Success. What does the word mean to you? Is it a velvet mule deer? A giant pope and young elk? Is it a 160’ whitetail? All of these happened for me during the 2023 season and I am here to tell you where my real success story was.
The year started out like many. Cameras were placed, scouting was done and it was time to get after it. 2023 started with a trip to the mountains for the sheep opener. Many mountains were climbed, sheep were spotted, and stories were told around the campfire, but no tags were folded. This was the first piece of success in my 2023 season. Why you may ask? Well lifetime memories were made and we learned a lot about ourselves and the animals that we were pursuing. While many will define these types of stories as unsuccessful, for me it’s not always the harvest that determines one success.
Fast forward to September 2nd, my first day in the field chasing elk for the year. It was also my last as my great friend and I were able to double down on two bull elk at the exact same time. We were both sitting at a waterhole when 3 bull elk came in for a drink. For 2 of them it would be their last. The events that unfolded that day will be told for years and years to come. It’s rare to connect with a bull elk the calibre of the one I was able to harvest. It’s even more rare to connect with 2 at the exact same time. This is the type of success I had dreamed of all summer. The type of success I should write this entire article about. I am so thankful that it is a part of my 2023 story. But as I sit here reflecting, it’s just a piece of what made this season successful.
After the elk was processed and dealt with, after friends from far and wide travelled to see this magnificent animal over beverages in my garage, I returned to the field with my bow in hand. A Few days later I was able to put my hands on a great mule buck in the process of shedding his velvet. After chasing a monster I have pursued for many years and losing all sign of him, the buck I harvested presented an opportunity for a stalk that I could not pass up. After hours on hands and knees crawling into position I was able to release an arrow and down him. Again, success! I had folded my second tag of the year and for that I am so grateful. Chasing mule deer through the prairies is one of my favourite things to do. After my success in the first few weeks of September I started to chase waterfowl more frequently with my good buddies from the Berta Birds group. In the 2 months of September and October we were able to go on 12 hunts all of which we found success. More importantly I was able to take my 2 boys along on 5 of these hunts. To me this was one of the biggest successes of the entire season. To see their faces after a successful bird hunt is priceless. Again, success!
The end of September I was fortunate enough to be invited by Nate on a hunt at his cabin. You know him as Nathan of the North. After only knowing him for a short year he invited me to his family cabin and treated me like one of his own. Although I only spent 3 days with him, his uncle and father, it was one of the highlights of the season. We ran our e-bikes along the river and explored the land. We sat on evenings watching whitetail bucks feed and fight in front of us. Again, no tags were folded but this trip was one of the biggest successes of the entire season. I hope to make this trip a longer one come next year!
From here I took the opportunity to go on another sheep hunt with my good pal and SKRE ambassador, Lane Bramall. Although it also was a shortened trip, we were into rams everyday. We even made the decision to pass on a squeaker on the second day. The things I learned on this short trip was more than I have learned the entire time I have been sheep hunting. You guessed it, success.
October brought a trip with good friends to the trapline. This place is heaven on earth and cannot be described in words. If you follow me on Instagram you see it all the time. Even those pictures do not do this place justice. We spent 10 days chopping wood, cutting trail, telling stories, and fishing. It was almost a “break” if you will, from hunting. I’m not sure if you’re understanding the theme of this article yet. No animals were harvested but I found success in the time spent with friends deep in the wilderness.
November was crunch time. I had a whitetail tag in my pocket. My patience was rewarded and on November 22nd after passing some good up and comers I connected with a 160” whitetail that was on the target list. As I have said before, this tag folded could be a story itself. I am again grateful and thankful for my harvest, but the real standout of November was a trip to my blind with my two boys by my side. Their first time tagging along for a whitetail hunt. They still talk about it today and probably will for years to come. I wasn’t successful in folding a tag that day but I was able to connect with a coyote. This coyote now hangs tanned in my youngest's room as a reminder of what a successful day that was.
So as you can see my definition of success is different. Yes, as far as folding tags goes I had one of the best seasons a hunter can probably have. I could write stories about every animal I took this season. But the real success was found in the time in the field with my friends, my family and my 2 boys. You can’t hang those memories on a wall but they will last a lifetime. So remember although you may be frustrated some years with being unable to fold tags, the real success is found elsewhere.