The anticipation was growing as September approached. 2016 was to be my fifth year of DIY archery elk hunting in Colorado. My decision to pass on a cow at fifteen yards and full draw, on the third day of my 2015 hunt had haunted me for the past eleven months.
The stereotypical picture of hunting isn’t always the most truthful one. There is a perceived idea in the hunting and non-hunting communities of what hunting is — that hunting is about killing. This label is supposedly the culture of who we are meant to be, what we represent, and why we hunt.
For many of us hunting is a year-round endeavor; planning, scouting, training, and finally the opening day is upon us. February of 2016 began no different for me, as I started training for the upcoming season. Hauling a fifty-pound bag of sand in my pack up the local “bitch hill” a few times a week, is my training of choice for upcoming backpack hunts.
Having explored most of the mountains near our homes, my hunting partner and I were ready for the challenge of unfamiliar terrain. Pictures and online videos of huge bucks — for Sitka Blacktails at least — from alpine hunts in the southeast sent to us by friends had been in the back of our minds for far too long.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. When I checked the results in May of 2017 and realized that I had drawn a once-in-a-lifetime mountain goat tag, it felt too good to be true. I had always dreamed of drawing the coveted tag, but never expected it to happen at the young age of twenty-six.
How does a bowhunter respond when his dream animal has pinned him down, and is staring through his soul from twenty-two yards away? Slowly, the animal — uncertain of what he saw move — circles around the hunter’s crouched position.
As any seasoned hunter knows, the preparation for a mountain hunt starts early. Planning for an Alaskan Dall sheep hunt is certainly no exception. This was our third Dall sheep hunt in Alaska, but it seemed different this time. Not only would this trip be just my brother, Kenton, and I, but our common goal was for me to get my first sheep.
“Don’t drown him; Mom will be pissed.” The backpack straps dug deep into my shoulders and the black flies flew like kamikaze pilots into my eyes and ears. It was all I could keep telling myself as my younger brother followed me out on his first backcountry hunt.