Ambition aged 34 years

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Steve Angell with a beautiful Pope and Young pronghorn. Gross score of 74″.

The bowhunters I know have longstanding dreams afield. I do not.

I’ve been behind the riser for nearly a decade, but have always felt too new to the game to have any of my own. I’ve come a long way from “flingin’ and prayin’”, having shot several deer with my longbow, but it still feels like happenstance. Each harvest was a gift.

Not so for my more seasoned brothers. Each kill is purposeful, rehearsed, and earned. Two of my dearest friends, Steve Angell and Thom Jorgensen, are prime examples. They’ve logged more time into the pursuit of game than I have breathing. And, as if the almighty himself made it a point to reward the effort, both of them were recently very successful on an antelope hunt in Wyoming.

That is only the story’s conclusion (and a poor summary at that). I will not give you the details of their hunts, partly because I wasn’t present and because they are writers in their own regard. I’ll let them empty their quivers at the fire when they feel like doing so. Until then, I will elaborate about the dream of one of these gentlemen in particular. A dream that was 34 years in the making.

Steve Angell is one of the most dedicated bowhunters I know. He’s been at it his entire life and has wanted to take an antelope since reading about them in magazines, as a kid. Thirty-four years later – at the ripening age of 49 – he fulfilled that dream, tagging out on a 74” Pope & Young buck. It was the 34, not the 74, that flared my eyebrows when he relayed the story to me on the phone.

I turned 34 years old last December, which meant Steve had been dreaming of antelope my entire life.

I couldn’t imagine wanting something that badly. It really made me think about what I wanted to accomplish with my longbow. I thought hard about it that afternoon. I tossed and turned on it that night. One would think that knowing what he or she wants to hunt would be an easy feat for any hunter. It wasn’t for me.

It rained the next morning and I spent a lot of time indoors – journal open – wrestling with a black ink pen. I was down a pot of french roast and massaging a cramping hand by the time I finished. I read through my work and was introduced to a Nick I’d known all of my life but somehow never met.

The most intimate of truths screamed at me from the page. Things I was surprised to write, but didn’t want to read. I was ashamed of some of it, yet amidst all the self-deprecating scribbling, came true wisdom:

“You are a writer who hunts, not a hunter who writes.”

“You are never going to be the guy that organizes a hunt or knows all the answers at camp. That just isn’t you. You are there to observe, reflect, and share. In other words, you are just along for the ride.”

“You don’t care about what or where you are hunting. It is who you are hunting with that truly matters to you.”

I had never heard truer words and am thankful they were my own and not from the lips of someone I didn’t care for.

I’ve never had aspirations to hunt impala in Africa or chase grizzlies in Alaska. Not that I wouldn’t go if invited, but I haven’t laid awake in bed dreaming about the scenario. It may be because I’ve only hunted outside Michigan a handful of times. Or maybe its because I’m a bit of a pessimist blinded by the barriers in front of me. Either way, as John and Paul sang, “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends. I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

And I will. I already have hunts in the works in Kentucky and South Carolina in fact. Maybe that is the key to unlocking the adventurous side of me. I may not have ambitions aged 34 years, but I’ve got the will to experience and record life and those I live it with, as I see them.

You need to live to do that. And I will. I’ll just need a friendly nudge from time-to-time.

The Blue and the Gray


A man’s got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.
– Ernest Hemingway

Here I sit within hours of (what I hope to be) the best trip of my bowhunting life and all I can do is reflect on the hilarity of trips passed.

My Georgia hunting trip has been the highlight of my season and primary source of outdoor adventure for several years. There is nothing quite like hunting in a foreign place, especially for a homebody like me. The moment my boots hit that red Georgia clay, I’m in another world, and I love every minute of it. Especially those that don’t go as planned – and there have been many in our case.

The occasional mishap is inevitable on any adventure and shouldn’t keep you up at night. These are the gems you’ll cache away forever. Whether its breaking your friend’s vintage Coleman lantern the first day of camp; walking several hundred yards past your stand and into a patch of greenbriar; or falling flat on your ass and sliding down a wet hill trying to climb into a hammock seat, the re-telling of your well-earned lumps will become the stuff of legend, swirling amidst the smoke of future campfires for years to come.

People enjoy and remember humor as much as success. We are born to fail as much as we are born to succeed and it is this failure that makes the successes all the sweeter.

Steve Angell (the resident Civil War historian of our camp) once dubbed this little hunt “The Blue and the Gray”, making light of our Michigan/Georgia origins. I thought it tongue-and-cheek at first, but its become more than just a catchy name for me.

Bowhunting is blue and gray, not black and white. The blue is the sweet – clear skies, cool breezes, the sound of rippling water nearby, an opportunity at an animal, the arrow hitting its mark – the best of circumstances every hunter strives for. The gray is the salt – an arrow in a tree, eating a can of “wedding soup” because there’s nothing else left at camp, rain on your last day in the woods.

While we strive for the blue, we should learn to embrace the gray.

So, I look forward to Georgia. I look forward to a week spent with close friends. I look forward to success. And I look forward to failure – every hilarious minute of it.

This year’s Blue and Gray hunt will be on Cumberland Island near the Florida/Georgia line and will be the furthest away from home I’ve ever hunted. We’ll be after pigs and deer and I have a good feeling I’ll connect with something this year (something edible anyway). Our little group will be short one Yankee, but I’ll do my best to pick up the slack. There will be a great story to tell either way. Stay tuned!