I have just finished an archery elk hunt where new lessons were learned in the wild.
After a few years of hunting with a bow and arrow and paying attention to veteran archers, my confidence in this style of hunting was progressively improving. Well, this November's elk hunt again proved to be educational to a guy who thought he had figured out archery big-game hunting.
Every archer knows practice with your bow is essential in making that good shot.
My targets varied from a distance of 20 yards to my longest shot of 40 yards.
One must feel comfortable with the distances you shoot in the field. I know this may seem very close for many, but again these are the distances I will only shoot while in the field.
A few years back, local Mike DeWees arrowed an antelope at over 100 yards, but he had practiced that distance many times prior to the hunt.
Being a very average shot with a bow means closer is better. I tell my buddies that if I can hit a five-gallon bucket lid with an arrow, I can tag an elk.
Being a former coach, I try to stay in reasonably good shape by exercising, which includes a running program.
I was surprised to find that the hills got a little steeper this year in my 50-minute walk to my tree stand.
Lesson No. 2: As the years are creeping up on me, I must now be more muscle-specific in my preseason exercise program by adding lunges to my daily training program.
By day seven of the hunt, my body did not want to leave the confines of my comfortable bed at 4:30 a.m. The muscles in my lower torso ached and it literally took about 10 minutes of additional stretching just to get them working well for the daily hunt ahead.
Finally, the last lesson learned had to do with scent. I have listened to veteran archers and read the latest archery hunting magazines and understand how important it is to mask that human smell. So, during the hunt, I use unscented soap each morning to start my day.
My clothes are washed with unscented laundry detergent and are hung in the cedar trees to air dry.
After the long walk into my stand, I change my sweaty clothes, place them in an airtight plastic bag and replace them with clean dry clothes for warmth as well as scent reduction.
Then, my scent-blocker outfit is pulled over all of this for further precaution to keep the elk from smelling me. All of this may seem rather involved, but I believe this is necessary for the archery shot that I am capable of taking.
But, I made an obvious mistake in taking my small daypack with me in the stand for the first nine days.
I had two nice bulls wind me before I could make a shot and my frustration intensified after the second blown opportunity. Finally, by process of elimination, the convenience of my friendly daypack had to go, which made my stay in a tree much more user-friendly but less hospitable. This slight adjustment improved my chances of seeing elk up close from my stand.
There are always lessons to be learned when one is trying to hunt elk with a string and a stick in the wilds of Arizona.
Enjoy what hunts you may have left this season in God's creation.