I have only been hunting for a little over a decade. But, I often forget how much I have learned along the way that simply gets taken for granted. Remembering the expectations of the first hunts, envisioning that successful shot, and the first moment of an adrenaline dump after a tag gets notched are all what make hunting so special.
I work with a group called the Utah Outdoor Adventure Foundation. We take out mostly critically ill, often terminal, and physically disadvantaged people 26 or under. This includes the wounded military, as well. Many of the hunts that we get to take the recipients on are their very first hunts. This could be for a variety of reasons including being immobile, lacking adaptive compensations to enable them to perform a hunt, or even being too sick or painful to get outside for a few hours.
It is always a joy to introduce anyone to hunting. But, there is something absolutely magical about that person being incapable of doing the hunt without some assistance that can be provided. I am writing this while still processing a hunt from this very morning. It is the opening weekend of the youth turkey hunt in Utah. I have an incredible 14-year-old young lady that has several unique and debilitating diagnoses. When I got her set up to do her hunt, we battled a multitude of limitations including being admitted back to the hospital for several days just before her hunt.
I knew this moment was going to be pivotal and supremely special. We just had to wait for the stars to align and keep trying. This morning was the most incredible moment. I was beating myself up because we did not fill the tag, but she had a fabulous Tom strutting 20 yards in front of her and missed the shot.
She provided the most innate wisdom that I have ever witnessed from someone her age. I told her after the miss that she did a great job, and I was sorry that we didn’t get the turkey.
She paused, looked me clearly in the eyes, and said “I wouldn’t have learned anything if I had made the shot.”
This stumped me for a moment. She went on to explain that her very first hunt would have been unrealistic and not as memorable if some barrier or learning opportunity had not occurred. She was actually proud that she missed it because she taught herself what to do better for the next shot.
I broke our hunt down and got in the truck to go home after she left for the morning.
I replayed that moment over and over in my mind. It dawned on me that we truly do learn more from the misses and hiccups along the way than if the hunt went textbook perfectly.
No matter if we are new to hunting, or well-seasoned, always remember the highs and lows of each hunt. It is in these moments that the real lessons are learned, and we grow every time we go out. I can only hope to be as reasonable and grounded as this young lady was. I can’t wait to get her back out and fill that tag!
Feel free to share with us some of the moments that you have taken as educational moments! We learn so much by sharing and working together. In the meantime, make sure to check out Utah Outdoor Adventure Foundation.
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