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Archery Impact Sacrifice

Joe Lewis

Sacrifice. What sacrifice?

Archery hunting Mule Deer in the high country

A common theme floating around is that archery hunting the back country is miserable, demanding work that requires “great sacrifice”. And to earn your “reward” you have to drudge and struggle through this whole terrible experience in order to find success. I’m going to be upfront and tell you now that this is just plain wrong. I wish I could tell you otherwise, it would make me sound pretty hardcore, but it’s just not true. I Look forward to the hunt all year long not just because I get to kill a deer, but because I get to live in the mountains.  I get to leave the city noises, turn off my cell phone, eat healthy food, exercise whenever I want, and admire the mountain peaks all the while. If you try to tell me that is sacrifice, then please tell me what you do for work because it’s got to be the most pleasurable job ever created. 

Seriously. A full week of standing on mountaintops, lounging around in the sun, watching deer go about their business, and figuring out how to harvest one. I once heard a saying “some people feel the rain, others just get wet”.   The same can be said for any of the above examples. Some people feel the sun; others just get burned, etc. This idea that hunting in the mountains is such a sacrifice is a personal issue, not an accurate portrayal. While one person will absolutely cherish a sip of ice-cold water from a natural mountain spring, others will cringe at the thought. If you are one of those people that might cringe, well god bless you, I don’t know if this is for you.

If the chaos and long work hours of modern life are always in the way of you getting to the gym or out to do other fun physical activities, then getting out in the mountains is the perfect solution. There is nothing to hold you back out here. The initial climb up the mountain to your first glassing point generally offers the best workout. Unlike running at the gym though, hiking in the mountains is stimulating. You are surrounded by an incredible landscape full of wild animals; and there’s always a nice breeze. Being able to see your destination – the next creek or ridge  – instead of a digit on the treadmills’ control panel is more motivation than any personal trainer could give. But hiking is done at a reasonable pace most of the time to decrease sweating and maintain alertness. That is unless you decide to push yourself and see what you’re made of - perhaps getting caught up in a race with the shadow of a mountain as it runs across the ground in front of the setting sun.

If you fall asleep at sunset, and wake up at sunrise (9 pm to 6 am), you get a full 9 hours of sleep. You get more if you take a nap in the middle of the day. Naps are the best around 1 pm when it starts getting hot and the bucks are settled into their beds. I like to just sprawl out in an A great day in the Mountainsold deer bed under a tree. A nice warm bed with a slight incline towards my head and a shallow depression for my hips to settle in is ideal. If lying on the ground isn’t your thing then perhaps a hammock might be the ticket. Swaying back and forth to the afternoon thermal winds in a hammock can be as relaxing as anything I’ve ever experienced.

The first 6 hours of every day are probably the most exciting. This is where everything comes together. This is when you finally get to (hopefully) lay eyes on the buck of your dreams. You carve out a nice seat in the mountaintop and prop up your tripod to begin the search. The air is crisp, maybe a bit chilly, and you lean into the spotting scope with the anticipation of a young boy on Christmas Eve.  A buck may show himself right away or wait several hours for you to find him.  Either way, what you see through your scope is far superior to any advertisement-riddled hunting show you generally watch every morning before work. You feel the sun rise on your neck, hear a hummingbird hover by to inspect your odd shape, notice a kestrel perched on the cliff next to you searching for his next meal. You do eventually find your buck, you study him for a while, watch him eat and sleep, and you try to predict what he might do next. You think you got it, the perfect plan, so you sneak on down to your buck and attempt to get close enough for a shot. Hey, did you just get a chance at a trophy of a lifetime? What a rare opportunity! Sacrifice you say? I’ll trade work for this any day!

Say you do land an arrow in that knobby-horned mountain monarch. He runs a little ways and takes his final tumble; you feel the best you have in your entire life. You just sealed the deal, just The outcomeoutwitted an animal that ten years worth of hunters were unable to dupe. The feeling of success is overwhelming, almost as much so as the realization that you have to pack this toad off the mountain.  Ok now packing out 100 lbs of meat can be a real SOB, I’ll give you that. But you take your time and split the load if needed, and come out uninjured. The hunt is almost the inverse of sacrifice: the reward is free for the entire hunt, and then at the very end you pay your dues.  

I’ve heard over and over how we hardcore hunters sacrifice so much in pursuit of our passion. But what are we really sacrificing? We are gaining on almost every account. We don’t sacrifice our bodies but better them, we don’t sacrifice our couch but are freed of it, we don’t sacrifice our intellect but develop it, we don’t sacrifice our character but build on it, and we don’t sacrifice our time but enjoy the hell out of it! Every single second of our lives could be spent doing something other than what we are doing, being sick with “the grass is always better on the other side” syndrome. But dwell on that stuff and we will never truly see what we do have – and when you are archery hunting in the mountains, man you have so much.