It all started with an Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown episode a few years back. He was in Montana with Joe Rogan and went hunting — pheasant if I recall correctly — in one of America’s last frontiers.
They got a few birds, cleaned and cooked them up over a fire, all while discussing wildlife conservation and the field-to-fork concept. As quickly as turning off the safety, my interest in hunting immediately clicked.
I had never had anything against hunting. It just never was on my radar as something I really wanted to try. But throughout my life I’ve always been passionate about a few things:
- Good food
- Hanging out in nature
- Spending time with great people
And hunting checked off all three of those boxes. It just wasn’t clear to me until this random TV episode. Suddenly, hunting was a bucket list item.
Except, like one’s pipedreams of paragliding over the Grand Canyon or sailing the globe, it felt like something that may never happen. My interest sat without movement for many years because the barrier of entry felt too high. Where do I start? What land can I hunt? How do you get permission? What animals are available to hunt during what seasons? Who would I even go with?
None of my nearby family members and almost no friends were hunters, and no one had ever expressed interest that they’d like to get into the sport. It wasn’t until I switched jobs and moved to a new organization that I finally found a person, and a community, that would help make this long-term goal a reality.
The company I work for has many avid hunters on our team. So, I was certain someone would be interested in mentoring me in the art of the hunt. I narrowed down who I wanted to ask based on decorations in people’s offices, then one cold November day while eating in the lunchroom I asked a colleague, Patrick, if he’d take me.
We don’t work close and only had very casual conversations in passing, so I wasn’t sure what he’d say. Thankfully, the answer was a resounding yes.
Turkey hunting in the spring was on the books! Now came all the prep work.
As a seasoned hunter for over 30 years, Patrick set me up with everything to learn the many ins and outs. It started by getting certified through hunter’s ed and acquiring the necessary turkey permits. For any remaining questions I had following safety classes, he answered everything with the patience that I quickly learned all hunters must have.
Patrick walked me through all the logistics and a play-by-play of how a hunt typically goes. We went shooting a handful of times to ensure I’d be a good shot when a Tom started strutting its way towards us. And of course, he helped me get hooked up with the sweetest set of Badlands gear and apparel.
After almost three whole months of meetings, classes, quizzes, shooting outings and more, turkey season came. We met at 4:30 AM at a Walmart and stayed out on the first hunt from sunup to sundown.
Patrick led the way through private and public land, over fences, into brush, around thickets, across creeks and through nearly knee-deep mud. But unfortunately, no birds took the bait.
In total, we were able to get out four times throughout the season. We had a handful of close calls trying to get the birds across the property line, but they just wouldn’t bite. Despite all hunts having no luck harvest-wise, the experience alone made up for the lack of luck.
It all felt like I was a kid again — curiously exploring the woods behind grandma’s house with my cousins. Only this time, it was with a colleague who had started as a distant coworker and became a friend by the end of the fourth hunt.
We spotted countless wildlife including a rare tree frog, raccoons, bald eagles and plenty of deer. Had it been deer season, we would’ve gotten lucky.
But the highlight of the season came when two coyotes attacked our decoys thinking they were the real deal. Holy smokes was that cool to witness. Who needs Planet Earth when you can discover it not too far from home?
This year’s turkey season is over, but I’m ready to go back out. Pheasant and deer discussions are already happening with colleagues so there’s hope for a few hunts come fall.
That’s been the best part of it all. The community. The hunters I work with supported, encouraged, and best of all were excited for me to be trying something new.
Many coworkers stopped by to swap hunting stories after every trip. Others offered up their own gear for us to borrow. Most importantly, they helped me become comfortable and feel welcomed into a fraternity I thought I’d never get to join.
And even though I didn’t harvest a turkey, I got all that, plus the skills and incredible memories that I can now share with others who are interested in getting into hunting.
Here’s hoping the next hunt will come with more luck!