Article and Photos by: Clint Casper
Bowhunting anything can be tough, actually it can be down right miserable at times, but the feeling of achievement when those precious times happen that the stars align and we achieve our goals are well worth the pain and struggle. Now imagine that same level of pride and sense of personal satisfaction and multiply it by 5... That's how I feel when I achieve one of my bowhunting milestones the SOLO way.
I get asked all the time, “Clint why do you hunt solo so much?” No, it's not because I hate people. I actually love people and spending time with family and friends. Also, it's not because I'm selfish and want to only see myself achieve success. Most of my favorite hunting memories are actually watching others succeed like my girlfriend did this past spring! I was so excited for her when she smoked her first tom at 42 yards! The reason why I hunt solo so often is because of what I get out of it. Let me explain.
What It's Given Me
I've always said bowhunting solo has made me the man I am today in many ways and adding the “solo” aspect has only heightened those characteristics. Patience. Focus. Courage. Mental strength and physical toughness are characteristics that I now possess because of bowhunting. Tough hunts in the mountains for days on end, by myself, have made me mentally stronger during hardships that come up in life. The physical toughness that I possess during a long, hard day of work has a lot to do with me pushing through a deep packout or a long, strenuous day of hiking and hunting. Courage is a huge factor in the backcountry on a solo hunt because many times you'll find yourself in uncomfortable situations where course will be needed to keep a clear head and make good decisions. These hunts definitely have allowed me to gain more courage in myself and my skill set. These experiences not only have helped me to be a better bowhunter, but a better man.
Patience is something that not everyone has, but it's something that can be learned and needs to be a characteristic for us all to be good bowhunters AND good father's, husband's, uncles, brothers, etc. Without bowhunting and especially bowhunting solo, I would never have the patience that I have now. This carries over into my home life with the kids and even at work or on our farm. My mindset is that patience will payoff in life like it has on a long hunt out of state where an opportunity is so hard to get and being patient is a must.
Stone Hardens Stone
I think my favorite aspect of solo bowhunting is that it's me against myself. Naturally I'm a very competitive person, with that being said when I'm hunting alone I have one person to compete against, myself. What I mean by that is that I'm always pushing myself to mentally and physically go further than I thought I could. I know my limits and I want to push them everyday. I know that eventually it will pay off, because I don't want to let MYSELF down. Sure I could say I hunted 12 miles a day and stayed back in the wilderness for 10 days straight and realistically nobody would know if I actually did or didn't, and it'd sound great! But I know the truth and I know if I gave it my all or not.
For me these solo hunts are not all about punching a tag or grabbing onto a set of antlers. Obviously I love chasing big critters and certainly love when I get to put an arrow through the pumphouse of the quarry that I'm after, BUT that's not why I do it this solo way. I do it to test myself and to see what I'm made of.
Did I train hard enough? Did I shoot enough? Am I proficient with my equipment? Mentally can I handle a 10 day backcountry bowhunt, alone? These are the games that I play against myself and the preparations/ practices that I do all year long preparing for “my Superbowl,” which is when the hunt is finally taking place. So just because a tag goes unfilled doesn't mean I failed, OR didn't succeed. If I made it in the wilderness by myself for 12 days and lived, if I gave it my all and pushed myself to the limit everyday and if I mentally left this hunt knowing that I did everything in my power to be successful then my friends... I won the game and I succeeded in my mission.
Why It'll Make YOU a Better Hunter
Solo hunting will make or break you in more ways than one. Physically, mentally, or even emotionally….BUT it'll also harden you. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment and self worth knowing that you've done something that 99.9% of the world will never do, or probably want to do. You'll leave these hunts, with or without a punched tag, feeling like you've won at life. YOU survived in the backcountry or the wilderness for days on end. YOU made it in and made it out. YOU made all of the decisions and challenged yourself more so than you probably ever thought you could.
Because of all of these characteristics that a solo hunt will give you, YOU will feel like you're a different person and hunter. It'll make YOU appreciate life and appreciate those hunts that we thought were hard, but realistically they're not hard at all. A good example I always use is on a long stretch of all day sits during the whitetail rut, that I'll do each year, often while being bored, tired and restless I'll think about those 8-10 day solo hunts. Quickly I remember that tonight after this 12 hour hunt, I have my truck, my house, my kids and my better half at home that I'll get to see, unlike a solo bowhunt in the mountains. Now that all day rut hunt doesn't sound so bad, does it?
I use these solo hunts to reflect back on when I'm on other bowhunts that aren't going my way. I think back to conquering the mountains and the wilderness along with the confidence and courage that it took. These memories push me through a long whitetail season, or keep me after those stubborn longbeards with my bow when things just aren't going my way in the spring. For me, solo hunting isn't just about that hunt….it's about learning lessons for the rest of your life and that's what intrigues me the most.
Every time I leave the mountains or the wilderness, I know in my head that I'm a tougher, better man and that to me is always going to be a bigger prize than a set of antlers.
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