Raising The Bar: Part 2
When I graduated from high school in 1977, I embarked on a life of my own. My attitude toward bowhunting was changing, and my desire to become more savvy was increasing. I’d harvested a few small bucks, finally obtaining some decent “trophies” of my own. As I’d become comfortable with — and knowledgeable of — the relatively “small” world that surrounded me, I longed for new adventure. Heading West, I soon became infatuated with the land, and its animals.
In the early 1980s, I began to harvest some mule deer and elk that had antlers far larger than any that I’d possessed before — and a fire was lit inside me! I was slowly becoming fairly competent at the bowhunting game, no longer struggling to simply fill a tag. I guess you could say that I was maturing from the “sheer numbers of animals bagged” stage, to the “trophy only” stage. My attitude toward the entire bowhunting experience was changing. I wanted to spend every moment possible in pursuit of large-antlered animals only. I couldn’t get enough of the hunt, and I didn’t want my time afield to be cut short with a tag filled on a “lesser” animal.
The author progressed from a “shoot anything” bowhunter to a trophy hunter.
In order to satisfy my trophy hunting desires, I would push myself to pass on animal after animal, while hopefully harvesting a trophy toward the end of the season. For years, I bowhunted as a man possessed — always attempting to keep the beast inside me satisfied. As fast and effectively as I could, I fed the monkey on my back — soon, the monkey had grown into a gorilla. Now the monster was running my life — mentally, physically and spiritually. Unable to come up with a real fix for my problem, I piggybacked my burden blindly forward. The more I fed it, the more it demanded.
With time, my attitude toward the entire bowhunting experience began to deteriorate. I found myself looking for ways to “push the envelope” in order to obtain bigger trophies. As I began to stumble along the edge of sound judgment, I found my spirit wailing out to me — I was a very unhappy boy. It took a very special season to bring me down to earth. Let me tell you about it … .
Ego Trip Is Costly
I’d spent seven unbroken weeks in the high country of Colorado and New Mexico scouting and bowhunting large-antlered elk and mule deer. I had countless encounters with trophies of both species, and I’d pushed myself mentally and physically past my breaking point numerous times on my self-imposed ego trip. Having passed-up easy shot opportunities on many great bucks and bulls, I closed the bow season in both states without having harvested an animal! As I drove home, I had plenty of time for meditation. I was mentally short-circuited — angry, frustrated and in complete turmoil. I vowed to take my frustration out on whitetail deer as soon as I got home.
Diving into whitetail season, I once again hunted like a man possessed. Of the 92 hunting days available that season, I bowhunted 87 of them — fully 65 of these days were spent in a treestand from daylight until dark!
The author said bowhunting became an unhealthy obsession for him that nearly ruined his life.
At the end of the season, I’d passed shot opportunities on many good bucks. I had five different bucks that would score 140 inches or better within easy bow range. Of these five bucks, I shot at two, missing both of them. I wounded one buck, not recovering him. As for the other two bucks, I’d scared them off before I could take a shot. The last buck that I “choked on” was on December 26, the shot was at 15 yards, and the buck would have went in the 160s. When my bow season finally came to a merciful end, I was near a mental breakdown. My anger and frustration was carrying over into my personal life, too — I was indeed, a pathetic fellow.
During the off-season, I spent much time assessing my bowhunting life. I worked on my spiritual well-being first, and with time, my bowhunting attitude changed. Somehow inside, I knew that I’d never let “antler lust” determine my happiness again. It was time to stop defining my time afield by inches of antler obtained — it was time to get off my stupid, ridiculous ego trip.
Follow along with me in Part 3 next week, as I speculate on where I’m headed on my convoluted journey to maturity as an outdoorsman.
Please read more in Part 3.
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Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Over the past dozen years, Claypool has harvested 23 Pope & Young recordbook whitetails. Six of the deer were taken on public ground, with the rest coming from private ground that he accessed through knocking on doors. He has not been guided on a hunt, or hunted on managed properties. He also has hunted many other species of game including elk and mule deer.