thick oak patch, I was a little more concerned about their presence than the does were with mine. I am typically pretty comfortable being in the presence of bears but being alone and knowing that cubs were certainly present with the sows made me a little more aware of my surroundings. A short while later I found myself at the dirt tank and was pleased to see that my trail camera was still there, was more pleased to see water was still present, and most pleased by the amount of elk sign around the tank. I quickly pulled my SD card and anxiously waited to see the results as I downloaded the files to my tablet.

Here are a few shots of the tank and the surrounding area:



And here is a handful of the photos from the camera:







Very pleased with the amount of elk in the area, I decided to leave the camera there until the next time I return. There were only a handful of bulls on the camera but I am not too concerned about their absence because I know they will eventually move in to join up with the cows come late August.

My next camera was much easier to get to and upon walking up on it, I was very disappointed by the lack of sign around. The grass looked great, the water looked cool and deep, and there was easy access to a steep drainage as an escape route if they needed it. Why no elk? I am thinking the proximity to the two track and presence of ranchers and their cattle who had recently arrived must have them avoiding this spot. I had a grand total of one elk visit the tank in the month it was up there.

Here is a shot of the meadow:

Here is the one cow that came by:

The decision to move this camera was a no-brainer. I loaded it in my pack and made my way down the drainage to find some better ground. I found another dirt tank that did not have standing water in it but was definitely wet from recent moisture. There was a lot of sign in the mud and it was clear that the elk would regularly monitor this tank in search of water.

Here is what the new spot looked like:

As I drove off the mountain and headed back to home to my wife and boy, I couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation for witnessing my boy develop a love affair with these same woods. It gets in your blood you know.

Eli Blaise

Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.


Active Member

Yesterday, while reflecting on the history of our great country, I found myself wondering which period in time I would choose to live in if I had the choice. I often times tell my wife that I was born 100 years too late to which she inevitably rolls her eyes knowing that I am about to start venting my frustrations with the latest news headlines. I almost always correct myself and say ?actually I wish I would have been born 150 years ago, right in the heart of the mountain man time period where men were men and no challenge was too daunting.? She then promptly reminds me about my utter disdain of a house whose temperature is anything over 74 degrees and proceeds to question the sincerity of my desire to go back in time. She is probably right, it all seems romantic thinking about it from the comfort of our back porch next to the fire pit, but in reality those men from the past would probably tell me I am crazy to wish for a life like the ones they led. Still, the thought of being in their shoes and being among some of the first men to venture into the mountains of the West gives me butterflies. I think the desire to experience what they experienced is natural. I think God built us a certain way and we are all in search of something, something bigger than ourselves, something infinite. Most of you reading this have experienced exactly the thing I am talking about even if you may not have realized it. Haven?t you found yourself fishing a mountain stream, the kind of stream that you can't hardly keep a fish off the end of your line, when you realize you are miles from the truck yet you still can't help but think there is an even better hole just around the bend? Or how about hiking into some new country for the first time, isn't it just about impossible to finally make the decision to turn around and head out? I believe that feeling, that longing to see more and keep going comes from our souls searching for eternity. That is in fact what we were built for, and as hunters and outdoorsmen we are so much more in tune with those desires than those who do not get to experience life outside of the city limits.

On July 3rd, I drove back into camp with my wife and in-laws shaking their heads at me because I was late. I was supposed to be back an hour earlier, but, the inability for me to decide when to turn around and head back to camp held up dinner. After dinner was over and everyone had enjoyed their beverage of choice, they had forgotten I was late and the extra hour in the woods was all worth it. I met my dad at the intersection of the highway and the forest road at 6:30 that morning. Our plans were to quickly check my trail cameras, head out into some new country, and hopefully find a couple of new places to deploy my cameras. We unloaded the side-by-side, loaded up our gear and set off to the first trail camera location. As we made our way down the old logging road, I couldn't help but notice how much everything had dried out since I was last there, 30 days prior. There had recently been a wildfire in the general vicinity, not much rain had fallen, and temperatures had been near record highs over the last month. My dad reminded me that in all his years of visiting this tank, he had never seen it dry. As we got closer and closer I kept looking ahead to see the reflection off the water but I never saw it. I was shocked, as was my dad, to see that the tank had dried up in such a short amount of time. I walked out into where the water used to be to see if there were any tracks in the damp mud and was pleased to see plenty of sign. I was also surprised to see that it appeared as if the elk were eating the mud. I know that elk need a lot of minerals but I wasn?t aware that they would actually get them directly from the ground. There had been plenty of elk in the area and filled with confidence that this would be a good location come September, we decided that we would move the camera to a new location. Here are a few of the shots that we got at this camera location. There were definitely more bulls visiting the water this time than there were in May but only one bull that looked like he would be a stud.

A brown blur:

Water is on the run:

Mud Eaters:

Here is what most of the bulls look like right now:

Here is the stud showing two weeks of growth between photos:


We hustled over to the second camera and were happy to discover that although the tank itself was dry, the spring just a quarter mile from the tank was still flowing beautifully. When I first set up this camera, I had relatively low expectations because of how quickly I found this spot. I was in a little bit of a rush when I installed it and it wasn?t far from the location that had very little elk activity. When I started scrolling through the photos, I was pleased to see quite a bit more activity than I had seen at the tank not more than a mile away. There were plenty of deer and elk frequenting the tank as well as a group of 3-4 bulls that would come by every evening. None of these bulls will end up big at all but I was glad to see that elk are in the area. The second half of the photos were dominated by cattle so I decided to move this camera as to avoid sorting through thousands of pictures to find the few elk.

Here is the group of bulls that were visiting each evening:

As I mentioned earlier, my dad and I really wanted to see some new country that we had never explored before. There is one particular peak in the unit that is by far in the most remote country the unit has to offer. As far as I could tell from maps and google earth, the closest road is about 2-3 miles from it so we thought it would be worthwhile to lay our eyes on it. On our way there, we had to travel one road in particular that my dad had been on one time in the past. He used to drive a 98 Dodge Ram and eventually got rid of it due to transmission issues that he swears were due to the one time he traveled this stretch of road. Luckily we were in a side by side this time so I didn't think it would be that bad. After 5 minutes on the road, I began to call my dad a liar because I thought there was no way in hell his truck would have made it through those rocks. Pair the rocks with near record high temps and silty dust covering everything in sight and you have an area in the unit that I can't imagine anybody wanting to hunt. We eventually got through this section of the road and once we were on better ground it felt like we were riding in a luxury car. I have studied this part of the unit on google earth for quite some time now but I grossly underestimated the size of the country. We finally laid eyes on the peak that we were headed to but after looking at my watch, I realized there was no way in hell we had time to make it over there and back to camp in time to keep Momma happy. We turned around after making a plan for a future trip and headed to some areas we wanted to hang the cameras.
The fist camera we hung at probably the best looking spot yet, lush grass, lots of elk sign, thick timber nearby, and a trick tank full of cold water. Problem is that there wasn?t a great tree to hang the camera on that was well hidden. I ended up hanging the camera on a tree that has a clear shot of the tank but I will be surprised if the camera is there when I go to check it. Time will tell.

Last year when I was sitting in the blind hoping to kill a bear, I was entertained each night by the bulls bugling up and down the ridge I was facing. There is a nice spring fed creek that runs in the draw I was sitting in and a large pool the elk were visiting about 300 yards downstream from where I was sitting. I remembered the bulls bugling last year and thought this would be a good location for my second camera. We made quick time getting over there and getting the camera installed but we weren't quick enough, I was late and the in-laws were hungry.

Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.


Active Member

Every year around Christmas time, I find myself back at my folk?s house in my Hometown, rummaging through old shoe boxes and albums full of pictures from times gone by. I love pouring over these old pictures of my family and seeing how time has changed each of us. It is a funny feeling, a nice tension of joy and sadness, looking at how my folks have aged and turned into Grandparents. A little bit softer than they once were, a little more gray, a few more wrinkles, but more wise because of it. Our relationships have changed too, they have matured over the years and our conversations are richer than they once were. Not to mention how my brother and I have changed, the bald head we use to tease my Dad about has now come surfaced in my life, each year I have less hair on my head and a few more on my shoulders, much to the chagrin of my wife. My brother keeps his at bay with some prescription hair meds that I always rib him about. As much as I enjoy seeing these photos of change, the ones I enjoy most are the ones of my Dad when he was my age, bowhunting, packing horses, fishing, etc? Time rolls on and you can see where my brother first enters the scene, then a few years later I start to show up in the photos. You can see such a cool journey of our family and how hunting and fishing has always been there. Even if we wanted to, there was no way that we could escape the fact that the outdoor lifestyle would impact my brother and I?s upbringing, we are glad it did. When I look at the old photos of our Dad and us, I try very, very hard to conjure up a real memory from those hunts. At best, the furthest back I can go is to when I was around 9 or 10 hunting deer in Colorado at our family?s ranch. However, out of all the trips that I can recall, there is one thing I always remember most vividly, trying to follow my Dad?s footsteps. Literally, follow his footsteps. I can remember that as a boy my stride was much shorter than his was so I would have to leap from step to step to land in the same tracks his boots were leaving. Occasionally he would have to look back and tell me to knock it off because I was being too loud and might scare the game. That became the next challenge, how could I leap from step to step and still be quiet? I was always wanting to match him step for step.

Dad in the early 80's

Dad with the horses


My Brother and I before camo was cool

The Boys

My first big game animal

Later in life as I got a little older, I still wanted to follow his footsteps, just in other ways. Back in the 80?s before I was born, my parents went into business with my Dad?s folks. They opened a store called Zia Sporting Goods on 12/15/1980. It was a locally owned and operated hunting, fishing, and team sports store which also served as a daycare to my brother and I our entire childhood. I can remember my classmates loading up on the bus after school to go home while my brother and I would wait for one of our parent's employees to come and get us and take us to the store. We had our own little spot on a table in the back that we could do our homework for the day, eat a quick hot pocket, and then hustle off to work in the store. We had a multitude of responsibilities that we earned minimum wage for completing. These included counting and bagging nocks and vanes, making PE uniforms on the heat press machines, stocking new inventory, waxing skis, disinfecting returned ski boots, and of course the janitorial duties once the store closed. My favorite part of all of this was getting to live in a dreamland once our jobs were done. We would dress up in camo clothes, grab a bow from the rack, and my brother and I would pretend to hunt all the mounted animals that were on the walls. It was truly the best place imaginable for a couple of rambunctious boys to foster an imagination and dream of the future when we would be old enough to live out our dreams in the mountains.

Growing up in the store was the only thing I knew. The majority of my childhood was spent there and at school. Naturally, my brother and I both gravitated towards hunting, fishing, and team sports. He was a runner, a badass on the soccer field and quick as heel on the track, I leaned more towards traditional sports like baseball, football, and basketball. As we got older, our tasks at the store matured as well. We graduated to finally being allowed to help customers and check them out with purchases. I argue that my brother and I were the best employees my folks had because we literally knew every square inch of that store and exactly where everything was. My folks would probably say otherwise because in addition to knowing where everything was, we also had a knack for breaking everything we touched. Countless light bulbs, glass cases, windows, and shelving fell to our recklessness. Damn I loved that place. I always thought that one day it would be my brother and I taking over the business from our parents and running it with our families, the same way my folks bought it from my Grandparents. In 2002 everything changed though, my parents told us they were going to sell the store to a couple from Utah. I was heartbroken, I couldn't imagine a life apart from Zia. Suddenly I was forced to think about a future that involved college and alternative careers from the one I had in mind. Being a teenager, I adapted quickly and soon got over the heartbreak. The new owners were great people and allowed my brother and I to continue working there as we finished high school. Although the store is now closed and gone, the impact it had on me will forever be present. It taught me a work ethic, nurtured an imagination, instilled a passion for the outdoors, and even showed me that life is fragile and can change quickly.

Now that I am in the middle of my own career, my professional footsteps are much different from those of my Dad, but every year we still follow each other?s footsteps through the woods because of the deep meaning that hunting and fishing has in our lives. I was thinking about all of this as I walked up the trail to one of my trail cameras. I would not have known this trail if it weren't for my Dad, I have learned so much from following in his footsteps. The pictures revealed what he assured me they would, elk use this country very heavily in the summertime. I finally got to see some good antler growth on a bull, discovered an absolute slob of a bear, and captured some of the coolest trail camera photos I have seen with the sun blazing into a herd of cows and calves on an early July morning. My next trip wouldn't be until the end of August when we would return to set up camp and prepare for opening day.









Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.


Active Member

The corner booth we were sitting in was dimly lit and the smell of Catholic Whiskey was strong. It was a rainy day in Galway, Ireland as we awaited the results of the races to see if we would be winners. My eyes started acting awfully funny and I thought it might be the whiskey, I kept seeing the inside of my camper trailer and then it would fade out back to the pub, then the camper, then the pub, then only the camper. It was dark in the camper and I could not figure out what was going on or how I got there, I wiped my eyes a bit, looked to my side and saw my wife lying in bed next to me and our 7 month old son in his bassinet at our feet, somehow the same song that was playing in the pub was also playing in our camper. ?What in the hell is happening?? I thought. Then it all made sense. I was dreaming, the song playing was my alarm clock, it was ?Seven Nights in Eire? and somehow it led me dreaming and took me all the way to Ireland. Once I realized what was going on and where I was, I was more anxious about what my day was to hold than I was about the horse races in my dream. It was 4:30 a.m. on September 1st, a day I had been long anticipating, a day that is thought about more than any other day of the year in my head. Time to get it on, archery elk season finally arrived.

The cloudiness of my morning was probably due to the late night I had the night before. We didn't roll into camp until just before dark and we had a couple hours? worth of work to do before we could call it a night. Once all our work was done, my Dad and I had a quick conversation about where we would head in the morning. We made a decision to start on a ridge that was in between two water holes I had been watching with my cameras all summer. The elk were all over both of them so we figured positioning ourselves between the two ought to be a good plan. The plan reminded me of my college days, I used to have a class just past the large Gym building on campus. I would strategically take a path that led me between the weight room and yoga classes in hopes of crossing paths with one of the many females who were always at both locations. That plan never panned out for me back then so hopefully this one would have a different ending.

As we parked the truck and were putting our packs on, I heard a familiar bugle. Last year during my bear hunt, there was a bull for three days straight raising cane on the exact ridge we were about to hunt. I will never forget the unique quality of his bugle. I wondered if he would return this year and my curiosity was put to rest the second I heard him, it was undoubtedly the same bull. Only one problem, the road we parked on serves as the unit boundary and he was on the wrong side of the road. We would have to hope that he would cross back over later during the hunt. It was a little painful to keep hearing him bugle all morning when we couldn't go after him, but our emotions turned when a bull bugled just above us in our unit. We checked the wind, which was good, and decided to make a play on him. Not more than 2 minutes after he first bugled, he barked at us and it seemed like the gig was up. We checked the wind again, it was still good, why was he barking at us still? We eventually heard him crash off and he was much closer than we originally thought. I can only think that he heard us making our way through the oak brush and quietly came in to see what the commotion was. He probably caught our movement and was uneasy enough that he wanted no part in the game we were trying to play. We spent the rest of the morning still hunting that ridge but it was not fruitful. The temperature quickly rose to a balmy 75 degrees and the woods were warm and quiet the rest of the morning.

In years past, there was no way you could pull me off the mountain if it was within legal shooting hours and I still had an unfilled tag in my pocket. I took pride in my ability to withstand long days, long miles, and all on little sleep. We would pack our lunches, take naps on the hill, and never see our camp during daylight hours. This year was different though. I had no interest in such thing, I had as much excitement to be in camp as I did to be in the field. Isn?t it amazing how becoming a father can change your perspective on life? No longer was my hunt ONLY about the hunt and filling a tag, now it was about the experience, the time with my family, and passing on of a lifestyle to our newest generation. This idea, or better yet, this revelation that the hunt could be equally as successful with or without a dead elk felt like freedom. I came to enjoy our midday returns to camp and playing with my boy just as much as our pursuits during the morning and evening hours.

Due to the high temperatures, lack of bugling activity, and how dry it was, we thought we ought to sit in tree stands over water for the night. The stands we would sit in were about 60 yards apart, equally spaced out over a string of wallows that the elk had been using. We made it into the stands by about 3:30 p.m. and planned on staying until dark. After about 30 minutes of sitting in the stand I could hear the low rumble of thunder to our Southwest. It got increasingly louder and within another 30 minutes we had a very typical afternoon monsoon storm engulfing us. If it weren't for the lightning, it would have been no big deal, but there were two strikes in particular that had me questioning whether we ought to sit this out or climb out of the stands for our safety. I said a quick prayer and decided to sit it out. The rain stopped by about 5:30 but it remained overcast the rest of the evening. I welcomed the cool off, however, I couldn't help but think that the rain might dissuade a bull from coming to take a dip.

It was close to 6:30 p.m. when I finally caught some movement to my left. My initial thought was that this would be perfect for my Dad as his stand was no more than 30 yards from where I saw the movement. I trained my eyes in that direction to realize that what I was looking at was no elk at all. A very mature mountain lion, as quiet as a ghost and as long as a Volkswagen made his way down the spring and slipped out of sight up the ridge in front of me. After talking with my Dad, the lion had walked directly under his tree, stopped to lap up some water from a clear spot in the spring, and effortlessly leapt 8-10 feet across without making a sound. It was at that point when I first saw him and was able to grab my phone in just enough time to take a quick video before he vanished.

The rest of the night was still and quiet, no bugles, no elk, but hey, no problem. What a rare opportunity to catch a lion moving during the day. It was a great day.

Hunt Hard. Shoot Straight. Kill Clean. Apologize to No One.

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