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January 2020 Soapbox

January 2020
Author: Eric Bachofner

I learned an important lesson a few years ago when I drew a mule deer permit in Montana. I had always wanted to put my hands on a big velvet buck from my home state that I had taken with my bow. I knew the area that gave me the best opportunity to do so was in a unit that is made up almost entirely of private ground. If I could draw the tag, there was really only one challenge left before punching my tag on a great buck – locking down as much access in the unit as I could. The day I drew the tag, that process began. It didn’t take very long to learn that knocking on doors and cold-calling landowners for access was not a lot of fun. Progress was slow as most of the lots in the area were 10-20 acres and not everyone loved hunting or hunters, for that matter.

I spent the summer months scouting, trying to find the biggest buck in the unit. It was clear that these deer didn’t care if they smelled me, they were backyard swing set bucks that were used to being around people. If they saw me, they would certainly keep an eye on me, but they were never going to blow out of the country. This was going to be a slam dunk.

When I found the buck I wanted, I keyed in on him and studied his routine. He mostly stuck to three pieces of property – one that didn’t allow hunting, one that did but had already given another hunter access, and one that I had permission to hunt on.

Luckily on opening morning the buck was on my side of the fence, and after setting up on his preferred route to his bedding area, it didn’t take long to have him feeding at only 27 yards. While he didn’t go 200", he was close and a phenomenal buck for Montana. However, something was missing. There wasn’t a lot of gratification upon walking up on the biggest buck I had ever taken. I was left without any memories of trial and tribulation. I hadn’t tested myself physically or spent any time in the mountains getting to see and learn new country. Is this what I had spent 14 years building points for? When I had applied, I thought so, but it most certainly was not.

At the end of the day, it’s not all about what you do, it’s about how you go about it. It’s exactly why I bow hunt. I want a challenge. I want to fail a little along the way. This year, I’m going to be applying for average hunts that will increase my chances of putting more tags in my pocket and just go hunting. The focus will be on getting back to the type of hunting I enjoy, even if these hunts don’t provide the type of trophy potential I’ve been drawn to in the past. Making memories in the backcountry with the people who mean the most to me is what I’ll be aiming for when September rolls around this year.

Go on hunts that are the best and most enjoyable to you. If you’re like me, you’ll get plenty more out of making memories than adding up the inches.