Okay, girls. Moment of truth: this week’s article is not the article I had thought I would be writing right after bow season. I planned to be able to tell stories of the high country possibly including random snow storms, huge bulls, 15-mile days, sore muscles and blistered feet, missed shots, kill shots, blood trails and packing out the meat in the dark. But…

…I can’t do that. My season didn’t include any of those things. Due to some unique circumstances that didn’t allow for me to hunt with seasoned outdoorsmen, this year I hunted with my dad, my 10-year old son and even, one morning, my mom. None of them had been bow hunting in the backcountry before. As much as the backdrop to our excursion was not the “backcountry” most hardcore hunters would think of, it was the farthest back my hunting buddies have ever gone, so it was (our) backcountry!

When you have a giant diesel pickup, an elk tag, a girl with a weapon, lots of snacks and three first-time wilderness-goers all thrown into a game unit with hundreds of square miles and endless possibilities, memories will be made. There were early mornings and late nights, trails taken, naps taken, pictures and videos taken, time lost, animals found, snack breaks, lunch breaks, conversations had, more naps had, teachable moments and priceless moments. No tags filled, but it was perfect!

When you train your mind and body for bow season, you are training towards certain ideals. I wonder if we would push as hard, finding satisfaction in the pain, if we’d plan, prepare and obsess over our season to the level that we do if we knew our hunt was going to result in empty game bags. Would we do it all anyways, year after year?

I know I would. I haven’t knocked anything down with my bow in the last 3 years I’ve gone out. Does that make me a lousy hunter? Maybe. I guess the answer depends on your perspective.

Our culture has been saturated with social media. So many things about it are positive, but I think some elements have had a negative effect on hopeful, young hunters. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., are flooded with pictures and stories of monster elk, moose, mountain lions, deer, speed goats, mountain goats, wolves and whatever exotic animals are being bagged in Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Russia or South America.

With remarkable pictures of behemoth mammals and the unbelievable tales to go along with them it is easy to feel like a failure when the result of a hunt is anything less than legendary. I wonder that we, as hunters, are forgetting why we do what we do. Why should the measure of achievement be determined by someone else’s idea of a successful hunt? Our competition isn’t with others. Our competition is with ourselves. If we create new memories, learn new lessons, are better this year than we were last year, then our seasons will always be a success.

So much life is sorted out on the side of a mountain. Up there things are clearer. The lessons learned go far beyond hunting animals. There is a safety in the high country. A security that allows us to find a place of vulnerability where we can be honest with ourselves and others in a way that touches the core of who we are as people, as athletes, as hunters. The moments spent examining and challenging ourselves at that level are few and precious. Those are the times when we claim our victory, even in defeat.