I thought this would be the year I would finally kill my first elk, but here I am the day after my hunt with no meat to show for the season. Yesterday I walked out of the woods with my head hanging low in disappointment. Sometimes we get so fraught with expectations for ourselves or the situations we find ourselves in, and when these expectations are not met, it crushes us.
Yet, here I am, the day after the hunt, still a bit sad, but reflecting on the experience.
I got to spend hours upon hours out in the woods with nothing but bird song, bugs buzzing, well locations thumping, trees rustling, and the occasional jet passing overhead. I saw numerous varieties of birds, wild turkeys, coyotes, deer, elk, and even a bear. I even saw mountain lion tracks.
I walked miles upon miles, exploring the countryside, gaining much-needed exercise. I saw storms in the distance, heard thunder, watched lightening, witnessed rain falling like diamonds, and learned to grin and bear it as I got drenched but couldn’t move.
I saw elk. Boy, did I see elk! I watched them and heard them and smelled them. I was surprised by them and surprised them. I learned how to pattern them, and I did take a few shots, but it was not meant to be.
In the end, I didn’t get the prize. What a disappointment!
Or was it?
I learned so much over these last two weeks. It would be foolish of me to think that the money I spent on gear and gas and food was wasted simply because I did not bring meat home.
Here are some of the things I learned this year:
- Spending time, before season, patterning elk is imperative to the success of a hunt.
- Spending copious amounts of time shooting your bow is imperative as well.
- The sunrise is my favorite display of the sky.
- There are many fascinating species of birds in NM.
- Deer are super quiet. Elk are not…unless they want to be. Then, this massive animal can turn into a ghost.
- I’m not too bad at tracking…but I still have room to grow.
- The wind direction is more important than how little you stink.
- I can go a long way on foot in a day.
- Elk and deer will almost always go a way you don’t expect them to.
- Hiking in the dark with no flashlight is great, unless you’re wearing torn-up sneakers in a field with cactus.
- The sound of elk bugling is one of my favorite sounds…ever.
- My family still loves me, even when I fail.
If I simply focused on the disappointment of my failure to bag an elk, this would be a terrible outcome for the hunting season, and I would likely not try again. Parts of me want to give up and simply buy meat. But I probably won’t.
When life hands us disappointments, we have a choice. We can focus on the immediate issue that consumes our minds, or we can choose to look at what we can learn from the situation and grow. This second option is the one recommended to us as Christians. The Hebrew writer tells us to consider hard times as discipline (Hebrews 12:7). God is training us for future things like a dad trains his son. If we get so caught up in the disappointment, we will completely overlook the ways in which we can grow, and even find joy, from the experience.
May you find ways to shift your perspective, and may you grow as you do.