I love the month of December. It’s a time when I am finally slowing down and catching up after most of the fall hunting seasons are ending, and I’m able to spend more quality time with my family at a much slower pace. I don’t get caught up in the craze of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, and usually don’t venture out into the chaos of December too much more than necessary. And in addition to the celebrations of the spirit and season of Christmas and time spent with my family, I’m also able to begin reviewing my previous elk hunts and start planning my goals and adventures for next year.
As I reflect back on my 2016 elk season, it was a huge success. I enjoyed some great days in elk country with some GREAT friends. My main hunting partners Dirk and Donnie, my great friend Randy Newberg, my children – Isaac, Jessi, and Sam, and several new friends that I was fortunate enough to spend time elk hunting with throughout the fall. But the success we enjoyed did not come easily. It never does. In fact, after 30 years of elk hunting, this season brought a ton of challenges, lessons, and failures that I know will make me a better elk hunter – and a better person – in 2017.
Failing is a part of becoming better. I am as scared of failing as anyone. The fear of failure has always been a huge motivator for me, but I feel it is even more important to embrace failure when – not if – it comes, and use it as a catalyst to launch you closer to ultimately being successful. It can be easy to throw in the towel and let a week full of defeats define a hunt, but there is so much value in each of those defeats if you take the time to honestly reflect on what went wrong, why it went wrong, and ultimately, what you need to do to overcome it next time.
No one likes to lose, especially elk hunters. We are a unique group of people who I feel are more motivated toward success than any other group I know of. But elk hunting is tough! There are far more failures during an elk season than successes. But that is what makes elk hunting so rewarding! Finally being able to overcome failure after failure and reach the pinnacle of elk hunting success is a story of victory rivaled by few other accomplishments. And that victory is within reach for anyone! I promise. I know this from personal experience.
I struggled for 9 elk seasons to fill my first archery elk tag…and this is coming from someone who grew up in a home that lived and breathed elk hunting! You could definitely say I was a slow learner. But I LOVED elk and I LOVED elk hunting, and I was not willing to accept a long-term relationship with failure. Sure, there were several days throughout those 9 years where I kept trying to do the same things and hoping for a different result, which probably prolonged the already difficult climb to success. Once I started understanding what I was doing wrong, and more importantly, how to do it differently, encounters became more frequent, which led to a new level of failures. But rather than focusing on those experiences as more failures, I started using them as building blocks for my next chapter of growth, and all of a sudden, it all came together. From there, it was just a matter of replicating what I had done to be successful, constantly fine-tuning the process, until it became consistent.
I shot my first elk with a bow in 1996. I was 21 years old. The funny part of that story is that I had already won the World Elk Calling Championships a handful of times previously. It was a little ironic (and sometimes embarrassing) to be a World Champion Elk Caller and to have never shot an elk. It illustrated to me that being a great caller is not all that important when it comes to being a great elk hunter. But that’s another story entirely that I’ll save for another time.
So what does all of this mean? It means that I get it. I understand failure. I’ve been there. I’ve struggled through it, and to certain extents, I struggle through it still today. But I’ve been able to take those lessons – as painful as many of them have been – and adjust my process to the point that I am able to consistently find success in elk hunting. In fact, one of the toughest elk seasons for me was the year AFTER I killed my first bull. I didn’t fill my tag in 1997, and that bothered me…a lot! It’s so hard to accept failure year after year, but I think it might even be harder to accept failure AFTER you’ve tasted success. Fortunately, I adjusted what I needed to adjust, and from 1998 through 2013, I was able to fill every single archery elk tag I possessed – all on public land DIY hunts, 90% of which were on general OTC tags.
In no way am I telling you this to brag…there are many people who have killed far more elk and are every bit as consistent and successful. But I want to illustrate to you one simple point – the journey to success is rough. But it is a journey and there is a path that can get you over the hurdles and lead you to success – consistent, confident success.
Fortunately, there is no need to wander along looking for that path for 9 or 10 years like I did. Coincidentally, that is the average path of success…I had a 10% success rate in my first 10 years as an elk hunter, which is the overall average for elk hunting success. But I absolutely felt like a 10% success rate was not success at all. I wanted at least 50%, and once I realized that 100% was possible, I pursued it as aggressively as possible.
So, it is with that background and those 30 years of elk hunting experiences in mind that I sit here today, analyzing where I am as an elk hunter, and where next season’s adventures might lead me. I hope you are able to do the same. Where are you as an elk hunter? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there?
For 9-Time World Champion Elk Caller, Corey Jacobsen, there is nothing like the high-country in mid-September. Corey’s passion for elk hunting led him to create Elk101.com, a website devoted to elk hunting education, instruction and entertainment. Elk101.com offers a wealth of elk hunting information, videos, and gear related content.
In the fall of 2016 Corey launched the University of Elk Hunting, without question one of the best online elk hunting courses the world has ever seen. Whether you’re a diehard elk hunter or still aspiring to take that first bull, UEH is an indispensable resource.
Corey lives in Boise, ID with his wife and three children – Isaac, Jessi and Samuel.