March 03, 2022
I have been prone to having good luck while hunting. It’s a thing, and my buddies often tease me about it. My favorite was when a friend said in an exasperated voice, “I swear, you could shoot an arrow in the air and it would land on a critter!”
Even the late, great Editor of this magazine, my dear friend Dwight Schuh, would often say, “Geez, Fred, you’re just so lucky.” He would preface it by saying something like, “I know you hunt hard, but you know what I mean.”
Don’t misunderstand me, I have had plenty of misadventures and missed shots, and I’ve gone home empty-handed plenty of times. But, in general, when it comes to hunting, I get lucky a lot — truth be told, I’ve gotten kind of used to it. I would oftentimes even choose where to go hunting, or even my stand locations, based on my “Magic 8 Ball.” That is, until this past fall.
My season started with a brown bear hunt up in Alaska, where I not only didn’t get a bear… I didn’t even see one! But while on that hunt, I did get to experience a 6.1 earthquake that sent huge boulders tumbling down the mountains and scared me to death. I also had a bush plane that had a rough landing and ripped a cable out of the tail!
As if that weren’t enough misadventure for one hunt, during that same week a really bad wind and rainstorm blew up out of nowhere, and my guide, Don, and I hustled for shelter as fast as we could. I tried to get under one big spruce, but the branches at the base of the tree were too thick, so I ducked under the one right next to it as the rain hit hard and the wind threw microbursts at the ridge. Minutes later, I heard a loud crack, and the tree I had originally tried to get under, which was only a few feet away from my current position, suddenly fell over with a loud boom.
I was fine, and I was fortunate the tree didn’t fall in my direction, but it still really spooked Don and me. I know I should look at all three of those incidents as lucky, because all could have been worse, but I was still a little rattled. What happened to the bluebird days and the lucky hunts I was used to?
My next hunt was for Columbia blacktails in California. My buddy had been seeing a lot of deer, and the weather was hot, so I decided to sweat it out in a Muddy blind by a waterhole. Four days and 40-plus hours later, I’d still not seen a buck.
My son, Seth, who was with me on the hunt and taking a bathroom break at the time, spotted a buck on a ridge a short distance away. We made an amazing stalk and got within 20 yards. I couldn’t tell if the buck was for sure the same 2x2 (legal minimum) my son had seen, and from the angle of the deer’s head, I could see his antlers but couldn’t see the forks. Slowly raising my binoculars, I eventually caught a glimpse of the fork it needed to have. I traded my binoculars for my recurve, and just as I started to draw, the wind changed, and my buck was gone. So, no Columbia blacktail meat for me.
Next up was antelope season in my home state of Colorado. Hard rains that made for a super-wet spring and summer had left lush grass and standing water everywhere, which had the antelope spread out and left me scratching my head. Since I usually take an antelope every year, and since my family loves antelope meat, I decided to head afield in an attempt to fill our freezer. Not only was it the worst first week of antelope season for my clients that I can remember in 29 years of guiding, I didn’t have one in rifle range — much less bow range. My Magic 8 Ball even started letting me down by giving me nothing but negative answers.
I then left Colorado for a public-land Coues deer hunt in Arizona. A friend of mine had been getting lots of deer on camera, and I was ready to wait out a desert whitetail in the Millennium stand I’d brought. On Day Four, the last day of my hunt, after having spent over 13 hours per day each of the previous three, a young spike showed up. I wasted no time in grabbing my recurve and promptly ended my unlucky streak.
I’m not complaining. I loved every unsuccessful hunt, and I had amazing experiences on each one. I enjoyed the hunting, the sunrises and the scenery, and most importantly the stories and laughs shared in camp with friends and loved ones. But I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss the luck I’d become so accustomed to, and I’ll welcome it back with open arms sooner rather than later.
P.S. — If you happen to see my mojo, please send it back. I’ll pay C.O.D.