There are no guarantees
I received an email from one of the readers of this column telling me about an upcoming hunting trip. He successfully drew a moose tag in New Brunswick, Canada. Only 100 non-residents are drawn each year and this is the second time he was drawn for a tag. He told me of both his excitement of going and taking his son as well, but he was also nervous.
I wished him well and as of the day this column runs they will have returned with a story of a great adventure together.
One thing I know he is aware of is the possibility of an unsuccessful hunt. There are a number of obstacles that can prevent the reward of a great trophy to match an epic adventure.
Mark Huelsing, for instance, has dreamed of elk hunting and for the last couple of years has been buried in research, practice, and physical training in an effort to pursue that dream. This year he knew he would be attempting the elk hunt in Colorado, but he also had an added bonus of being drawn in the Kentucky Elk lottery too.
For the last 10 days I have watched him tweet and post on Facebook beautiful photos of himself in the white capped Rockies overlooking vast valleys of green. A post would appear with disappointment as torrential rains and strong winds would hinder the hunt for several days.
All the training, all the study and even the money and time dedicated to the trip resulted in his return home with just a story and some landscape photographs. He has remained upbeat knowing he still has a chance to accomplish his goal with the Kentucky hunt still to come.
My grandfather, who had taken over 100 record book big game animals in North America and Africa, came home from trips that lasted several weeks with grand stories. However the one that was painted the most vividly is one in which he did not return with his desired trophy. He was hunting one of the big cats of Africa and was going with a guide he was not familiar with. Back in the 70s and 80s there were few people or companies to arrange trips such as this and Papa used one that was at the top during the time, Jack Atcheson. The particular guide that Atcheson had associated with was new for him as well.
As the professional hunter (what guides are called in Africa) and my grandfather moved through the brush, the PH motioned for my grandfather to pause. “Do you hear that?” he said. Just then my grandfather saw the great cat walk into an opening ahead of them and stop.
Knowing the nature of cats, something seemed awry in this whole scenario. My grandfather let down his rifle and proceeded to walk straight to the cat. It bounded off. But Papa noticed something. He saw two men on top of a cage nestled back in the brush. The guide was using captured animals and releasing them to guarantee the hunt. Papa never did get the cat he was looking for, but he never used that guide again either.
Success is not a guarantee when hunting.
However, even with the lack of success, a lot can be learned from failure. Mark will be taking his new found experience and applying it toward his hunt in Kentucky.
Papa used his lack of success to find out more about the guides he would be hunting with when using agencies to book hunts. And whether or not the reader found success in his moose hunt, I am sure he and his son will learn a lot about each other.