The screen on my phone illuminated the bedroom. I peered up at the clock, 2:45am. Super. Another sleepless night. I looked over at my wife wondering if she had mistakenly taken tranquilizers before bed. The dead don’t sleep that well.
I looked back at the screen and let out a long sigh. Another hunter tearing into their brethren over some minute difference in the way they hunt. What am I doing here? What am I gaining by reading these childish attacks? Is this a good way to spend these sleepless nights? Insomnia doesn’t mean I have to open the lid and peer into these dumpster fires.
There has to be some good to come out of this amazing way to connect with like minded people. I get it, there are jerks in this world, but so disproportionately large?
I scrolled on.
I found a blog that peaked my interest. The Big Game Hunting Blog. Sounds right up my alley. I hopped on and read a few articles. This guy knows his stuff.
Seemed like a like minded fella so I shot him an email.
I ease my truck into a gas station straight out of the 1950’s. The old gas pumps look like they spewed their contents into Detroit steel while a greaser leaned against his hot rod with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth.
I step out of my truck and extend my hand to the only other person at the vacant station.
“John, great to finally meet you man,” I say as we shake hands.
“Great to finally put a face to the voice,” John says back.
After years of talking online, on the phone, working together on projects and trying to plan a hunt together, I finally meet John, the owner of The Big Game Hunting Blog.
We squared away this hunt six months back to hunt my home state of Colorado. We’d be chasing speedgoats, me playing guide while John would be the guy pulling the trigger. This was an area I knew well, hunting it with my bow for a slew of seasons.
“We should have a good hunt and I know the area well. I saw some real studs here during archery season. The only thing I’m not sure about is going to be the pressure. I’ve never hunted it with a rifle, so that part will be as new to me as it is to you,” I say.
We go setup camp and plan on getting in some scouting before the opener the next morning.
As we make our way towards camp I notice plumes of dust raising up from the depths of the criss-crossing dirt roads. I feel the adrenaline rise from what I know is going to be heavy competition.
Camp is set up in gale force winds. We end up maneuvering to a new location in order to get out of the Jetstream, not an easy feat in the plains of eastern Colorado. We search for any undulations in the land that we can exploit as protection.
Trucks pile past as we eat dinner in the deepening evening. My nerves are a wreck. On my own I can deal with it, but this is my first hunt with John and I don’t want him to think I pointed him in the wrong direction with the GMU selection. I’m on the hook for this one and I know it.
He appears at ease with the situation. Being a rifle hunter perhaps he is used to this chaos. It’s all part of the hunt for him. For me however, it’s the main reason I only lasted one season as a rifle hunter and chose to make the switch over to the more solitary endeavor of bowhunting.
We end the night early with high anticipation for the morning and the hunt that will ensue. Sleep eludes me for some time as I try to recalculate tactics, adding in the known variable of extreme hunting pressure. There’s always a way to use these known variables to your advantage and hunting pressure is no different. Letting other hunters’ screwups become your opportunity can pay off. The problem is you can’t plan for it, you have to roll with the punches and see what they do and be ready to act on it at a moment's notice.
That thought repeats itself over and over as the wind rocks my truck and me to sleep.
Coffee is brewing well before the glow of the eastern sun attacks the darkness of the night. The plan is to head to a little rise I know of and glass. To find animals and just as important to find out what the orange army is up to.
Binos are up to our eyes with spotting scopes on their tripods waiting on standby.
My heart sinks as the chunk of land that so far has batted a thousand for me falls short. Dust devils rise from the access roads as hunters plow through the center of these hunting grounds in their pickups. I equate this to an elk hunter tearing through a bedding area with his ATV and expecting to have a bull standing there waiting for his opportunity to be shot.
Time has made me forget the overconfidence that can come with a long range weapon. Subtly can be lost with superior firepower. Not really an option when it comes to bowhunting.
I sigh and try to start formulating another plan for the day. Perhaps a bit premature.
“I got one,” John says.
“Really? I don’t see him,” I reply.
I look back at him and see that he is not looking in the direction I told him that the pronghorns would be. Instead he’s looking in a direction that in all the years I’ve been bowhunting this area, I’ve never seen a one.
“Stay loose,” I remind myself. Advice that I gave not ten hours ago.
He’s a decent buck, one well worth chasing.
“You want him?” I ask John.
He looks back through his binos for a second inspection.
“Yea, I’ll take him,” he replies.
I’m secretly relieved. With orange dotting the plains I know that our opportunities are going to be severely limited.
There’s a group of hunters walking a road a couple of hundred yards beyond the buck, but luckily for us a small rise blocks him from their view. I giggle to myself, the scene playing out like some ludacris comic strip from an old hunting magazine. The laughter is cut short as I wonder how many other hunters have watched this same situation play out but with me on the other end of the glass.
With ego in check I watch as John makes his move. The pronghorn buck feeds off in a direction that makes it impossible for John to seal the deal. I wonder if that animal knows how lucky he is, that death surrounds him on every side but the one he chooses to nonchalantly wander towards.
Unreal. That right there is proof to me that there is a sixth sense or that some creatures are born with a horseshoe up their rear.
We regroup and hop in the truck to maneuver closer to where we last saw him.
As we cruise down the road we see no less than six other vehicles parked along it, most plates revealing the heavy concentration of out-of-staters. I knew Colorado was gracious with its tags, but I had no idea it was to this extent.
We jockey for position centering ourselves as the axle to the wheel of vehicles that surround us.
There’s a dip in the landscape where it looks like something the size of a pronghorn could hide. He’s got to know he’s surrounded and if he’s lived this long, I would have to assume that he knows to keep hidden in this type of situation.
Bingo. Keep it loose.
“There he is,” I say. “And he’s in a very stalkable position.”
We move in using whatever vertical relief and plant life we can find to shield our approach.
“500 yards,” I say as I replace my rangefinder in to its pouch.
“Sub 300 yards would be great,” John replies.
I know this guy can shoot and I’m impressed that he wants to whittle away the distance to turn this into a sure thing.
We crawl in as the buck rakes whatever greenery dares stand in its way.
He dips out of sight into a small cut. He could squirt out of either end at this point and that makes me nervous. Not knowing how deep the cut is we could miss him vacating the area altogether.
When in doubt, do nothing.
We wait and as time passes my doubts increase.
Finally I see the tips of a horn move.
“He’s still in there,” I say.
At this point it makes sense to only have the movement of one for the final stalk. John grabs his rifle and backpack as I wish him luck.
He disappears out of sight.
I await the thunderous sound of his .300 Win Mag to inform me of success, sound being the only sense that I have at my disposal to relay the information.
I have little left to do but wait. I watch as hunters circle and reposition themselves. Some stop back at their campers for lunch, some congregate for a midday BS session.
I love to see others out here enjoying the same thing that has become my sole passion in life besides my family. It makes me thankful for public land that we all can call our own. It makes me thankful for introducing me to others that still hold that caveman gene in their bodies.
“Got him Fred!” I hear John whoop.
I quickly glass at the surrounding orange and see all heads snap in our direction.
Again a giggle comes out and again it is quickly cut short as memories of more patient hunters than I taking game in a place I was just hunting.
I walk up with my hand outstretched to John in congratulations.
I think to myself how this hunt would have never happened, how I would never have met John and the numerous other people I’ve hunted with over the years if it wasn’t for social media.
I realized right then that it’s just a tool. It could be used for good or bad. Inherently there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, just the same way there’s nothing wrong with a mechanic’s wrench. It can be used to fix a vehicle and help him make a living or it could be used to club someone over the head. It’s not the tool, it’s the user. We make it what it is, we have the choice on how we’re going to use it.
If you want to follow along with John’s adventures, sign up to his email here. I assure you, he’s a wealth of information!
Good luck to you all this upcoming hunting season!
// Fred Bohm