The other day, I was chatting with a friend I hadn’t seen in quite a while. We were catching up and talking about last year’s hunts when I told him about going to Colorado on a hunt with a gentleman I had never met before. He asked, “Why would you do that if you weren’t getting paid or had a tag of your own?” His question made me stop and think a minute. Why would I travel 10 hours to help someone I had only talked to on the phone a few times? Pondering the questions, I began to smile. “Why not?” was maybe the better question. To me, it was another opportunity/excuse to be out in the field looking for a trophy mule deer, not to mention making new friends.
We have all heard of the 5 stages of a Sportsman: 1 – Shooting Stage, 2 – Limiting Out, 3 – Trophy Stage, 4 – Method Stage, 5 – Sportsman Stage. I believe this is still a great way to gauge where you are at in your hunting lifecycle. I’m somewhere in the Trophy, Method, and Sportsman stages. Don’t get me wrong, though, I will jump back to stages 1 and 2 every once in a while, especially if predators are involved. I’ve been known to burn some serious powder trying to kill coyotes!
As the big game tags become harder to draw out west, I recommend to others to become more creative when applying. I do it too. Maybe don’t apply for all the top trophy units, mix it up, especially if you don’t have max points. Look at units you can draw every two to three years. The more you hunt an area, the more dangerous you become there. Landowner vouchers or over-the-counter tags are also good options when the draws don’t go your way. Landowner vouchers can be a little expensive and over-the-counter areas may be crowded, but they beat the heck out of sitting at home. Antlerless tags are another good option when you don’t have many points to burn. These freezer filler hunts are great ways to explore new country, not to mention that they are delicious. Regardless of your strategy or what Sportsman Stage you are at in life, the key is to just be out there.
Whether you are gunning everything in sight or just sitting back watching others fill their tags, the opportunity is there. I hope you draw that tag you’re applying for, but if you are unsuccessful, just go to Plan B. Offer to help that friend you haven’t hunted with for years or take a family member. Take a kid hunting and try to teach them what being a true sportsman is really all about. You might even reach out to a social media friend who’s looking for help, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll make a real friend for life.