Hunting (like life) is 90% being in the right place at the right time. Of course, it takes skill, discipline, continual training, but nothing can take the place of standing in the exact right location when luck comes to call. Of course, when that does happen you need to be prepared or you may just miss out.

Many years ago, a friend of mine and I were hunting elk in the mountains. We hiked and hiked all morning hoping to get a shot at a bull as that is what we had tags for. Upon cresting a summit overlooking a small bunch of trees, we stopped to glass before proceeding. Biology being what it is, I felt the call, and so I leaned Old Reliable up against a tree and took a few steps away to get some privacy. No sooner had I unzipped my fly and passed the point of no return when my buddy exclaims, “There’s a bull!” Trying to hurriedly finish taking a leak, without frantically zipping up the family jewels in the fly of my pants while grasping for a rifle that I conveniently left out of reach, led to missing our only chance at a bull. I never got a look at him, nor did I see a bull elk the rest of the season.

I’ve seen cheechakos and pros alike neglect to remove scope caps, forget to load their rifles or omit to disengage the safety in the heat of the moment. I’ve heard of a fella who get so excited that he ejected all of the cartridges from his .30-30 without once touching the trigger. Maybe just a little buck fever.

Another tethered their .270 to a pack animal with such amazing efficacy that when he jumped a big buck just off the trail it took him several minutes to get it free and into action, and of course, by then the buck was long gone. Frequently, variable-power scopes get turned to the maximum setting in anticipation of a long-range shot only to rob us of a 40-yard shot at a moving animal who doesn’t permit us the necessary time for any scope adjustments.

Then there are the dudes who left their ammo at home or, worse yet, brought the wrong caliber. The list literally is endless and gets longer each year.

Then are those times where everything just works to come together, and campfire lore becomes reality. The pictures and taxidermy stand idyllic, as it were, as a sort of monument to correct choices meets proper preparation. And it is worth every moment of work that it took to get there.

Who’s to say which outcome it will be each time we take to the woods? Moral of the story is this: All the fancy gadgets and preparation in the world are for not if you aren’t ready at the moment of truth. When that moment comes, don’t get caught with your pants down.

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Dale Valade is a local country gent with a love for the outdoors, handloading, hunting and shooting.

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