I live to hunt wild country that is physically out of reach to most humans or simply hidden or overlooked. I selfishly consider such canyons, mountain-side benches, game trail crossings, hell-holes, and hidden water sources as mine. I love it because I share it with wildlife and believe it to be undiscovered by other hunters.
While country like this may lack the fame or trophy quality of more popular killing grounds, I seek it out because it feels un-hunted and therefore wild and extraordinary. Each visit is exciting. I never know what I will find, whether it’s a shed antler or sleeping bull elk. Every visit feels like the first time because I know I am not walking in someone else’s tracks. Though I know every twist and nook, every step of every visit is made with the anticipation of the unknown. It is the lack of humanity and secretive nature of such places that allow them to be wild. Whether it is a big oak tree tucked away in the middle of a ten acre parcel in the Midwest, or a side-canyon, 20 miles from any two-track. Such places could not be more geographically distinct, yet familiar to the heart of any hunter.
I am always amazed at how quickly such feelings dissipate at the discovery of a stranger’s boot print or discards. Nothing worries me more than finding a spent shell casing or fire ring in one of “my” spots. Evidence of another human makes me feel as though that place is no longer wild or worth hunting. In fact, knowing that a stranger has shared or “beat” me to a place that is special to me makes me feel that I never want to hunt it again. . . For whatever reason, I want to feel like I am the first and only person to hunt anywhere.
Every once in a damned-long-while, one of my family members or I stumble across something in one of our special places that puts this self-righteous hunting sentiment to bed. I’ve found some incredible pottery and petroglyphs hidden away in New Mexico’s backcountry over the years. But this large spear point, found recently by a buddy of mine in one of my favorite remote elk canyons, really served to remind me of how fortunate I am to stalk in the footsteps of another hunter.