A couple of nights ago I awoke to a violent storm that was happening outside my window. Lighting was crashing, thunder was erupting, and rain was being driven sideways by high winds. This was all occurring around me, but not affecting me. I was in the comfort of my home, insulated by my “bubble” of safety, protected from the storm that battered the outdoors. My first thought as I awoke to this violent act of nature was about elk. Was there a storm like this going on in the high country right now? If not now, surely there have been many just like it. And countless more are yet to come.
I live among these types of storms, but elk live in them.
My awareness of these stark differences – between my comfortable life and the life of an elk – will continue for the rest of the day. I will wake up, take a hot shower, eat a convenient meal, drive to my environmentally shielded and controlled office, spend all day sitting and typing, return to the comfort and safety of my home for another meal, enjoy a little entertainment, and then sleep once again in a comfortable bed.
Rise, rinse, and repeat.
How is this life of comfort and convenience preparing me to enter into elk country? To scale the mountains that they call home? To sleep in the forests where they bed? To hunt them on their terms, in a natural environment that doesn’t play favorites? It isn’t. At all.
So then, to truly hunt wild elk in wild places, and rely on more than luck, I’ll need to step out of my life of comfort.
The night after this storm I was sitting around a fire with a group of guys, talking about sports, work, family, and life in general. We got on the subject of raising boys, and I explained how my son, at only 15-months-old, constantly tries to beat me up and turn everything into a sword. Men, boys, and even 15-month-old babies want to conquer things. That’s why we see men try to climb the corporate ladder, excel in sports, fix things in their home, or dominate in a million other ways. Men want to build and conquer.
But the threat of our day is that this conquering drive in men is too often suppressed or misguided. Instead of raising men to defend and conquer in authentic, tangible ways – boys are raised in an environment where they only conquer in video games. They are victorious and dominant in the virtual world, but apathetic and lazy in the real one.
Instead of teaching boys to focus and increase their drive to dominate, we live in a society that wants to suppress it; so that everyone wins and no one feels like a loser. Instead of letting, or even encouraging young men to confront challenges and to do hard things, our society is obsessed with convenience and comfort, and rewards those that find the easiest means to any end.
My comfortable life and my innate drive to conquer – they frequently collide with one another. After all, what victory is there is doing things that are easy? How can one conquer if he is not overcoming challenges and stepping out of his comfort zone?
I share these thoughts with you, not to stir up some macho, chest-thumping drivel, or to pretend to be a sociologist that is an expert in the modern state of man, but simply to present the facts of my life. Your life, like mine, is probably excessively comfortable. Yet you have a drive, as I do, to conquer – not just in the office, or on the field, but in the wild.
As a new elk hunter I am fully aware of how easy it is to get wrapped up in tips, tactics, and gear. But as good as those things are, the best thing I can do to prepare for this hunt is to prepare myself – my mind, my body, and my will.
Steven Rinella mentioned to me that, “…people either have what it takes or they don’t. Either you can’t stand foul weather or you can. Either you can’t stand sleeping on rough ground or you can. Either you can’t stand backpacking food or you can. I suppose that you get tougher over time, with exposure, but I think people’s tolerances are pretty ingrained by the time they reach adulthood.”
I think he is right, but I also know that some people “have what it takes” but just don’t realize it because they haven’t stepped out of their life of comfort to find out what they are capable of conquering. They haven’t faced the collision.
There are really only a few things I know for sure about this elk hunt…
- It will be hard.
- My mind, body, and will are greater assets than any hunting tactic or piece of gear will ever be. (And therefore these “resources” must be stretched, challenged, and trained.)
- I may or may not leave the mountain with an antler- and meat-loaded pack, but I will leave having conquered myself, and at least temporarily bid farewell to my shielded, insulated life of comfort and ease.
This process of preparing for my elk hunt is a journey of stepping out of my life of comfort and challenging myself to something greater and more difficult. It is running towards a collision, instead of running from it.
Hunt then, not for ease, or even for pleasure, but rather to find yourself. To conquer.