As of writing this, on October 24th, I still have not harvested a Mule Deer or Elk, but I absolutely love hunting! I’ve been out almost 15 times with no luck, but every single time I learn something new and try to apply it in my next time out. I’ve been close many times, so far, but can’t wait to actually get my first deer or elk.
My path to hunting started in the fall of 2020 when my wife’s dad, a life-long hunter, was visiting us in Utah for an Elk hunt. Around that same time, my coworker Evan had been asking if I wanted to go to the archery range to fling some arrows and I finally took him up on his offer. It didn’t take long at all for me to get hooked and already looking forward to the 2021 hunting season.
Over the next 9 months I was shooting every week, trying dialing in my skills with a bow. At first, I was borrowing my friend’s Hoyt Turbo and shooting it out to 20 or 30yds at the Easton Indoor Archery Center. Not long after, I finally pulled the trigger on bow of my own. A Hoyt Torrex XT, in the Cam Hanes print. Week by week, I got better, getting more and more accurate at distances of 20, 30, 40, 50 yards on the 6″ diameter targets. I really enjoyed the process of having to setup the bow sight to all the distances to focusing on my body posture and release to be more and more repeatable. By summer I was hitting the 12″ target out at distances of 70yds and loving every second of the progress I had made. Was I perfect, no, but I was consistent and knew my limits to eventually put in action during the season.
The following winter, I took my hunter’s safety course and put in for a deer and elk tag. Later that spring, I got both tags, and the deer tag was in the unit I was hoping for, East Canyon/Chalk Creek/Morgan-South Rich. Just before the season, I went out and bought all the camo gear I’d need for the warm summer opening day of bow season on. August 21th. Fortunately for me, my buddy Evan let me borrow a hunting pack, bino harness, and range finder until I got my hunting kit up to par. And we were all set for opening weekend.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way some times and I was unable to spend as much time as I would’ve liked to hunt those first weeks of the season. We were able to buy a house that required a lot of work to get ready and move out of our condo, so my time was drastically split. Nevertheless, opening weekend came and it was incredible, minus the freak thunderstorms that rolled in every evening.
Starting off up the trail at 5AM, Evan and I made it up to our waypoint, one we had marked on the map the night before, an hour before the 6:44AM sunrise. We sat up on that hillside as the sun slowly lit up the mountain peaks that surrounded the canyon. Peering through the binoculars (binos), we began to watch as the mule deer went about their morning business from where they slept the night before. Does and fawns slowly crept their way up the ridgelines around us, getting us excited, but ultimately disappointed as we only had tags for Mule Deer Bucks and Bull Elk. Eventually, we found the bucks we had been searching for. One by one, they made their way uphill towards us, but just as they got within bow range, they winded us or changed directions to avoid us. This became a theme we began to realize all too frequently.
See, in the mountains, every morning, the cold air descends downhill. Then in the afternoon, as the sun heads up the mountainside, the air flips directions and moves uphill. This throws a monkey wrench into our hunting plans because the deer bed down for the night at the bottom of the canyon, then move uphill during the day. In general, the plan for most, is to catch the deer while they make their move uphill in the morning or downhill during the evening. And that morning, we watched a half dozen great sized bucks move uphill out of bow range for one reason or another, and i was difficult to watch them pass by.
The closest I came was on a 2×2 buck that was climbing a hill nearby. I decided to make a move on him and cut him off from the other side of the incline. I made my way over to him and got within 60 yards, but an impassible section of scrub oak separated the two of us. To make it worse, he was sky-lined on the hillside, which means there’s no background to the animal in case I missed. After staring at each other for a few minutes, he scrambled off over the mountain.
The rest of the day was the same story, as we explored the rest of the zone, trying to make move after move on deer as the moved uphill. Unfortunately, the outcome was always the same. Either they ran off before we got close, or they heard us or smelled us and that forced them to run off. It didn’t matter, even though we both came up empty handed at the end of the day, I was hooked.
Hunting is a funny activity. There’s not a single other activity that I do, where I can be so unsuccessful one day, almost wanting to never do it again. Then the next day, having the mindset of being super hopeful for the next time out. Over and over again, I have this same cycle of emotions after each time I go out to hunt and come home unsuccessful. Then the next time out, I think to myself, “This will be the time. I’m going to get it one this time.” And that’s what keeps me coming back for more. One of these times, I will get lucky tho and hopefully can execute the shot when I need to.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.