"A hunt based on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be...time to commune with your inner soul as you share the outdoors with the birds, animals, and fish that live there." - Fred Bear
I love this quote by Fred Bear as it is a lot of the reason why I bow hunt. I always remember growing up and the goal was always to see who could shoot the biggest animal. As I continue to hunt year after year my view on hunting changes. Not that I was ever a true trophy hunter, but I always wanted that 180 in. mule deer, 160 in. whitetail, or 350 class bull elk to determine my success. I haven't attained those goals, but have grown into a great hunter.
Over time I have come to love what I believe hunting is for. That is to purely enjoy the outdoors and what it has to offer in terms of nature and family. I have grown closer with my friends and family through the outdoors and continue a healthy habit that has in recent years over taken a lot of my time. To this day that 180 in. mule deer, 160 in. whitetail, and 350 class bull elk are still some of my goals. I have learned through bow hunting, however, to lower my standards and appreciate what hunting has to offer.
I now take pieces from every hunt I'm on and turn them into memories, experience, and knowledge. If I could get paid to hunt for the rest of my life it would be a dream come true. Growing up I always told my best friend Stephen that every day we were out hunting or fishing I could do it the rest of my life everyday. As life goes on it seems that it's harder and harder to get out and spend as much time as I would like out in the field. I still manage to make time to get outside and pursue my passion. I am also blessed to have family that realizes my passion for bow hunting and is gracious enough to allow me to continue my pursuit.
One of the main reasons I bow hunt is the amount of time that is allowed in most states. Fred Bear said it best about the difference between rifle and bow hunting. He said, "With a gun you can hunt deer an average of 3 weeks a year. With a bow you can hunt an average of 10 weeks more depending upon the state you hunt in." With the chance of spending more time in the woods comes more opportunity as well. Montana has a very long season both archery and rifle, but growing up in South Dakota you only really had three weekends with a rifle. The archery season there lasts much longer, which is more appealing to me anymore. I may have a better chance at a larger buck with a rifle, but I feel much more accomplished and rewarded if I can close the distance on an animal down to under 30 yards rather than 200 yards with a rifle.
Although my standards have decreased since strictly taking up with bow hunting, I still try to go after that dream buck or bull. I have passed on many smaller bucks to try and get to the bigger one. It can be frustrating at times, but with persistence I know one day I will kill the big one I'm after. Also with each stalk or attempt I learn something new. With more and more experience each year I begin to have more and more opportunities. As each year passes my play book gets larger. There will never come a time when that book gets filled, but the more plays I have in the play book the more successful I will become. Some people get lucky and can pick up a bow and have a giant bull land in there lap. I would venture to guess though if you talk to most hunters there is way more failure than success. This past season is a very good example of that. I went out and filled my tag in the first few minutes of the hunt, my Brother Todd and I both told each other it's not supposed to be this easy. I count that success to majority of luck. Now if you look at the previous season I had multiple encounters with some great bulls, and cows, I was just never able to close the deal. It was a few days filled with experience gained that I will never forget, and has made me that much better of a hunter. It will always remain one of my favorite elk seasons, because of my encounters. I learned a lot that year. Had I been hunting with a rifle I most likely would have filled my tag on the first bull that came in and gave me a broadside shot at 140 yards, but I wouldn't have learned as much as I did. Not only was he a nice bull he was that 350 class bull I dream of. Had I filled my tag I would have missed out on 3 other encounters with elk in the very same afternoon. Although my tag went unfilled it was a successful season in terms of gaining experience.
The reasons in a nut shell that I bow hunt is the following:
I didn't always know that bow hunting would be something I would be so passionate about, but I can't thank my brothers enough for instilling that passion into me. I have learned the majority of my knowledge directly from them. From there I have gained the confidence to venture out on my own and have now become more and more successful. If you think you can just pick up a bow and go start killing things, think again. It took me over 10 years to finally get my first kill. The reason I attribute to it taking that long is not having the persistence or drive to only hunt with archery equipment. I also did not practice near enough. After deciding to concentrate on my bow hunting the success began to follow. I also upgraded my equipment, which in today's world of bow hunting it is pretty much limitless. It still comes down to knowing your equipment and becoming proficient with it.
I have learned over time that bow hunting is the most rewarding sport you can take up if you put your mind to it. Be prepared to also become the most frustrated you have ever been. Bow hunting can take you on a roller coaster of emotions in just minutes. If you have ever wanted to begin bow hunting take it up. You can also just shoot archery for fun by joining a league or simply go out and shoot small game. Archery is pretty much a sport you can take up for the rest of your life. Just remember the important things, it's not the kill it's the adventure and memories made.
I will end this with one more quote from Fred Bear. "A downed animal is most certainly the object of a hunting trip, but it becomes an anticlimax when compared to the many other pleasures of the hunt."
I'm a huge fan of Sitka gear and love the stuff. Before investing in their performance clothing, I will admit I was a little skeptical. I had a hard time paying the price they wanted for their clothing. After wearing the stuff I can tell you that it is worth the investment. I was fortunate enough that Leah was able to get me my system at a discounted rate. I also made the decision to off load all of my other camo so in the end it ended up costing me right around $100.00 by the time my other camo and hunting items were sold. If you are wondering why I call it a system, go to their site at sitkagear.com and read about how to put a system together. They make it easy on you with their system builder.
Since I have owned my Sitka Gear I can honestly say it will be one of the best decisions you can make if you can afford to do so. I know not everyone is willing to fork out upwards of $1,000.00 for a set of clothing. If you are looking for a go to set of hunting clothing that will last you a long time Sitka Gear is the stuff for you in my opinion.
My system consists of the following, all in Optifade Open Country Camo:
This system allows me to hunt comfortably from heat in excess of 90 degrees, to cold temperatures as low as 15 degrees. There are items that will allow you to hunt in more extreme cold, but most of my hunting is done in the temp. ranges above.
The piece of gear I will touch on today is the Mountain Pants. They are one of my favorite pieces of the system. When I first looked at getting my system set up I was torn between the Mountain Pant and Timberline Pant. In the end I chose the Mountain Pant as it fit most of the hunting I would be doing from hot to cold weather. Here are some of the pros and cons to these pants. Later I will try to touch on all of the Sitka Gear I use as a system.
The camo pattern that is used is Gore Optifade. Gore has came out with three patterns that Sitka Gear uses. The optifade patterns are hunting specific. They are not made as a mimicry pattern as most camo is, but made to conceal you by how an animal sees. There is open country, forest, and waterfowl patterns. Open country is for the hunter who is on the ground doing spot and stalk, or ambush hunting. The forest pattern is for someone who is in a tree stand, and of course the waterfowl patter is for the hunter going after waterfowl of course. To learn more about the camo patterns, sitkagear.com has information on their site for that as well.
I am very pleased with these pants over all. I haven't used any of the other pants Sitka Gear offers, but if you are looking for that all around pant the Mountain Pants are the way to go. Like I had stated before they provide me with comfort during cold temperatures as well as hot temps. If you need to be out in extreme cold all that you need to do is add a base layer underneath and you are good to go. I have not tried the pants with the traverse bottoms, core bottoms, or Merino wool bottoms, but any of those would be a great layer to add for that extra warmth. If you are like me and on the move a lot they are plenty warm. If you are looking for a little more durable pant as well I would look into the Timberline Pant. The Timberline Pant would be the way to go if you are in very rocky terrain as they have added features to help them last in the tougher terrain.
If you have any questions on these pants, or any other Sitka Gear items I use, feel free to email me on the contact form.