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January 2021 Soapbox

January 2021
Author: Austin Atkinson

With the exceptional moisture last winter that fell around most of the Southwest, we had great excitement to see what the fall 2020 hunting season would bring. As the Covid-19 pandemic surged across the U.S. in the early spring, it must have turned off the moisture faucet as well. Arizona went from one of the wettest winters in a decade to one of the driest summers ever recorded. Tag holders across many states were conflicted on what to expect for their upcoming hunts with the pressure of Covid travel restrictions, ultra-dry forecasts, and droughted animal populations. As for me, I was excited to hunt with my father on his early archery elk hunt in Arizona as antler growth for elk was decent and we knew the big bulls just had to be there somewhere, despite the conditions. Well, just like everything else in the year 2020, this elk hunt had a vendetta to humble us immensely. What we both hoped would be the best rut experience we had ever had on a late September hunt quickly turned into wading through 90-degree dust bowls trying to find a mature bull with any cows. The animals seemed to switch into survival mode with very little feed remaining and nearly depleted water sources. Long story short, we got our butts kicked and failed to harvest a bull.

It’s all too easy to have our expectations dashed by reality and to slump into a state of depression and undue stress. How many times do we look back on the points used to draw a tag and feel frustrated about the outcome? How many times do we feel that we deserve a more quality experience? Oftentimes, I hear hunters who relate the amount of years needed to draw a tag to the feeling of solitude they expect to feel while on the hunt. Yet, when they finally draw the coveted tag, they find out that dozens, if not hundreds, of others are in the field with their own “dream tag” at the same time and they’ve each invited a dozen of their closest friends and guide services to help them out.

It’s no secret that the longer it takes or the more expensive it is to purchase, the more effort we all apply to our hunts. However, I caution you to be careful on how much stress you place on yourself, your finances, and most importantly, your loved ones. Decide early that you will enjoy the experience and take whatever hand is dealt to you. One of my favorite aspects of hunting is that no matter how many thousands of dollars in gear, research, and preparation you have, Mother Nature and wild animals can still humble you. And no matter what you do, that dang guy on the next ridge may just be luckier than you. That is the game we play in this past time we call hunting. As we turn our minds to setting goals for the new year, I hope that we can focus on this goal of enjoying each hunt we are blessed to participate in this year no matter what.

Happy new year from everyone at Huntin’ Fool!