Hunting never guarantees success, as I recently learned all too well on a challenging chukar hunt in Hell’s Canyon. I got tantalizingly close to the devil birds, but had no harvest to show for it after four days. To outsiders, hunting might seem like a waste of time. It seems frustrating to put in all of that time and effort only to come home empty-handed. However, I realized that all of the things I loved about my “unsuccessful” chukar hunt, are the same things I love about hiking.
One of my favorite parts of hiking is finding interesting plants, rocks, shells, fossils, animals, etc. It feels like discovering treasure. Whether it’s a colorful stone, lichen growing in an unusual way or fun-looking fungi, I always feel more accomplished on a hike if I found something beautiful, strange or that I’ve never seen before. In Hell’s Canyon I found deer skeletons and tiny aquatic snail shells 500 feet higher than the water line. Flushing the trickster birds was icing on the cake, even though I didn’t get off a shot.
Although the summit is typically the climax of a hike, the views on the way can be just as beautiful. Not all hunts involve hiking up a canyon, but even a relatively flat hike through a forest can result in gorgeous scenery. Take in your surroundings to feel productive after a hunt-turned-hike. In Hell’s Canyon I was ecstatic to get a bird’s eye view of the river and discover historical sites.
In Tune with Nature
The leaves are changing and across the country autumn is in the air. This hunting season, if you’re up before the sun, head afield even if it’s only to hear the animals awaken all around you. And who knows, maybe taking your rifle or shotgun on a walk will pay off! When you’re hunting instead of hiking, it’s even easier to be in tune with nature, because you’re stalking and listening instead of stomping around aimlessly.
Getting in Shape
As I raced after experienced chukar hunter Matt Hardinge and his stellar German wirehaired pointers on my trip to Hell’s Canyon, he kept reminding me that it only gets easier as the season goes on. In early hunting season, tackle all of the hikes you can to shape up for a long season of hunting and hopefully hauling out a harvest! By the end of the hunting season, you’ll be in peak condition for camping and hiking season.
I received even more satisfaction from the gnarly up-hill climbs and steep declines of Hell’s Canyon because I was on a mission instead of just hiking to hike. Another plus side of hunting to hike is that once the temperature drops and hunting season is in full swing, fair-weather hikers are hibernating and you’ll have less competition on public lands!