February 20, 2018
By Fred Eichler
I was sure I was going to have a great season this year. I was shooting well and scouting trips were going great. I had a few hunts booked in other states and even bought a new freezer to accommodate all the extra meat we were going to have this year. Well€¦things didn't quite pan out like I had figured.
I wanted to write about my unsuccessful hunts, because sometimes I think outdoor writers and even hunting shows can cause something I call, "poor hunter complex." It seems every time I watch a hunting show, or when I read an article in a hunting magazine, I start to feel like I'm a "poor" hunter. The irony here is that I write articles about hunting and also host a few TV shows every year.
Before you start laughing, in my defense, I must point out that I often write about my mishaps and have written about how I feel any animal is a trophy, including does and cow elk. I also submit that I have done multiple shows where I didn't harvest an animal at all. In fact, on a Ford Outfitters show that will air in the next few months on Sportsman Channel, despite hiking a lot of miles and hunting hard for seven days with a guide on an outfitted hunt, I didn't even see the animal I was after. It was a great hunt in beautiful country, and I still cherish all my time afield whether I am successful or not.
Still, it can seem like some hunters are successful on huge big game animals all the time. It's not like I'm jealous. But when I watch shows, or read articles, where it seems trophy animals are competing to get shot or get loaded up in the back of a guy or gal's truck, I feel like I must be doing something wrong.
I have determined that I may not be spending enough time painting my face properly, or I'm not hunting in the right spots. Or possibly, and this is the hardest for my ego to swallow, it's that these people are just that much better than I am.
It's not that I don't occasionally see what I think is a good animal. Most everyone knows that to me, any animal within bow range is a good animal. I just don't see many critters that I'll ever call a "non-shooter." I must admit, however, my lack of success this year has, in many cases, been my own fault. It started with elk season this past fall where I usually have what I would call great success. That means I can usually pack my freezer with a fat cow elk or a young bull. Granted they're not the trophy quality animals that will make the cover of a magazine, but that's okay.
My elk season this year was tough, and although I had some close calls, I just couldn't make it happen. To make things worse, I went on a nonguided hunt in Alaska for black bears. I saw as many human tracks as I did bear tracks. I did see two small black bears that, despite my philosophy that any legal animal is a trophy, just couldn't get me to draw my recurve. They weren't nursing anymore, but it was pretty apparent that they had only recently found themselves on their own.
I also went on a free-range nilgai hunt in Texas. My wife took a great one, but I hunted five days and saw one... but had no shots.
I was sure that I would put some meat in the freezer during antelope season. I usually take one every year, and this year I grabbed my recurve and used one of my horses to sneak into bow range of a great buck. He had no idea I was there because, to tweak a quote from one of my favorite movies, "Antelope don't know how many legs a horse has." I was sure this was it, as I slowly drew my recurve in the brisk wind whipping across the prairie. If that last sentence didn't help you figure out what went wrong, don't feel bad. I didn't think about it either. Just after commenting about the wind to my cameraman, who was sneaking up with me and hiding behind another one of my horses, I drew and shot without accounting for that wind. I watched in sheer amazement as my arrow went from going directly at the buck's chest to drifting right past him, which was embarrassing and frustrating at the same time.
So, I guess I will keep reading articles and watching hunting shows. Hopefully I will learn something one of these days. In the meantime, I still have a late-season cow elk tag, and a doe antelope tag, and I hope to go deer hunting too. I have to tag something, because at supper every night we're eating game that my wife or one of our boys has killed, and I don't have enough ketchup to cover up the taste of crow.