As 2017 comes to an end I thought I would write about the lessons from the past year. And some of my best memories as well. Here are five things I learned in 2017.
New Zealand is the place to be in April
A top five memory for me in 2017 was red deer hunting in New Zealand. Max finally got his stag in the roar after two years of shooting reds without recovering them. I didn’t shoot my red during the roar, but Max and I hunted three weekends while they were roaring in April and it was awesome. One hunt, Max and I crept up a ridge and just as we neared the peak a stag roared one hundred yards away. He was thrashing a tree and screaming his head off challenging what he thought was another stag above him. As I crept down the ridge he caught our wind and took off through the bush. The memory will stick with me for a long time and keep me coming back to New Zealand in April.
Antelope in Wyoming is worth it
For under eighty dollars in tags Stuart, Jared, Alec, and I spent three days stalking antelope last August in Wyoming. The great thing about antelope hunting is that you can use whatever strategy you want, so the hunt is as easy, or as hard, as you want it to be. We spot and stalked with our bows for three days, but we talked to three hunters who all shot antelope from the road the opening morning. The endless BLM land and seventy degree weather makes it a low stress hunt, and the golden hills of Wyoming never get old.
Make friends in Colorado, it will pay off in September
Stuart shot his first bull elk in September. He spent countless hours reading books, practicing calling, and target shooting, but what really led to his success were the friends who pointed him in the right direction. He hunted for the first week of the season with one of my dad’s friends who showed him how to make camp. He also kept the morale high from his experience with slow early September hunting. Though Stuart didn’t have success that first week, he then moved to a better public land location. Stuart was calling me every day with another close encounter and it seemed like only a matter of time before he would get his bull. We knew of this spot because of my sister’s father-in-law who has been elk hunting for the past twenty years. It is great to read books and watch videos, but a ten minute conversation with a friend who has just the right information may be the difference. Follow every connection to Colorado you have, and talk with every elk hunter you know, it may be what fills your tag next season.
Challenge yourself to hunt October
Max came back for three weeks in October for my sister’s wedding. We begged her to move the wedding back to November so the hunting would be better when he was here but we had no luck. Max spent the last week of his stay doing morning and evening sits during the October lull. We kept telling him that as he was leaving the hunting would be getting good, and on the second to last night he connected with a nice eight point. It was the first shooter buck he had within range the entire trip. November gets most of attention in magazines, and many hunters only hunt hard in the first half of November. But I often notice that the televised hunters are filling tags in October. A new challenge in 2018 could be to fill your tag in October. Or at least hunt October more effectively. It can be done, and it may open up more hunting options like mule deer in November.
2016 was a rough year for me hunting wise. I had three nice bucks get away and missed a coyote as the year came to a close. 2017 was a turnaround. There were letdowns and misses in 2017 as well, but many of the close misses in 2016 went my way in 2017. My hunting mindset often seems to be either one of euphoria or redemption. Either I am on top of the world and addicted to hunting, or all I can think about is the mistake I made that cost me the trophy, and when I will get my chance to redeem myself. There are always dreams in the back of a hunter’s mind and some years they come true. No matter if it feels like everything went right this past season, or you can’t stop thinking of the small mistake you made to miss your trophy, 2018 could be the year everything comes together. Good luck and keep hunting.
Harrison Hoegh is a deer hunter in Southwest Iowa. He has also hunted red deer, tahr, and pigs New Zealand, Antelope in Wyoming, and pigs in Florida. Next season he plans to hunt elk and mule deer in Colorado. You can follow along on the Iowa Slam Instagram and Facebook pages for new videos and blogs from him and his brothers Stuart and Max Hoegh.