What Makes The Most Memorable Hunts?

What Makes The Most Memorable Hunts?

At one point in my life, I spent quite a bit of time around a few people who were either actively pursuing an archery Super Slam or had already completed it. Bow-killing all 29 North American big game species was top of mind for those guys, and the conversations about the pursuit were weird.

They always sounded transactional, like booking three desert sheep hunts in a row to ensure that they could check that animal off the list and be done with it. Or, the gripes about nemesis animals—species that they’d dumped plenty of money into but hadn’t killed.

Most hunters can’t relate to the goal of dropping just south of a million bucks on a glorified ego trip, let alone just spending good money on a single piece of quality gear. But we aren’t so different when it comes to our best memories. We often default to thinking of our biggest elk or whitetail instead of the one that meant the most to us. The truth is, good hunting memories are created in a variety of ways, all of which are personal. This doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to increase your chances of having a hunt that you’ll fondly recall until your grandkids are sick of hearing about it.

For most of us, this stems from an unlikely source—struggle.

Easy Isn’t As Fun As It Sounds

The hunting industry is full of people willing to sell you the cure for the disease that is unfilled tags. This might be as simple as a bottle of doe pee, or as complex as booking a truly expensive hunt with guaranteed success.

While the latter might be the surface dream for a lot of folks, the truth is that easy kind of sucks. When success happens without effort, it’s a hollow victory. A lot of folks look past that to fill their trophy rooms up, but if you want to have an experience that provides plenty of mental sustenance, hunting with the training wheels on while someone else does all the work isn’t usually it.

The most memorable hunts are usually the ones that contain some success but are built upon a foundation of suffering.

Earning It, Matters

I’ve been struggling with how I’ve introduced my twin daughters to hunting. They’ve had it easy, and that makes me a hypocrite. It bothers me that they expect success, so this year I’ve tried to make it more of a hunt and less of a killing expedition.

With one of my daughters, I did almost too good of a job at making it tough. It got to the point where we decided to do a couple all-day sits in the beginning of November to see if we could make something happen. Dark-to-dark as an 11-year-old is a lot to ask, but she powered through it.

She also got to see a young six-pointer emerge from a swamp in northern Wisconsin with 20 minutes of shooting light left. He put on a show at a scrape and then ran up to our full-bodied doe decoy. When that buck tipped over not 50 yards from us, it felt like we had earned him.

I think to some extent, this is the draw that western hunting has over many of us. For most hunters, a spot-and-stalk hunt in the prairies or the mountains, or a 10-day bivy hunt for elk, is going to contain plenty of suffering. The work element is always there, and it makes every encounter a little sweeter. Of course, you also have an amazing environment to work with on those hunts, and that’s not nothing.

Tried & True Versus Brand New

Some hunters have a deep connection to a specific drainage, treestand location, or maybe even a property that has been in the family for a few decades. Hunting these locations is like seeing an old friend, and that’s prime ground for having a great hunt.

The other end of the spectrum is being someplace new. We don’t seem to value this as much, at least in the whitetail world, as we do hunting a place we know really well. The truth is, a new environment, or a new area in a familiar environment, is often the key ingredient if you want to cook up a great hunt.

The best way to figure out what style matters to you most is to try both. I have buddies who love nothing more than to hunt the same farms, in the same spots, every season. I’m the opposite. I have a true connection to a lot of different environments, but my favorite hunts often happen in places that are new. They require me to figure things out on the fly and they come with a low level of predictability. That’s what fills my cup the most.

A great hunt doesn’t always hinge on location, either. One of my favorite mounts on my walls is the smallest eight-pointer I’ve ever taken to the taxidermist. He’s also the only buck I ever arrowed with traditional archery. The hours I put into that deer through target practice, scouting, and hunting, culminated in a season I’ll never forget.

We often focus on the best way to kill a big animal, which is fine. But if you want to have the kind of hunt that only brings back positive memories, laser-focusing on the acquisition of a trophy often isn’t the best route.

Forget about chasing easy kills. Find a way to hunt that requires something out of you, and then ask yourself what environment it is in which you’re likely to experience something truly meaningful to you. After that, get out there and make some amazing memories.

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