There You Are

I’ll never forget my late, great-grandmother sitting on her bed many Christmas’ ago. Her mind struggled to process and comprehend the activities surrounding around her — the result of progressing Alzheimer’s.

Despite being surrounding by family that she’d loved with for decades, and being in the house she’d lived in for even longer – on this Christmas she was confused. Anxiously, she cried out,

“Where am I?”

Then, just as those of us in the room felt the sadness of the moment and began to reach out in sympathy, “Grandma Great” looked over to the other wall of the room, caught her reflection in a mirror, and then excitedly declared,

“Oh, there I am!”

Our sadness was soon relieved by the humor of the moment. And, thankfully, Grandma’s anxiety and confusion was overcome by the sudden joy of understanding where she was and who she was with. She was home. She was loved.

—— —— —— —— ——

That story reminds me of the way that many of us live our lives on a daily basis. Days that turn into weeks, which turn into months, which turn into years.

You see, many of us have either forgotten who we truly are. Or, maybe, we simply refuse to look in the mirror and see who, and where, we are.

Alzheimer’s isn’t our problem. But we are confused and anxious nonetheless.

We avoid the “mirror” of self-reflection because we’re afraid of what we might see. Instead, we’re voluntarily distracted by other people’s lives on Facebook and Instagram. We numb ourselves with food, drink, and all varieties of vices that bring temporary relief from the emptiness and discontent that we aches within.

We live a chaotic, hectic, and noisy life that is full of sensory overload, which desensitizes us to the quiet matters of what’s going on the inside of us at the deepest levels.

We’re “busy”. We’re tired. We mindlessly, incessantly, and endlessly swipe our fingers across a handheld screen — spending our minutes, hours, and days “living” by bytes and pixels.

Thoreau said that,

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

That’s true of “most men”, but don’t let it be true of you.

Shut down the noise. Disconnect from the distraction. Listen to the “quiet desperation” that aches within and resolve to do something about it.

In doing so, you’ll finally be able to address the most important matters of life — your health, your relationships, the way you spend your precious and fleeting time, and more.

Stop the excuses, the distraction, the numbing.

Look in the mirror. Figure out where you are. Then determine to become what you long to be.

P.S. — I know it has been super quiet around here.  That should be changing in the coming months.  I’ve been busy taking my own medicine (as prescribed in this article), but I’ve also been working on some very cool projects.  One of those projects is something that you’ll definitely want to check out right now and that is a GIVEAWAY for a free Exo Mountain Gear pack of your choice.  It is super easy to enter — so do it.

Introducing the Hunt Backcountry Podcast!

I am excited to announce a new project that I’ve been working on with my buddy, Steve Speck, from Exo Mountain Gear. The two of us have been tossing around the idea of starting a podcast for quite some time. Well, we finally decided to commit to making it happen.

I am super excited to share this with you, the Sole Adventure reader, because this podcast will be an extension of the topics and content that I’ve been sharing through this site. And because the podcast will feature Steve, as well as many great guest interviewees that will be joining us, the level of knowledge and experience will be leaps and bounds better than anything I could ever do on my own.

Get Started

The best way to check out the podcast and make sure you don’t miss any new episodes is to subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or on SoundCloud.  (All of which offer mobile apps as well!)

Let Me Hear It (And win!)

The single most important goal that Steve and I have for this podcast is to inform and entertain anyone that has a passion to hunt the backcountry. So, with that said, I would love to hear the topics, questions, and features that you would like us to cover on the podcast.

Email your ideas and feedback to podcast@exomountaingear.com. And if you enjoy the show, please leave us a review in iTunes or on the other podcasting application that you use.

Each week we will pick someone that’s left us a great question, idea, or feedback and we’ll send that person some Exo Mountain Gear swag.  And stay tuned, because we will also be giving an Exo Mountain Gear pack away just for podcast subscribers!

Shooting Arrows & Chasin’ Tail

So you have made, or are thinking about making, a change to your bowhunting setup this year?  Maybe the new thing is a sight, a rest, a release, some new arrows, a new bow – or maybe all of the above!  If that’s true, then you to be careful that you don’t end up creating problems for yourself.  My elk hunting partner, Jerud, recently made some changes himself and re-learned an import lesson along the way.  He’s here, today, to share that lesson with you.  Here’s Jerud…

Just because you’re not hitting the dot you’re aiming for, doesn’t mean you should be quick to start adjusting your sight or tinkering with your rest.

Like most guys, I’m always looking to improve my shooting and my gear; I’ve been called OCD when it comes to such things.  But I don’t easily buy into hype and promises of the latest-and-greatest. I like to do thorough research and then decide if a new item is worth investing my money and time into trying.

Jerud Shooting his Elite Energy 35

This winter I installed Elite Archery’s rubber torqueless grip on my Energy 35. Do I have torque issues? No. I picked up the grip because I liked the idea of not holding a cold riser during late season hunts and I have a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with gloves.

I also picked up a Scott Exxus thumb release. Before I started tweaking the other aspects of my setup to account for these changes, I started shooting and letting the arrows stick where they may. Yes, they were off the mark, but I had also made two significant changes that I, as the shooter, (not just my bow) needed to break into.

A younger me would have shot a few groups and then started adjusting my sight. Sometimes this works, but most of the time this results in me chasing my tail situation to figure out what went wrong – adjusting this, then that – and sometimes overcompensating and creating a new problem.  And that whole mess results in a massive hit to my shooting confidence.

I have the advantage of being able to shoot indoors at home, so I get to shoot a lot. This makes me very comfortable with my form and knowing when I’m on or off. So after the recent grip and release changes, I just continued flinging arrows and breaking into this new setup. It wasn’t easy and I struggled with panic a few times.

Finally, confident that I was shooting consistent – but off the mark – I put the bow in the vise and made an adjustment to my sight.

The results: center shots and complete relaxed confidence in shooting the new setup.

The point of this post, and the lesson that I re-learned recently, is if you make a change to your setup, give it time and a lot of shots before you start freaking out and changing other components of your shot or the setup. Be honest with yourself about the quantity and quality of your practice sessions. Get the consistent form down first and put the work in to maintain it.

Exo Mountain Gear Packs – What’s New for 2015

The guys at Exo Mountain Gear have made some changes to their packs for 2015.  I have had my hands on a 2015 model for a couple of months now and have been using it for training hikes.  The main concepts and design of the pack and frame are essentially the same as the 2014 model, which I used and reviewed last year.

I get that spending upwards of $500 for a pack is an investment.  And if I am recommending a product like that, I want you guys to be as informed as possible.  So for those of you considering a new pack this year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to run through some of what’s changed for 2015:

Pack Changes

Frame Changes

There is a lot about the packs in general that aren’t mentioned in these videos, so head on over to ExoMountainGear.com to learn more.

When Is The Best Time To Go Archery Elk Hunting (In Colorado)?

I received an email from a reader asking about the best time to bow hunt elk. Specifically, what portion of Colorado’s archery season – basically the month of September – would be best? He writes…

“Muzzleloader loader season in the middle of September, which we are sure we to avoid. Would you go the week before muzzleloader and hunt animals that haven’t been hunted or pressed at all, but are less into the rut (plus better chance for good weather); or would you go the week after muzzleloader and hunt animals that have been hunted but at more into the rut?”

There’s a lot of variables in his question, which is good – because there are truly a lot of variables to consider the portion of archery season to hunt.

First, let me say that elk can be killed at any point during the season, and that there are potential advantages and disadvantages to hunting during the different portions of the season. With that said, my personal preference would be to hunt the later portion of the September. Here’s why…

Definitely Avoid Muzzleloader Season

At least that’s what I would have said a few days into last year’s hunt, when Jerud and I were bowhunting during muzzleloader season and were encountering more of the “orange army” that we had anticipated or desired.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t necessarily rule out muzzleloader season altogether. It’s a generalization (but probably a fair one) to say that the majority of muzzleloaders typically won’t work as hard as dedicated bowhunters that are willing to hike-in a ways. Keep in mind, though, that just because you’re going in deep doesn’t mean you won’t run into muzzleloader hunters that have the assistance of horses, and/or are hunting with a guide or via a guide-provided drop camp. The unit that Jerud and I hunted required quite a few points to draw a muzzleloader tag, which kept some of the “casual” hunters away. But it also meant that many of the hunters that did use those hard-earned points and draw a tag were willing to spend money to have the assistance of a guide (at least to pack them in).

In the end, Jerud and I were willing to out-work the hunters that we encountered, and it paid off.

Looking at the draw requirements of a muzzleloader tag for the unit you are hunting is a very important consideration if you are considering bowhunting during a portion of the muzzleloader season. If it is a unit that gets hit with a lot of muzzleloaders hunters, then it probably is best to avoid that portion of the season. But if there is a limited amount of muzzleloaders, don’t feel like you have to rule-out that week of the season; just be aware that you have to deal with…

Hunting Pressure

In a perfect world, we could all hunt un-pressured uneducated animals. But that’s not reality. In almost every place that you and I have hunted or will hunt, the animals have been pressured in some way. Let’s embrace that reality and use it to our advantage. How do we do that?

Well, I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I think the first and most important step is to think like a hunted animal, and not just a hunter. If most hunters would do blank, then what would the animals do in response. And if most hunters are doing blank, then why in the world would we try those tactics too?

Regardless of the time of year that one chooses to bow hunt elk, there will be pressure from other hunters. So think like those hunters and then do something else.

It’s also worth mentioning that pressure from other, non-hunting, human activity can be a factor. This is especially true earlier in the archery elk season, when there are hikers, backpackers, climbers, campers, and a whole host of people enjoying the long Labor Day weekend in the outdoors — which also happens to be during the beginning of archery elk season!

There is always some form of pressure on the animals and competition from other hunters (and outdoor enthusiasts). Accept that fact and hunt accordingly.

What is “Good” Weather?

What’s good weather for human pleasure and good weather for animal activity and hunting success are often two different things. The early portions of archery elk season might offer “good weather” if one is seeking moderate temperatures, comfortably cool nights, and wants to avoid the probability of winter precipitation, but that’s not necessarily great for elk hunting.

The problem with the “good weather” in the early season — and by that I mean the comfort of warmer temperatures — is the fact that it makes keeping meat cool and safe in the backcountry an increasingly difficult proposition. Packing-out an elk is likely going to take longer and be more difficult that you’re imagining, and warm temperatures will only make the challenge that much greater.

Elk Hunting in the Cold of September

On the flip-side, hunting in the later portion of the archery elk season can bring winter precipitation and bitterly cold temperatures in the high-country. Be prepared for that, and think through the logistics (gear, travel, etc.) of dealing with potential storms. In 2013, for example, I hunted the last week of the season and faced snow, sleet, ice, and temperatures down to 20-degrees. If you can handle it, the cooler weather of the later season is better for hunting, than the “good weather” of the early season.

Rutting Activity (It’s Everything)

There is a greater chance of experiencing elk rutting activity in the later portions of the archery elk season, but it is no guarantee. Looking back, again, to my last-week hunt in 2013, we completely missed all visible and vocal signs of the rut; at least where we were, anyway.

“Where we were,” is a key point. There is no universal, state-wide or species-wide, on/off switch for the rut. It could be hot in one area and completely quiet in the next unit over. The last week could be hot for 4 years straight, but then start early on the 5th year.

This all matters a great deal (“it’s everything”) because – to grossly oversimplify elk hunting – you either have to have elk patterned and/or visible so that you can make a move, or you have to be able to call and get a response so that you can get elk to reveal their location.

In the early portions of the archery elk season, the elk (especially bulls) are typically at higher elevations and often have a more predictable travel and behavior pattern. It can be a great time to sneak in and kill a bull IF you have had the time to scout the area beforehand and know where the bulls are hanging out and how they are behaving.

If you’re coming in from out-of-state, though, it can be very difficult to not only get into and hunt that high country, but it can be incredibly tough to locate elk that are likely less vocal.

As an out-of-state hunter myself, I really, REALLY, want to be hunting vocal elk. And the later portions of the season typically give me a better chance for that.

My Conclusion

I want the best chance at active, vocal, and responsive bulls, and the least chance of warm temperatures affecting meat that I harvest, so I choose to hunt later in the season. It’d be great to avoid as much hunting pressure as possible, but I wouldn’t rule out muzzleloader season altogether; in fact, due to work obligations, I’ll be archery hunting during muzzleloader season again this year.