Noble, Holy, Useful and Prepared

2nd Timothy 2:20-21

“In a large house there are many articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.(21) If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at my church that I grew up in. As I prepared and prayed on what exactly I should speak on, I read through the book of 2nd Timothy. It took me an extended period to make it through the 1st chapter, as many of the verses had me researching each word. These two verses really resonated with me. I spoke on the 21st verse. The thought had been made clear to me on how my life experiences and struggles had shaped me into a tool to help people in what some people would call unusual methods and locations. The Wilderness has shaped me in many ways, and these two verses do a fantastic job of explaining some of my experiences in a more formalized way. The following is a breakdown of how I read these verses. I have seen these very words applied in my life through the ministry efforts that I am involved in with the Wilderness settings.

Verse 20.

Each wilderness setting brings different elements to the table. There are many adventures that I have been on that had that curb appeal to them. 

These could be the gold level or best of the best when it comes to what pleases the eye. There are also many of these adventures that did not have that curb appeal. No matter what the experience looked like from the outside, it was either building me up spiritually or trying to take away from my foundation by waging spiritual warfare. There is nothing wrong with having articles of gold and silver in a house, just like there is nothing wrong with having wood and clay items in that same house. 

But with these items that we have either accumulated or have been gifted comes the decision we make. What will you do with these items? Will you use these items of gold, silver, wood, and clay for noble purposes, or will we use them to satisfy our selfish desires? 

Through my time in wild places, I have obtained many items and have collected many skills. Some of these things were used for noble purposes and some for ignoble purposes. I have spent too much of my time using these items of gold and clay to chase after things and experiences that were ignoble. It wasn’t until I began the process of erasing these desires that I found my purpose. This is still an ongoing process, but in that, I have seen that it is okay to have lots of money or to live from paycheck to paycheck. It is okay to be an extrovert or be an introvert. We are all made with so many different parts and pieces. There are many gifts, skills, and blessings that are gifted to us for many various reasons. With each one of these, you must decide to use that item for noble purposes or the latter. You may be the type of person that would become hopelessly lost if someone handed you a compass and said to head west, and that is okay. Not everyone is meant to have the ability to navigate through the Wilderness. Still, you have other skills, excellent skills that, when combined with the right people, can make something that is truly life-changing. Use what skills you have for noble purposes and find others around you who strive for the same.

Verse 21.

The words in this verse are so powerful. How great would it be for someone to introduce like this, “Meet _______, he is a great man as he is an instrument for noble purposes.” If you read that and say that you wouldn’t want that introduction, then you are stubborn and a liar in my book. My speech at my hometown church was modeled after what I feel are the three things that a warrior is called to:

1. to be an instrument for noble purposes

2. to be useful to the Master

3. to be prepared to do any good work

My mind thinks about many different things at one time, especially when it comes to writing. 

Because of this, I am going to write an article on each of these three things as they each deserve specific and intentional attention. As seen in verse 20, if you search out for noble things and get rid of these items and pursuits that so quickly evaporate what true nobility is, your reward is there waiting for you in verse 21. Of course, this is not a physical award such as a plaque or a medal, and there will never be a moment when you reach the pinnacle of finding what noble purposes you are placed on this earth for. In striving for nobility in Christ, we set ourselves up to wage war in many different realms for as long as we are alive on this earth. This means a lifetime of physical, mental, and spiritual warfare. Evil is trying to find a way to break your mind, body, and soul, and it will use whatever he can get his hands on to do that.

Rather it is an extraordinary item of gold or a basic item of clay; he can find ways for you to use it that are far from noble.  

I urge you to read 2nd Timothy 2:20-21 when you are feeling unmotivated to fight this battle.

You have been placed on this earth at this specific time in history for a noble purpose. Use what items you have in your quiver to fight for that noble purpose and surround yourself with men who are doing the same.     

The Wilderness Series- Placement

People ask me what I do for work, and I have yet to find a shortened answer to that question.  I have a very odd way of making a living, and some would go as far as to say that I am living the dream.  Being in the right place at the right time rather by strategic movements or sheer luck has brought me to my current season that I am.  The one thing that is common with my many different job titles is that I am required to find the nearly perfect placement in the various activities that I am involved in.

Wrong placement is often seen and realized much quicker than proper placement.  A scenario that has played through my head the past 6 months is that of a bull elk that slipped through my hunter’s grasp.  Despite my efforts to close the distance on the mature bull and my ability to call the bull into just under 8 yards, we were still unsuccessful in killing our intended target.  As the early sun was rising over the mountain to our east, it peaked just before the bull showed himself.  This bull looked magical as he silhouetted himself on the ridge, appearing more like a dragon with his breath glowing in the early morning sun.  At the last second, before he had appeared, I had moved our setup to the right about five yards.  This proved to be my error as the bull came in with the sun at his back, which pretty much blinded us and made it impossible for my hunter to see his bow sight. That right there is bad placement due to guide error. 

Rather I am guiding elk hunters, talking to customers or leading veterans on a backpacking expedition, I find that I must place myself in situations that will not only make me successful but also the men I am leading.  So much of what I do hangs on where I put my feet, where I place my thoughts and where I place my heart. 

Just as I look to place myself and others into situations that will be successful, God has placed me in situations that He knows I will be successful in.  This success may bring me worldly glory, but in the end, it brings Him glory. His placement is always perfect, and His timing of that placement is always perfect. 

You may be going through a season right now where you are questioning your current placement with your job, relationship status; the list can go on.  I want to encourage you to press on. You may not believe you are set up for success, but God believes you are.  He can see your promise even in your hardest season.  Your placement in that hard season is worth your patience as the longer the winter, the greater the harvest.

The Wilderness Series: The Unknown

The Wilderness Series: The Unknown

What happens when you first come face to face with a challenge or a goal that you are unfamiliar with? Time seems to slow down as you move through the various procedures that lead to either set you up for success or failure. The unknown brings about an added sense of adrenaline along with a concentrated focus.

This challenge of conquering the unknown is quite an overwhelming task to take on. It takes minimal effort to get comfortable in the simple things that don’t necessarily challenge our status quo of regular everyday life.

One of the things that I most enjoy about exploring wild places is the fact that most things don’t happen twice. There is always an added element to every typical situation. You have to remain vigilant and on point as your surroundings are ever-changing. The days spent out in these places feel much longer because of this added focus. 

The challenge that hunting brings to these wild environments is very worthy whether you are familiar with the country or have never stepped foot in it. Honestly, the thought of just doing the same routine over and over and expecting the same mediocrity that many times follow with this type of lifestyle sounds like a waste.

The wild places are meant to push you. You are supposed to struggle and have second thoughts when you are pursuing something of great value. If you don’t have these types of pains and struggles, then you may want to sit down and reevaluate your current situation.

Heading off into the unknown brings about satisfaction in a person. No matter what circumstance you find yourself in knowing that you made that initial step means quite a bit. Now, the steps to follow are crucial on your path to an unknown situation.

There is short term satisfaction in knowing that you gave an effort in your field, but then due to underlying circumstances, your progress was stopped. When you go back and look at this memory, you will find regret in knowing that you gave up so early or that you gave up when an obstacle arrived. Pushing through these hardships that are most certainly to come on a difficult path is why you should take the path of resistance in the first place.

At the end of an excursion, many thoughts go through my head. Almost immediately, when I am back in the comfort of civilization, I begin to regret the decisions I made while out in the wilderness. Whether it was not checking a distance ridge or choosing sleep over further progress, many things seem uncomfortable in the moment but lead to regret when we look back and evaluate our decisions.

This thinking and mindset carries into everything we do in a day. Did we give our best effort? Did we use all of our available resources? Questions like this pop into our head with every little thing we do, and many times our lack of effort has us answering these questions in a negative light.

If we decide to embrace the fear of the unknown with an active, decision-making mindset, we can minimize the feelings of regret because of a lack of effort. The unknown is out there and is meant to be explored. Are you willing to go out and find it?    

The Wilderness Series: The Early Years

I have been writing on and off since 2014. Some of my “work” if you want to call it that was done in my school notebooks. I was very skilled at playing the part of an avid note-taker when I was actually thinking about being in the mountains. I found some of my old notebooks and wanted to put some of these ideas into a more formalized writing format. As part of the Wilderness Series, I want to have some early memories involved in my first few years of exploring the mountains. So, here is an unedited piece that I wrote on January 24, 2015. I believe I was in some type of History class at Angelo State University when I wrote out these few sentences.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

I quite often turn to Scriptures while hunting. I confess that I don’t read as much as I should, but I feel like nature brings out Christ in me. I have this Scripture, Deut. 31:6, written on my bow. I wrote it on there last August and truthfully forgot what it said. I now know exactly why I put it there, but I also see how there is so much more to be absorbed from this chapter in the Bible. Moses spoke this verse over the Israelites as they were about to enter the Jordan. Moses, being 120 years old, was forbidden to go to the promised land. So many times in life, I feel that if I can’t do something, then I should feel bad for myself and my lack of success. But Moses teaches me a lesson here. He says, ”The Lord, your God will go over before you.” The God who spoke to Moses and guided him his whole life is watching over YOU. Moses trusted God. He had faith in what was going to happen. Doubt will always creep in on any situation you encounter, no matter how well you handle that scenario. You will either fail, succeed, survive, or die at everything you attempt to do in your life. The outcome will never be known beforehand. Scary stuff to think about. But the Lord says, “Do not fear, I will not leave you.” In the middle of a hail storm at 12,000 feet elevation, I will not fear. The Lord is watching over me and is presence is oh so welcoming. Moses also shows me that I need to help others prepare. What do I really miss out on if I miss a chance to chase elk next fall? I can be selfish and somberly express my displeasure with my current circumstances, or I can use my knowledge and skills to help others prepare for their own journey. Whether they are chasing after elk, pursuing a job, or riding out a hard season in life, I will tell them the exact same words Moses told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” You and I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I do know Who holds tomorrow. Do you?

I can assure you that I do not remember what I learned on January 24, 2015, there in that History class. But I do know that my mind was in the right place if just for a few minutes. I have learned much since I wrote down these few sentences you have just read and have been through many seasons of life. I have come to find that you will begin to have a clearer picture of what your purpose is in the season you are presently enduring when you realize this:

Everything you go through in life is sharpening you in some form or fashion so that you may use these experiences as your own tools to encourage those who are broken and need mending. God gives us these tools throughout our life. We do not know when this happens or why but they are there for a reason. We must have faith and run with endurance the race that this life brings us so that we can make great work with these tools that have been so graciously given to us.

I did end up making an A in that class despite my extra-curricular activities.

The Wilderness Series, Part 1

The wilderness has an alluring presence about it. Just its name alone attracts many to think in ways that seem far out from the typical day to day activities. We all search for some avenue to discover more about ourselves. Rather this be through a group or a solitude environment; we would all agree that a divine presence must come into play for self-discovery to be achieved.

A journey of epic proportions into the vast expanse of the unknown where one can lose himself to nature and forget about the world that is behind them. I would say that that is a relatively accurate description of what most would say an adventure into the wilderness should comprise of. The wilderness in physical relations is seen as an area that has minimal intrusions by human hands and machines so that man may only be a visitor to these wild places, leaving them in their most natural state.

One thing I love the most about the wilderness or any of the wild places that I venture into is the fact that you are not actually escaping the world that is behind you. When you strip down the distractions that surround us daily, you have no choice but to face what exactly is distracting you. Venturing into the unknown brings you face to face with whatever you deem the biggest fear in your life.

I have been on my fair share of wilderness adventures here in America and overseas, as well. A common thought I have had once an adventure was completed was one of regret. You never truly know how much you love the time spent in a wild place until you leave that wild place. Strangely, you miss those struggles, those little inconveniences, and those hardships that you faced out there in the bush. All of those little things have added up over time and have helped me find some sort of purpose in different areas of my life.

This article has been an introduction into how I view an environment that I consider rugged enough to earn the title of “Wilderness.”

There will be many articles to follow that will cover various experiences I have been fortunate to endure that have made a lasting impact in my personal growth.   

My goal is that once you are done reading this, you will find your own reason to go out into a personal wilderness setting to test your limits and to discover what treasures are just over the next ridge.


Think of something you have done or have thought about attempting in your life that you deemed difficult or that was a struggle for you. Most likely, that activity in the eyes of another person is seen as something that is an everyday occurrence or is seen as an activity that is not worth their time because it is too easy to accomplish. There are many things that we do in this life that seem stressful, tough, or impossible from the time we begin the event through its completion or failure to do so. Many times, the level at which we experience these feelings of stress or thoughts increases because we see others accomplishing this task with ease. The thoughts of doubt in our abilities slowly fill our mind  

A lack of perspective allows someone to lose motivation for the activity at hand. It will enable ideas to move into your head that what you’re doing does not matter or is irrelevant for you to become successful in the future. With these thoughts in your head, perspective can be a hard thing to regain.

Perspective from the eye of the doubting person is usually viewed from someone above them who has been there or accomplished the feat at hand. With this viewpoint, the proper perspective that is needed to be successful is hard to gain.

To regain the correct perspective to accomplish the task at hand, we have to change our mindset. Look at perspective from this angle: all of the struggles that you have, are currently facing or will face in the future are struggles that someone else would love to go through. Do you complain about your parents being too strict? Think about the children who wish they could complain, but they do not have parents. Do you complain about your legs being sore? Think about the men and women who are missing a leg, and have more to complain about but yet they do not.

When we stop looking at our struggles as detriments to our future and begin looking at them as certain occurrences that will shape and mold our future, we will start to find our purpose.

Staying in the mindset to sustain the right prospective is a day to day challenge. It is not something that will change overnight.  When you continually challenge how you view your perspective, you will begin the find success.

Perspective is everything.

Change your perspective and your attitude towards struggles in your life will follow suit. When conflicts come your way, embrace it, knowing that someone somewhere wishes that they were going through your current circumstances. Go about conquering these struggles and hardships as if these people were on your side, motivating you to succeed.

James 1:2-4

 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Murph’s Carry

Murph’s Carry- a story on how you get a warrior with one leg up a mountain

2 miles up. 2 miles down. Elevation- 11,000 feet.

A picture tells many stories. Pictured you will see Alex in the lead and Murph on top. Both of these men served their country and were a part of class 3 of the American Warrior Association’s Soul Program.

Seven men combined their efforts to make it possible for Murph to reach his goal. Between a makeshift stretcher, a backpack and our own shoulders we carried this man up and down the mountain that day. Murph’s determination to reach the top opened up his mind and body to allow us to serve him in a truly humbling manner. Being thrown over someone’s shoulder who then proceeds to traverse up a mountain puts a man in a very uncomfortable position. Murph never said one word complaining about his current situation. In fact, he was the one who was making jokes all day. His drive and willpower to reach the top was truly inspiring for every man on the mountain that day. One step at a time was our motto as we slowly progressed up that mountain. We were greeted with rain and hail upon our summit if you were to ask me was a proper greeting. There Murph recovered from his climb under a poncho warming himself by the fire. Sore, tired, and soaking wet he entertained us throughout the downpour. The rain lasted just short of an hour as the storm continued on its course heading east. As we began the journey down, each man could feel the pains from the first half of the trip. With soaking wet clothes, sore muscles, and an urge to fill our stomachs with some abnormally large pork chops, we pressed on with each step-down. A few changes in strategy on carrying Murph and a couple bewildered looks from strangers on the trail and soon enough we found ourselves back at the trail-head. A day well spent in the mountains with a band of brothers.

Proverbs 17:17-  A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity

A Day in the Bush with Thomas

Days in Africa begin when there is just enough light to see your surroundings. Unlike your typical American hunt where you might be up hours before first light, Africans don’t like to rely on flashlights you could say.  This is a practice I wish we could adopt, but unfortunately, I don’t believe it will happen. 

I awoke early on this day in Africa and headed up the path to the main lodge.  As we did not have any hunters in camp, I was unsure what this day would bring.  I grabbed a piece of fruit and some toast in the kitchen on my way up to where our informal morning meetings happened by the vehicles.  It was chilly that morning and the trackers Mario, Alberto, and Thomas were bundled up in a couple of layers of clothes.  I think I was in shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt.  They always wondered how I never got cold so I would tell them stories of hunting in the snow.  Needless to say, they were very content in their current condition.

Today, we needed to do a fence check.  Fence checks need to be done periodically to check for animals who have broken parts of the wiring and to look for signs of poachers.  This area along with many other regions of Africa have a big poaching problem.  The day before our neighbor had run across a poacher and was able to turn him into the authorities.

I headed up towards the small barn where the trackers were sharpening their machetes.  Their method of sharpening the blades was a sight to see.  This process involved Thomas holding a grinder between his legs. He then put the edge of the machete on the grinder as to sharpen the blade, and while squinting, he proceeded to sharpen a few machetes for us.  I jokingly asked if this was our anti-poacher weapon. Thomas answered, “No, Hayson, Yoga protector.” (With Thomas’ ascent, my name sounded more like Hayson instead of Jason. I found out that day that “Yoga” in Afrikaans means “snake”) I was pretty sure he was joking, but then again, he could have been serious.  It is Africa after all.

So now armed with a machete with no handle, a bottle of water and an orange, Thomas and I started our trek to the North end of the property.  We followed the road for a few hundred yards then cut down following a game trail towards the base of the large rock mountain. To our right was a large valley that was dense with a canopy of trees all the way to the bottom off in the distance.  The pace was fast as moved through the thickets of the forest and towards the cliffs in front of us.  A couple of climbs brought us to the backside of this rock mountain and into an area where the trees created a tunnel for us to walk through.  While walking through this area, Thomas stopped and pointed at scat laying on the trail.

“Leopard, Hayson.” 

Not many leopards made it through this area, but nevertheless, it brought about a slightly eerie feeling knowing that a cat might be watching us. 

We made it out of the natural tunnel and into the long grass.  The countryside reminded me of New Mexico with vast rolling mountains, but with very dense forests.  Ticks were prevalent as I at one point had over 100 bites on me, but that is another story.

After about an hour of hiking, we started walking along the fence in grass that was 2-3 feet in height.  We had walked a short distance when Thomas turned around.  In broken English and some Afrikaans, he told me that this was the spot where a black mamba came at him many years ago.

“Hayson, BIG MAMBA”

He described how he saw the grass moving as the snake came towards him.  In a very comical manner, he reenacted jumping over the fence and saying he ran to the horizon.  Thomas always made stories sound very funny when in fact many of them were life-threatening.  This is coming from the man who killed a 9-foot mamba with a slingshot. 

I don’t remember a day where Thomas and I did not share a laugh together. 

We lost some elevation in our hike and quickly gained it back as we came to the “Christmas tree” corner.  Here, Thomas took a quick smoke break as I drank half my water. After the short break, we started heading south along the fence.  Soon enough Thomas started moving with purpose as he looked closer to where he was stepping.  He pointed out a spot in the grass and said “Poacher.”  I asked him if it was from this morning and he said yes.  We moved a couple hundred more yards along and came to a small branch in the fence.  Thomas noted this and moved a couple steps farther along then like a hound dog picks up a trail, he turned into the thicket as I followed.  We walked through this thick, thorny area very slowly and after 50 yards made a discovery: a wire snare.

A makeshift snare made out of scrap wire made a large circle across a game trail.  The purpose of this was to grab hold of an animal.  When the animal, in turn, walks through the snare, it tightens down around the head, neck or body of the animal.  Fear quickly overtakes the animal and death is slow. 

We removed the snare, and I put it in my pocket.  (The snare made the trip back to Texas with me) We hiked back out to the fence and continued on our journey south.  We made it over the next rise and cut off towards a small bluff.  This spot had a perfect tree for shading and was Thomas’ designated napping rock.  We sat down and looked out over the vast expanse.  We did a quick scan for wildlife and found some blesbuck were off in the distance feeding.  After about 10 minutes of rest, we heard small footsteps just below us.

A massive porcupine showed itself to be the owner of these small footsteps.  Thomas jokingly motioned for me to go grab a quill to which I told him I would if he did.  Neither one of us made an attempt on that porcupine that day. 

The rest of the hike was uneventful as we hit the south fence line and turned west.  It was a steep descent down to the valley floor.  We soon saw Alberto who was making his way down the opposite side of the valley.  We met him on the valley floor and proceeded up the road as we started clearing brush to a bow blind that was in the area.  After a while, we heard the bakkie approaching, and that was our cue to head back to the road. We all piled in the back of the Landcruiser and began the journey back to the lodge.

On the last part of our hike, Thomas had pointed out a tree.  The tree had knife markings all up and down its trunk.  He said that he had made a mark on that tree every time he passed by it.  The tree had quite a few knife marks on it as Thomas made one more. 

That tree will not see another mark from the knife of Thomas. 

Thomas took ill in November of 2018 and passed away during the night at the end of January of this year.

I was fortunate to spend 45 days in the field with this man.  I knew when I left Africa, that I would most likely not see Thomas again. I have many lessons learned from Thomas that I will use in my own adventures and will pass on to others.

This picture shows Thomas and I on the Elefantes  River on my final day in Africa.  

Hamba Kahle my friend.

September 22, 2016- A day on the mountain

We departed KCLL (College Station, TX) with our destination KMTJ (Montrose, CO) plugged into our navigation system at 4:00 pm.  Just thirty minutes before, I had been sitting in class doing my best to finish up a lecture on hospital administration.  Spending 6 hours in class with the allure of the mountains and an elk tag in my pocket seemed almost unbearable.  Fortunately for me, my father had an elk tag burning in his pocket as well so he was as motivated as I was to answer the call of the mountains. 

With our mid-afternoon takeoff, storms throughout the mountains were in store thus giving us a winding, ducking, and rising route as we began to pass through New Mexico.  We cut west towards Albuquerque missing a storm off our right wing then headed North towards Alamosa.  Dad was left seat with me to his right monitoring radar, frequencies and keeping a visual on storms and mountain peaks.  We crossed into Colorado and had to make a decision to head NE or NW.  At the last second, we saw a break in the clouds at our 10 o’clock so veered the aircraft towards that opening.  We reached an altitude of 18,700 which in an unpressurized aircraft can be exciting.  We had our oxygen bottles at ready but soon descended to a lower elevation once we topped over the clouds.  We had just crossed the high peaks of the San Juans mountain range and now found ourselves heading due west with the Blue Mesa Reservoir beneath us.  A 100-knot crosswind was coming off the right side of our nose requiring heavy rudder action by both dad and me to keep the plane on course as we descended towards the Montrose valley. 

We landed safely and taxied over to the local FBO.  I believe my mother was the happiest out of all of us to be back on earth as she was passed out most likely due to lack of oxygen during the last part of our flight.  A long dinner ensued with a stop at the hardware store and the grocery store.  With gear packed, we headed off into the mountains.  Arriving at midnight, I was quick to unload my equipment and begin packing my pack for a particular area I had planned to hunt.  By 3am, I was loaded up.  With a fresh cup of coffee in my hand and a headlamp wrapped around my head, I loaded my pack into the cruiser and started the drive towards the backcountry.  A 30-minute drive brought me to the end of the road and the beginning of an adventure.

 I began my hike at 3:40am. 

My route was just under 2 miles to an area that would serve as my basecamp.  The trail begins with some incline and switchbacks.  I noted how “tame” this trail seemed now compared to the places I had been just a few weeks before.  As my headlight began to show my terrain changing from a steady incline to a trail passing through a thicket of willows, I was greeted with the sound breaking limbs.  My assumption was that I had startled a moose, but I did not stick around long enough to confirm this as I began a long sprint up the trail to put some distance between myself and whatever creature I had disrupted with my presence. I reached the 2-mile point with no other exciting occurrences.  Light sleet had changed into light snow by the time I had reached this point.  I waited at this staging area for 30 minutes listening for bugles up the mountain and to gather m thoughts on where I should start my hunt. 

The snow continued to fall as I headed deeper into the wilderness.  Right at first light, I found a small group of cows feeding off to my left as I was sneaking through a group of evergreens.  No bull was present in this gathering of elk, so I slowly passed them in hopes of finding a bull in an upper basin.  My search in the upper basins showed me no success in spotting any animals, so I changed my course to head back above the area where I had first located the cows.  It was mid-morning now, and the snow was now 6 inches in depth making my ascent through the fallen trees and rocks somewhat tricky.  I made it to a good glassing point that would allow me to see a north facing slope along with an upper part of the valley, but to my dismay, the clouds that had brought in the snow had other plans.  I worked my way up the valley cow calling using the snow to my advantage through still hunting.  At noon, I finally received an answer to a bugle that I had let out.  The bull was much lower in elevation, so off I went back down the path I had just made.  My gloves proved pointless as they were soaked through.  I had also grown tired of my long hair the week prior to this, and as a result, I had very short hair.  Going from a head full of hair to hair that is short in length makes a shocking difference in how warm your head stays.  Neither the less, I trudged on through the snow that was rising ever so fast.  I worked my way towards the bull.  After going back and forth with him in a “bugle battle,” I soon saw my prey and saw that he was a very young bull.  Much too young and small to receive an arrow.  He had no other compadres with him, so I gained some elevation back and made a small camp to get out of the snow and eat some jerky. 

After a delicious meal of some stale jerky and a smooshed sandwich, I packed up my scattered gear and headed farther up the valley in search of another bull.  Some glassing and calling presented me with no opportunities in seeing or hearing an elk.  I had planned on staying in this drainage for 2 days, but with the lack of elk, I decided to start the trek back to the road in search of an area that would produce more sightings.  I arrived back at the truck a few hours later with icy hands and a halfway frozen pack.  My gloves proved to be worthless and were soaking wet within the first hour of daylight.  I cursed myself for the inconvenience I had created and vowed that when I got back on a computer next week that I would purchase a set of insulated, waterproof gloves. 

I threw the pack in the truck and headed towards the high country to make the most out of the hour or so I had left of light.  Fortunately for me, the snow created a perfect backdrop for locating elk, and I was successful in finding two beautiful bulls high up on a ridge.  I watched them as they worked their herds with the colorful aspens and fresh snow in the background.  I had the seat warmers on as I was still trying to defrost my hands which would end up staying swollen for the next 10 days. 

The sun set over the crest of high mountains to my back as the elk fed in the snow-packed meadow above me.  Once last light had come and passed, I packed up my optics and began the slow ride back to camp.  A short but very much needed night of sleep awaited me as I would be chasing the sound of bugles come first light the following morning. Slowly but surely, I made my way out of the high country and another day on the mountain had come to an end.

Velvet at 13,000 feet

An adventure in the mountains no matter how long or short is something that is sought after by many. Whether a person knows it or not, they have a longing to face the fear of the unknown and conquer obstacles once thought to be impossible. Sooner or later you come face to face with this challenge and find out if you have what it takes to push hard enough to succeed.

The following is my account of a successful hunt that happened on August 27, 2017, in Colorado and the couple weeks leading up to the day. During the hunting portion of my adventure I was alone, but before the hunt and after the kill I had many give me solid advise and lend a hand in my pursuits.


I found out that I had drawn my deer tag while I was working in Africa in June. After arriving back in the States, I spent one day at home, and quickly went back up to Colorado at the beginning of July. The next month and a half consisted of losing some weight as I had bulked up quite a bit from the fantastic food in Africa, and traveling back and forth from Texas and Colorado while balancing school and work.


I started scouting two weeks before the season mainly focusing on areas above 12,000 feet in elevation. The deer in this area, for the most part, spend the first part of the season up high before they migrate down. I loved the allure of the steep country and the difficulty that would come with planning a stalk in areas where the cover was minimal at best. Plus you always hunt where the animals are. I wouldn’t foresee myself hiking up some of these areas for recreational use but to scout or hunt; I would hike up and down until I could do no more.

I was fortunate enough to find an amazing buck in an area that I had not labeled as a spot to see a giant.  I watched him for the better part of two weeks doing my best to “guard” him per-say. Three to four days before the season started, my cousin and I were doing the usual race up the mountain before first light routine. We turned onto the 4wd road well before first light. Unfortunately, there was a guy unloading his four-wheeler decked out in Kuiu gear. I thought surely he was stopping at a spot before my glassing area. But sure enough, as we started our hike he was a few hundred yards ahead of us. A few hours later he came down, and AJ and I started talking. He was hunting elk and had killed a nice buck up there the year before. We started sharing some stories which led to a few scouting trips together and ended with a final pack out of his dad’s bull two weeks later along with a new hunting friendship.


I set up a camp where I was planning on making my approach to this buck. He was in a very easy to access spot, and I felt uneasy as I do not enjoy hunting in crowded places. Two guys were setting up a camp a hundred yards down from me, so I decided to make small talk. My account of the story was that I politely informed Troy and Denny of the big buck’s presence, and told them that it was open game but that I would be up there first thing opening morning. Troy has a funnier version of it but anyhow that molded into an amazing friendship. We went up and scouted the area a couple of times, and they were very insightful on tactics for mule deer hunting to which I was very grateful. Plus, they cooked good food and had a warm tent.


My plans for opening day took an unexpected turn when in the last hour on the day before the opener, the big buck vacated his area and ventured into country that was unknown to me. I decided to hunt my plan B spot which still had some very nice bucks. I camped up high that night and fell asleep under the stars. A light layer of frost was on my beard when I woke up and slowly moved out of my bag ready to conquer the day.


These bucks had a habit of feeding in a lower basin before heading to the cliffs up high to bed for the day. At first light, I glassed the basin and saw one deer. I made the hike over to set up in a position that would put me within 70 yards of the bucks as they walked by. After an hour of waiting and not seeing any deer, I had two does cut across the rocks above me at 46 yards. To my disappointment, however, the two mature bucks took a higher trail and passed at 90 yards. I had another doe walk 20 yards from me as well which helped give me a little confidence boost in knowing I could get close to the animals despite the lack of cover. I watched them walk straight up the mountainside and bed high up just above a cliff. I located some landmarks and hiked back out to start the long trek to go around behind them. I’ll spare the details of the rest of the day, but it consisted of six hours of waiting just out of range of the bedded bucks unable to close the final few yards and one blown stalk on a nice buck after a mile stalk. It was an entertaining first day to which I decided was successful in that I had learned a few things about specific deer behaviors and how to navigate the rugged ridges.


I awoke the morning of the 27th again with some frost on my beard and the coals of my fire smoking slightly. I made my way to glass where I had seen a few deer at last light the evening before. I located the bachelor group of bucks from the morning before, but this time they were on top of the ridge heading farther back into a hidden bowl. I was able to glass them for 15 minutes before they went out of sight. I boiled some water and enjoyed a quick meal of oatmeal and coffee, packed my pack, and started the hike straight up. The hike wasn’t impossibly hard, and I won’t play it up as something that was a trek that only I can do, but it was pretty dang rough. Gnarly is a term I like to use to describe it. It was just under 2,000 vertical feet up to the bottom part of the ridge. I was able to reach out and touch the ground straight in front of me for most of the hike to give you a reference for the steepness. Once on top, I was looking south into the hidden bowl for the now bedded bucks. To my surprise, I found them on the north side of the ridge almost at the top. They were a mile away or so. I only saw two deer, one was a large 4×4, and the other was a large 6×4. I knew both deer well from scouting and watching them the day before. They were bedded just below the ridge, and I guessed them to be 50-60 yards from the top of the ridge. A makable shot in the right conditions. The south-facing side of the ridge was made up of cliffs and very little room for passage. There were deer below me in the basin so I needed to stay as high as possible to keep my scent from busting them. It took about an hour and a half to get within 200 yards of the spot that I had decided would be my “kill spot.” A few places along my trek were difficult in navigating somewhat safely, but I made it threw none the less. This last climb up was tricky as it was steep and had loose rocks. I had to place my bow above me and clear out debris for two foot holes every time I wanted to move. There were some hidden crevices to my left, and the chance of there being a buck bedded up in them was high, so I moved slowly and with purpose. After the meticulous and somewhat grueling slow climb, I had cleared that area and was now focused on the top of the ridge 35 yards in front of me.


There were three small saddles in front of me. My original plan was to come through the upper one, but it was covered in unstable rock making a quiet approach not possible. My second option was also covered in rocks so I had to resort to my third option which fortunately was covered in grass. I quietly took off my boots as size 13 feet can be loud and started inching my way up to the ridge. About five yards from the crest, I laid on my back. I moved slowly inching ever so close to the edge checking between every blade of grass for fur. I was just reaching the top when I spotted the tip of an antler through the grass just below me. Luckily my calculation had been wrong on the bucks being 50-60 yards away as this buck looked to be only 10-15 yards from me. I moved two feet closer and knocked an arrow. I was now able to see that the buck was bedded and was facing me. He was the 6×4 I had scouted. I was mentally preparing myself for the shot. I was calm and figured that he would be standing up in a hour or so as it was half past noon at that moment. Those next few minutes passed by so quickly as I was mesmerized at his antler movement. I was peering through a few blades of grass in front of me with my rangefinder. I needed him to stand up and move to the right for a clear shot through a slight depression on the ridge.

At 12:40, he stood up.

I quickly found that all the preparing I had done in the past few minutes and the months before went out the door as I came down with an extreme case of buck fever. He fed to my right and set up perfectly in my lane at 12:42. I ranged him at 36 yards.

I was watching his antler move back and forth and waited until I saw the rack facing away from me. I drew while laying on my back and slowly raised to a seated position. I rested my pin and squeezed. If you have ever just shot an arrow into the air and watch it for what seems miles, then you know what I saw next. My arrow went right across his back and is probably still flying today. I had no time to be frustrated. I quickly laid back down and watched the velvet antlers take two bounds and stop. I could tell he had no clue what had just happened and was not buggered very much. I grabbed another arrow from my quiver and knocked it. This time I was even more focused. Between both shots it was only 10 seconds at most but so much went through my mind. I knew I had shot high. First off, I’ll admit that it was user error for the most part. I had a tendency of shooting slightly high. My two adjustments I knew I had to make was to find my peep once I was on target and not beforehand. Steep angle shots require different hip movements to acquire your peep and add that to drawing while entirely horizontal, and you could have issues. I was also 3,000 feet higher in elevation than where I sighted in my arrows so that had a slight effect as well. At this moment I know that once I raise to shoot, I will have 5-6 seconds of a shot opportunity before the deer disappears.

I raise up to my sitting position while drawing. As soon as I do the buck turns perfectly broadside and we both lock eyes.

I didn’t have time to range again but I figured him to be at 40 yards. His body angled downhill with the side of his body where my arrow would exit being lower than the entry. I placed my 30 yard pin just in from behind his shoulder and halfway up his body. My plan was for my arrow to hit in the lower part of the shoulder and to exit perfectly halfway up on the other side. I released and heard the distinct popping sound that every bowhunter loves. The buck immediately disappeared off down a steep shale side. There would be no waiting to track him however as I immediately jumped up to my feet and ran to where he was bedded initially. As I was running towards the edge I ran ten steps from the large 4×4 who was still bedded down. He looked very confused as to what was going on. He quickly spooked out of there along with three other bucks. I came to the edge and saw a buck running below me. He looked to be somewhat clumsy in his steps but once he stopped and looked back up my way, I saw no wound and quickly figured that this was not my buck. At that moment I glanced to my right to where I had sat the day before for six hours, and just below the saddle I saw him.

The buck was no more.

It’s hard to describe what that moment was like. He had run 80 yards and had died within a few seconds of my shot; something that any hunter strives for. I moved back up to the saddle where I had made the shot and looked on my GPS, elevation: 13,025 feet. I had always dreamed of shooting a deer above the 13 mark, and somehow I had accomplished it. I started working my way on top of the ridge; slowly moving down the short cliffs that separated me from my trophy. As I got closer and closer, I still just couldn’t believe what I had just done. Doing it alone to me was quite the feat, but then again I had no one to share this moment with. But then and there if not just for a moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. In here, amongst all the cliffs, steep crevices, and endless openness, there lay my deer. As I walked up to him, he just kept on growing and growing. Not just antlers but body size as well. He was curled up on a steep slope, so the first thing I had to do was to drag him the short distance up to the ridge. It took all I had, but I was able to pull him the few short feet up which would make the process of breaking him down much easier. As I got him settled into his final resting spot, I just laid back. I don’t know how long it was. But for the time being, I had beautiful mountains around me and no distractions. Before pictures and before the skinning process began, I just wanted to stay in the moment. Sitting there next to my buck and looking at the view of the Rockies. Doesn’t get much better than that.


Although I was alone that day on the hunt, many people helped in a huge way in making the whole experience a success:

First off, my cousin Josh. We scouted miles of country together and he also met me pretty much at the top just as I started packing out the buck. He flew straight up the mountain to my spot with much-needed water and broke trail for me as we made it down the rocks.


Troy and Denny opened up there camp to me along with there immense knowledge of the country and bow hunting.


AJ killed a remarkable bull the same day I killed my deer as well. He is truly a beast in the hunting realm and knows how to do it the right way


And a last thanks to the Murphs, Whinneries, Dad, Mark, and Jason Huebnar.