I wrapped up my hunt season in six inches of fresh, feather light powder. So light it seemed to step aside for me as each foot landed one in front of the other. It was an idyllic morning, even though it was cold and there were a grand total of zero ungulates to be found.
It was a far cry from that morning in late August that opened the season, when a not-yet-blisteringly hot morning began in the calm quiet of the dark that’s too dark to legally hunt in, but not too dark to see mule deer feeding on the hillside where we’d spotted countless bucks in the weeks of scouting prior.
Lordy, What A Mess
One minute past legal shooting time, a silent explosion of activity erupted from that very hillside. Bucks and does poured out of every nook and cranny, running for their life, as if someone had yelled ‘fire’ in a movie theatre.
Some hunter had crept into that area in the dark and did something, god know what, that razed any and all plans for hunting that hillside. It was a complete mess. That set the tone for the rest of that early season hunt. In a span of four days, we changed plans more times than I can remember and we ran into more hunters than I ever care to see.
Now, public lands being what they are, you’re going to run into folks. But my preference is to see as few as people as possible, and the ones I do see I’d prefer to see from a great distance away. But that’s a nearly impossible dream in the Wasatch, no matter your activity, no matter the season, no matter the day.
Hence, why that final morning of the season in the cold and snow with no one around – just us – was so delightful. In a space that is free for all, can you find a place that feels like its all yours? I think you can, but it takes some work and a hefty dose of luck.
Come to think of it, I could say the same thing about why – in the middle of hunting season – we bought a home. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that to you, dear reader. It came together quickly, as these things do – I guess. I wouldn’t know, home ownership is new to me.
Now, I think you can make any place – urban, forest, mountaintop, in a city, on the dot on the map that you drive through on your way to somewhere else, at a KOA (ok maybe not at a KOA) – a place that feels like its all yours. Front door not required.
But in order to make it feel ‘all your own’, you need a certain amount of space. Sometimes just a bit of headspace by way of meditation will do. But I for one cannot live on headspace alone. I need actual physical space as regularly as I need a cup of coffee. So when we started talking about the idea of buying a place, it was immediately clear that staying in the city wasn’t an option.
We live in a rural part of the state now, and it feels like a return to my roots. I spent the first eighteen years of my life living in an unincorporated township. In other words, out where there ain’t shit.
Living in a rural area now is like swimming in an old familiar pond again.
But I didn’t come here today to write about that. So I’ll have to save my thoughts on rural life for another time.
In addition to racking up a lot of weather and plan changes during the hunting season, I racked up lessons. Thank god. If I’d not gotten any lessons, I’d be rightly disappointed in myself.
Mother Nature is far and away the wisest teacher you’ll ever come across. And should you somehow step foot in her and come out with not a lesson learned, well, you’ve made a mistake somewhere. In no particular order, here are the most important lessons I learned while outdoors this year.
(Outdoor) Life Lessons
Commit fully but don’t overcommit.
If you can’t pivot quickly, you overcommitted.
Make it easy.
Accept that it will sometimes be impossibly hard.
Nature operates on much, much, simpler terms than the “modern” world we return to.
Hot tea in your water bottle.
Trust your kit.
Measure twice, shoot once.
Camelbaks in sub 32°F are a fine way to carry water around that you will not be able to drink.
Some hunters and hikers are dipshits.
Lots of hunters and hikers are not.
Before gathering plants, ask them for permission.
Moose will always alter your travel plans.
Seriously, buy the heated socks if your feet tend to be your limiter. I didn’t even buy the pricey ones (if you click the photo above, it will take you to the ones I bought on Amazon). One my first snowy day out in them, I didn’t think about my feet once other than to notice that I was not thinking about my feet.