For all of my life I have had an outdoors man around me that has taught me the ways of the outdoors. That man is my father. I have spent countless hours fishing with him, but the chance to hunt big game together took twenty-one years to take place.
After recently returning from serving a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I had the opportunity to travel with my father to Logan, Utah in order to go on my first hunting trip. This was my first trip in which I had my own tag and I wasn’t just there for the ride. We had plans on going with a small group to hunt mule deer in the area.
I had known I was going to be going on this hunt for a little under a year, and my father was constantly reminding me about it. For the longest time I had so many questions and doubts, some being: Would I be able to keep up with the rest of the hunters? Would my questions be annoying to them? Would I have it in me to pull the trigger? I always pictured hunting as going out, hiking for a bit and then shooting an animal. Oh boy was my mental picture edited.
I quickly learned that hunting involved a lot more skills then just looking through a scope and pulling a trigger. Some of those include patience, mental and physical endurance, the ability to push forward through disappointing times, learning where to “glass” or look in order to find animals, etc. I also learned to appreciate the outdoors and understand that hunting is much more than just killing animals. Hunting is a way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and creations that God has put here for us. The whole part of tagging an animal is just an added bonus. From the moment opening day started I knew that I would have an amazing time no matter if I got an animal or not.
So those are just a few of the lessons, but now for the story. The whole hunt in itself was both mentally and physically taxing. Over the course of the first four days we saw a few really nice sized deer. The only problems were the unfortunate events that happened with each of the deer. The first deer deserves an article in and of itself.
The second deer we saw was on the other side of this huge canyon. I would like to take credit for spotting it, but maybe that’s just my pride. It was already getting into the late afternoon, but I was pumped to get on that deer and see if we could get to him with enough time to take a shot. Joe (my dad’s friend) and I took off down this ginormous canyon and scaled the other side, so that we could position ourselves. My Dad stayed behind and was our spotter. We got in a good position, but the deer was in a very great hiding place. After waiting and spotting for a good twenty or thirty minutes, Joe got one shot off and then a second one. The deer took off running. He was certain that he took a good shot, but was amazed that the deer didn’t go down. We assured that he hit it upon finding a dinner plate sized puddle of blood. That gave us a lot of hope. Then we proceeded to spend the rest of that night following a blood trail, only to return the next morning to follow the blood trail and then lose track of the blood completely. That was a huge blow to our trip. No one ever wants to lose a deer, and the possibilities of what could have happened to it are limitless. I never knew that following a blood trail could be so challenging, nor did I realize the effects that a situation like that could have on the moral of a whole hunting party. Feeling a little down and disappointed, we managed to keep our hopes high for the rest of the hunt, knowing that we were the only ones who could impact the outcome of our hunt.
The next deer we saw was up on the side near the top of a mountain. I was still so unsure about having it in me to take a shot, but my heart was racing, the adrenaline kicked in, and I wanted to scale that mountain as fast as I could to see if I could get a shot before nightfall. We climbed super-fast, but sadly we couldn’t get to our desired destination before nightfall, so we agreed to return in the morning. We scaled the same mountain early in the morning, and as we crept around a ridge trying to get a visual of the deer, we heard some thumps and he was gone. The landscape was his advantage and he had a great hiding space. Instead of being disappointed, I remembered that for these animals, it is life or death, and every time they get away from us it’s because they outwitted us and we must commend them for so doing. The big ones are big for a reason. They know how to survive.
The final deer we saw was spotted from the same spot as the one we couldn’t find, however, he was on a different mountain side. After watching some does, we came across a little forked horn. Seeing as how the season was coming to a close and I still hadn’t gotten a deer, we couldn’t pass this chance up. Night came and we returned in the morning. Our chances looked bleak due to some unexpected hunters in the nearby area, but no one spotted our deer. We hurried down the side of our mountain so that we could get a cross canyon shot. I hadn’t really shot a gun in two years, had never shot an animal with my rifle, and was really nervous to make the shot. I situated myself and pulled out my shooting sticks to steady my barrel. The only things I could think of in the moment was the advice my dad gave me about where to put the cross hairs, and the way to breathe when your pulling the trigger. I watched the deer through my scope for a while and after a few deeps breaths I pulled the trigger. At 400 yards, I hit him and he dropped. It was such an adrenaline rush, and even though it had happened, it still felt like the gun range or something like that. It wasn’t until I approached the animal, that I realized the magnitude of the situation. I had taken the life of an animal, and it was right before my eyes. Before field dressing the deer, I sat by his side and pondered the situation. It was a lot to take in at once. After paying my respect to the animal and offering up my gratitude for God’s creations and the opportunity to enjoy what he has created, I proceeded to follow the detailed instructions given by Joe as I dressed the deer. I will save the details on that one. It was a lot more work than I expected to drag the deer out from where we he laid, but after much tripping and staggering, we managed to get the job done. It was quite the workout.
So that was my success story. Like I said previously, had I not gotten a deer, I still would have been happy. The hunting environment in many ways is one-of-a-kind. Being out in the outdoors is so amazing, and being with people who you enjoy to spend time with is a huge bonus too. If I were to hunt just to kill animals that would be pointless. I would start the hunt with emptiness and leave the hunt with a feeling and sense of emptiness as well. Instead, you can only truly enjoy hunting for what it is as you focus on enjoying and appreciating every single little and big aspect of it. There are so many experiences and lesson to be learned every step of the way. In a way, the short hunting trip can be related to life, because the lessons learned while hunting are transferable and applicable to everyday living.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip. What started out being a great way for me to bond and catch up with my father, turned out creating a tradition that will last a long time; along with hunting satisfying my hunger and thirst for being in the outdoors, more importantly it provides me with a way to communicate and bond with my father in an environment that is free from the everyday distractions. Amongst all of the fun and greatness that hunting offers, the fact that it allows me to spend that quality time with my dad will always be my favorite part. I really thank him for the patience he has with me, and for all of the time and effort he invested so that this whole adventure could unfold.