One of my best hunts to date was on public lands in Oregon. My then cameraman Brad Cantrell (now producing Heavy Hitters TV) invited me to his hometown outside Hells Canyon to hunt with his family and friends. He grew up hunting that land, so he knew it like the back of his hand. I learned a ton on that hunt, especially what gear I was missing and what hunting was really about. I was still new to hunting and this was my first time hunting out West in the mountains for elk. I flew directly from a fishing tournament in Italy to Oregon, but nine hours of jet lag was not going to stop me from waking up early and hiking between 5 and 10 miles a day.
#1 THING I LEARNED: Make sure you break in your hiking boots before attempting to hike that much! I had to tape up my feet, and got the worst blisters that I had to fight through the rest of the trip and just deal with. Now, I wear the Muck Woodland’s Explorer, which are an all-terrain leather hunting boot, and I will wear them around the house and on my errands before my hunt to make sure they are broken in beforehand.
#2 THING I LEARNED: Have a good pair of optics! I felt like everyone around me could see way better than I could with my cheap pair of binoculars, and I felt embarrassed to keep asking to borrow their pair so I could be included with what they were Looking at. Vanguard Optics came out with a solution to that with their new Endeavor ED II line of binoculars, which gives you the high-quality, low-dispersion glass with edge-to-edge clarity at a really reasonable price.
#3 THING I LEARNED: Have a good sharp knife. It definitely comes in handy when you are out in the woods for long periods of time and turns into a survival tool. Also, you need something sharp to field dress your kill. I especially like the Huntspoint wood handle made by SOG knives.
#4 THING I LEARNED: Don’t rely on other people to guide you, and get your own GPS. The guys I was with brought me down to a spot and left me. We all set up in different sections of this bowl because the elk funneled down into it. I had a cow come running down the hillside almost running me over until it saw me, and changed directions so quick I couldn’t even bring up my Limbsaver bow in time. It definitely got my heart racing being on the ground that close to such a large animal! When it was time to meet at the bottom of the natural funnel, I started walking in what I felt was the right direction. I walked for 20 to 25 minutes until I started thinking I should have run into one of the other guys I was hunting with by then. Since cell phones didn’t work well, I did have a radio to communicate. Still, it was hard to figure out where I was exactly compared to their location. I got into a little panic mode, especially because I left my snacks back at the truck. After walking through brush for over an hour, screaming, and using the radio, I finally ran into one of the other guys. Luckily we had about six guys in the woods that morning, and they could have found me if it came to it, but it was still a scary situation thinking the directions they gave me were so simple to follow yet I still got lost. Having a GPS tracker where I could have pinned where the truck was parked compared to where I was, at least I could have gotten out by myself without the panic.
#5 THING I LEARNED: Look before you pee! I went to go pee on a bush and I heard a rattle and quickly jumped away just in time to see the snake I almost just peed on! I was lucky not to have to learn that lesson the hard way! I hunted hard for five days straight, walked and sweated my butt off, and heard some big bulls bugle. I didn’t come away with a kill this hunt, but it ended up being one of my favorite hunts. Hunting is about the whole experience; the time you spend in the woods with your fellow hunters and the time you spend at the local bar downtown grabbing dinner and telling stories. I pushed myself on that hunt, learned a lot about myself as a hunter and also about how to be more prepared on my next hunt. I have great memories from that hunt and if I killed, it would have been a bonus, but I have never laughed so hard with such a fun group of hunters. That is what it is truly about – the memories you create and being thankful for the experience. WSJ
Editor’s note: Larysa Switlyk, host of Larysa Unleashed on the Sportsman
Channel and Destination America. Larysa is a CPA turned professional outdoorswoman sharing her passion with her main pursuit to influence and encourage other females and children to get involved in the outdoors.