Journal Of The Hunt
This article is dedicated to the importance of keeping a hunting journal and the how-to of doing so.
I was inspired by an article I read in Eastman’s Bowhunting Journal a few years back on this very topic. Since that day I have kept a written journal of all my hunts, no matter the length of the hunt.
To my surprise I have found the journal is every bit as important as the photos of the hunt if not more important. Let me explain. We all hunt for the experience right? Some of us put more stock in bigger antlers, some of us like the sheer sport and excitement hunting brings into our lives, while others use hunting as a pure form of building inner strength. We may all hunt for different reasons, but the one unifying thing the hunt does for all of us is build memories.
I have often told my wife that the animals I have mounted in my office is not necessarily for the enjoyment of others they are primarily a way to transport me back into the hunt. You see every time I look at any of my trophies a flood of memories rushes back over me. The majority of the memories from the mounts are primarily specific to moments spent with the animal whether before the shot or after the shot.
The photos bring back memories specific to the photos, visual stimulations of the time and place the image was captured. The journal actually lets you relive the entire experience, when reading your journal you feel as if you are transported back to the very place and time.
I have a very good memory and have always felt that I would never forget the moments that have helped to map the course of my life. Whether the 1st steps of my boys or the moment I met my wife, truth is the acts rarely are forgotten; what is forgotten are the details surrounding the moment that makes it come alive again where you can relive it.
Videography is probably the best way to preserve these times; however as any hunter knows this is not usually an option. What is an option is the journal, the way our history has been recorded, pen and paper.
What I have for you in this article is one of my first journals of the hunt. This journal below is in its raw format just as it was written. This is not revised, rewritten for better journalism, it is just as I stated raw, in its basic format. I am giving the journal this way so you can realize you do not have to be a great writer, you don’t have to have eloquent words, just write and describe events as they happen.
My format is simple, when I arrive back at camp and am setting around the fire or laying in my tent I start jotting down the times and events as I remembered them happening throughout the day. If my times are off by a half hour, who cares, in a year you will not even remember if your time account was accurate or not. One lesson I learned the hard way is write every chance you get, don’t skip several days or definitly don’t wait until the hunt is over to try and compose a journal. If you procrastinate in this way I guarantee you will be surprised at the amount of detail you cannot remember. Just think about it, if you cannot remember events as they happened one week later, how much of the experience will be left by father time in the years to come.
Try a journal one time; I believe you will enjoy the documenting much more than you imagine you would. If you are at all like me you will become more diligent with each passing day making sure those memories stay alive. I now have other reasons for the journal, two of those are a 6 year old and 4 year old, that I hope someday will be excited to pick up those journals and live those hunts with dad.
Below is a one of my first journals, this is of an elk hunt in New Mexico with my brother, Paul.
10:00 a.m. Was supposed to leave Tucson, did not actually start driving until 12:20.
3:15 p.m. Pouring rain and had a flat on Paul’s trailer, spare tire was too wide, and so we drove on to Wilcox and purchased 2 tires and a wheel.
9:00 p.m. Made it to Alamogordo, too tired to go further so we stayed at Motel 6.
5:30 a.m. Awake, 1 hot cup of coffee later we are on our way to heaven.
Took all day to get camp ready. It is in a beautiful spot.
3:00 p.m. Hunting finally, at 5:00 pm heard 2 bulls. Never got a good look at them.
8:00 p.m. Back at camp, Puerto Rican rice for dinner and off to bed.
5:00 a.m. Late action today elk nearly finished bugling by the time we are in them. Seen 4 cows and 1 spike bull, smelled them before we saw them.
9:00 a.m. Located a herd of wild hogs, they are very vocal, 1 is huge and I stick an arrow in him; cannot find him I will look again tomorrow.
11:15 a.m. Paul and I find the elk, two 4 points and a herd of cows. Shortly thereafter we locate a very large 6×6 and 3 spikes, chased him awhile but the wind never cooperates.
1:00 p.m. We are 2.84 miles from the truck.
6:45 p.m. Elk start bugling-Time is too short it is dark at 7:30
4:00 a.m. I am awake and ready. I hunt Barnes Canyon, only 1 bugle and I cannot find the bull, he does sound big. It rains again, while it is raining I am able to stalk within 30 yards of 2 mule deer bucks, they are only a forky and a 3×3 – Not big enough.
11:00 a.m. Back at camp everything seems to be holding up okay despite all the rain.
3:00 p.m. Paul and I take the 340 road to Powder Draw cabin. Did not see anything except a lot of traffic. No bugling in Lost Canyon.
Paul hunts the cut through to Barnes Canyon, elk are not vocal, he gets within 20 yards of a 5×5.
3:30 a.m. Paul and I are up and feeling pretty good about the day. The Advil I took last night seems to be helping my legs.
6:30 a.m. We hear our first bugle. We are at the head of what I will refer to as pig canyon. We go after the elk but they are moving away from us very fast.
9:00 a.m. After going the extra mile and I really mean that, Paul shoots an incredible elk at 49 yards. It happened perfectly, we had just climbed a mountain that went straight up, this after we both were exhausted. At the top we see about 10 cows and 2 bulls a 5×5 and 6×6 – neither were what we were looking for. The elk Paul shot was just over the ridge, the wind was right and the bull stepped right into the opening we were looking at.
10:30 p.m. Two arrows later and we have Paul’s bull down. What a beauty, we are both extremely happy.
1:00 p.m. The work begins, we cleaned and cape Paul’s elk and are finished by 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
6:00 p.m. Back to camp for a much needed shower.
5:00 a.m. Hunted behind camp, only saw one 5×5 and eight cows. On the way back I saw about 30 pigs. We spend the rest of the morning washing clothes and resting.
2:00 p.m. Just as we entered Powder draw we see the best elk we have seen on the trip. I guess him right around 360 inches, this is probably pretty accurate because we are able to view him through the 15x Swarovski’s. (He was watering at John’s 2003 elk camp.)
4:00 p.m. We meet Tom Jones at Juniper Canyon camp. Unbelievably, he has located the same big bull we had seen 2 hours before. This is the biggest elk he has seen all season.
7:30 p.m. Got to go to bed early, big elk to hunt tomorrow, but first I watch a video of my little boy Ethan.
2:30 a.m. I am up; I can’t sleep because I am afraid I will sleep too late. No alarm.
5:00 a.m. I am in the area where the big elk is, there are a few bugles but none sound like him.
8:00 a.m. I have a 6×6 and 1 hot cow walk by me at 28 yards, close enough but the bull is too small.
10:00 a.m. Paul picks me up and we go to the town of Cloudcroft to call home.
4:00 p.m. We decide to go back and hunt Miles canyon where Paul killed his bull. There is elk sign everywhere; however the biggest bull was a 5×5. A long hike with no success.
8:00 p.m. Back to camp. I watched some more video of Ethan tonight. I sure miss him and Cathy.
3:30 a.m. Up and having oatmeal (Cristal’s cookies) and coffee. We head back to John’s 2003 camp area to hunt the big bull again.
8:00 a.m. After following the elk 1 ½ miles, I am finally able to get a good look at him. He is very big, however not the same elk we saw by the waterhole. Thirty minutes later I am 68 yards for him with no shot through the brush. Just as I am about to get a shot, 4 hunters cow calling and bugling spook him and his cows. What unfortunate timing, I now call this area 4 hunters.
4:00 p.m. It is now September 16 the rut is going full on so we decide to hunt the honey hole (the fingers off of Lost canyon).
5:00 p.m. Paul and I are in so many bulls he cannot believe it. Things have changed overnight, out of 12 different bulls the smallest is a 5×5 and there are several 330+ bulls in the area.
7:00 p.m. We are 1.83 miles from the truck and I am 70 yards from a very big bull. Just what I have been looking for, but he never gives me a shot. Frustrating but very challenging.
7:30 p.m. Completely dark and a long walk uphill back to the truck. Two guys from John’s camp pick us up and give us a ride. They had heard one bugle all day and had one bull come to water. Three out of four of the hunters were going back to Georgia with no elk. They were a little discouraged; it sure was nice they gave us a ride.
9:00 p.m. Back at camp Paul and I are too tired to fix dinner, we go straight to bed.
4:00 a.m. After coffee, Paul and I feel pretty good, we feel like today is the day.
6:00 a.m. We are in Lost canyon one mile from the truck trying to get on the big bull I saw last night. This elk hunting can get pretty tough especially when you are hunting one particular bull.
7:15 a.m. Finally we locate what we feel is the same group of bulls we saw last night. We are about a mile from the area we saw them in last. After locating their direction of travel I move in to cut them off.
8:00 a.m. We are really close to them except we cannot seem to get in front of the elk. Paul and I are going from ridge to ridge as quickly as we can. I can hear what I believe is the bugle of the really big bull be saw last night.
8:25 a.m. I am crouched down behind a tree 40 yards from a screaming bull. Paul is about 20 yards to my right. This bull does not have us pinned down, however he is not moving. My legs and ankle are cramping, but I dare not move, this is very uncomfortable. At one point two cows came over the ridge and Paul had to lay face down so he would not be seen.
8:35 a.m. I can hear the bulls coming our way. The big bull’s distinct bugle is making my heart race. We are hoping the wind does not shift as it so often does, because we still have the screaming bull 40 yards away.
8:40 a.m. The bulls are so close it is like what I describe as the being in the center of the hurricane, there are bugling satellite bulls everywhere trying to get to the one hot cow and her herd bull. Three cows and a 5×5 come over the ridge first, they notice Paul or me, we don’t know which and they take off down the ridge. At one point a cow came within two yards of Paul and the 5×5 came within three steps of me. You talk about being right in the middle of the action.
8:45 a.m. Two more bulls come over the ridge under 40 yards, both bulls are over 330 and right behind them is the bugler I have been wanting to see. The hot cow comes by first and I range her at 32 yards. Right behind here is the bull I saw last night. I draw and release without ever remembering doing so and less than 45 seconds and 10 feet later the bull is down for good. Paul and I look at one another not believing what we have just seen. We were in the middle of action that few people ever experience and I have just taken the biggest bull of my bow hunting life.
9:00 a.m. I am hiking back to the truck 1.53 miles away with both Paul’s pack and mine. I would not leave the elk alone. (I did not want another hunter claiming it). I am able to drive the truck to within .42 miles of the elk by coming in from another direction. The elk is the same distance Paul’s elk was from the truck and the packing was all downhill. Can’t beat that.
3:30 p.m. The elk is all packaged and in the cooler and we are going to be eating steaks tonight.
9:00 p.m. Finished with dinner and I am sure I will be dreaming of seeing my little boy tomorrow. This is the most exciting thought of my entire trip.
This article is my opinion, the opinion of Nathan Lawson you may agree or disagree. I sincerely hope you find the positive in it that will make your time afield more special.