The Big Picture-Judy Black

It is late spring and magazines, Face Book and the television are flooded with bear hunting pictures, videos and stories.  As I stare at the screen and pages I realize that a bad case of the “I don’t have a bear hunt booked blues” sets in.  In fact, on the way to work the other day I said to Scott, “the last animal I killed with my bow was a bear, last year”.  I think to myself, can that possibly be true?

    Well, it is and it is not for lack of travel to hunt.  In late August we traveled to Colorado on an archery mule deer hunt.  .  The outfitter was very encouraging about the hunt and sure that one or both of us would fill our tags.  Being THAT encouraging, we loaded up the truck and took a trailer with a freezer so we could bring home the meat and the velvet antlers.

    It took two days to drive out there and the scenery along the way was breath taking.  Of course when you are headed out on a hunt you are excited and the anticipation of the hunt helps the time fly by.  Arriving at the lodge the atmosphere was not the upbeat, everyone has a story to tell that we expected.  Instead it was long faces and grumbling about the heat and the lack of game being seen.  But, we remained hopeful as they were all elk hunters and we were there to chase BIG mullies.

    One day our guide Jeff and I were standing by a gate waiting for Scott.  I told him that though a successful hunt is what we all want, you cannot lose sight of everything that surrounds you as that too is part of the adventure.

That morning while sitting in my blind, I looked to my left and there was an old, weathered fence post just outside the window.  Wrapped around it was a piece of barb wire fencing and the morning dew just glistened on that wire.  I took several of pictures of that old fence post and every one was different because of the way the morning sun hit it. Walking out that morning there were some beautiful flowers in the field that I had to cross to get to the truck.  I stopped and laid my new Mathews Passion down next to those flowers and took some great pictures of it.  Though there wasn’t an animal in my pictures, I still enjoyed the world around me

By day two we knew we were not going to get within range of shooting an animal and the only big mule deer I saw was 200+ yards away.  On day three days we bit the bullet, loaded up our gear and headed back to Michigan.  

    Our guide was very apologetic as we stood in the driveway saying our goodbyes.  He had worked very hard trying to get us in the deer and we understood that he wasn’t to blame.  Yes the weather was HOT but we have hunted in the heat before and were successful in harvesting the animal we hunted.  Water under the bridge now but the ride home was not nearly as exciting as the ride out.

    I anxiously waited for the archery white tail season here in Michigan.  I had some great bucks on my trail cam and could not wait for the season opener.  When I wasn’t working, I was hunting but it just wasn’t in the cards for me in 2012.  I had lots of does and fawns come right in shooting range but the bucks all seemed to hang out on the other side of the food plot.  They weren’t interested in the calls yet and no amount of patients and hope could bring them to my side.  Didn’t matter, I was in my blind, hunting and enjoying the sounds and smells of fall.  My senses were awakened with every snap of a twig or stomp of a hoof.  I was in a happy place and lovin’ every minute of it.

    With a mountain lion at the top of my bucket list, I was thankful that I met a lady on Face Book that was an outfitter for mountain lion hunts.  Emails were exchanged and soon I had both Scott and I a hunt booked for February.  My excitement level was off the charts as this was a two cat per person area.  So, with the capability to take 4, we should come home with at least one…right?

    We flew into Albuquerque and drove to the outfitters.  They had found a kill and the cat had been on it just a few days earlier, they were excited but I was ecstatic.  We unloaded our gear, got settled and made a plan for the next day.  We would return to the kill site and hopefully the dogs could get on the cat.  For as tired as I was I should have slept like a log but the anticipation of the next day hunt kept me awake.  When the alarm went off, I was already up and ready to roll.  

    The site, which was at the base of a ravine had not been revisited and the dogs could not find a fresh track.  I heard repeatedly “what we need is some fresh snow” and Scott had warned me before we even left home that fresh snow was the ticket to a successful hunt.  Without it, we could easily come home empty handed.  I remained hopeful.

    After days of riding in a pickup for 11 to 12 hours, climbing mountains, eating sack lunches and staring out a window and I still had my sense of humor. With limited service, emails and texts could sometimes be sent.  Often you had to stand on one leg, hold your right hand in the air and whistle a tune, sometimes they went, and many times they didn’t.  But about the 5th day I sent my sister an email.  I told her that I was starting to feel like dress up Barbie.  Every day I get dressed and then all I do is ride around looking good all day.  On the 8th day I sent her another email and told her that today Barbie added and accessory to her wardrobe.  I had put on my gaiters as we finally had fresh snow.

    We rode around, up and down mountains looking for sign that a lion had crossed the road.  The outfitters wife joined us most days and one day after an overnight snow she found a track, a smokin’ hot track.  Now, you have to realize we are in the middle of nowhere and there is no phone service. By the time we got her message it was dark and we were almost back to town.  My heart sank at the thought that this could have been the day but it was too late to go back as you cannot run the dogs at night.  We returned to the trailer hoping for a better day tomorrow. It was not and neither were the remaining days of that hunt.  Once again we went home without the game we hunted but I got to see some country that I had not seen before and met some great people.

    I am a firm believer that any day hunting is better than working.  I enjoy the outdoors and my greatest love is being in the wood when the world is waking up.  I believe that you get out of it what you put in to it and if you choose to be angry about not harvesting, all you get out of it was angry.

    Both outfitters have offered us return hunts to make it right.  We know that they did not have to do that but appreciate the fact that they did.  They have no control over the weather or the animal movement but they do have their reputations to uphold and a return visit speaks hugely of both of them.

    Needless to say we are both looking forward to our hunt in British Columbia this fall.  We have decided to drive and are taking the trailer and the freezer on this hunt.  If nothing else we are going to have the most traveled freezer in the whole world.

Photo Credit: Judy Black


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