Shooting the Breeze
Learning wisdom

Rod Carpenter

My 13-year-old son, Tucker, drew a buck tag this year. Filled with excitement, we backpacked a couple of miles into the wilderness and set up camp.

After long hours of glassing, we turned up a few bucks way down in a hole. In the excitement of youth, Tuck was ready to go get them. I tried to explain to him that we really didn’t want to shoot a buck down there, and he reluctantly agreed.

However, we couldn’t turn up any other bucks, and after some badgering, I relented. We dropped down into the hole, and Tuck managed to down a nice four point just as the sun disappeared. We raced to take pictures and bone out the meat. By the time we were ready to go, it was full on dark. Stumbling over deadfall, tripping over rocks and sliding down in the fine dirt, we clawed our way up 500 vertical feet in a quarter of a mile. That is steep by anyone’s standards. Four hours later, we managed to stumble out to the truck.

It reminded me of a muzzleloader elk hunt from many years ago. I had never hunted the ridge before, and as happens every time I touch a muzzleloader, it began to pour down rain. After several hours of slogging along, I managed to convince myself that I was “not in Kansas anymore.” Finally, in desperation, I pulled out my compass and headed south. After several more hours I crawled out onto the 15 road still 3 miles from my truck.

Often, we as outdoorsmen and women tend to push our luck. We get so focused on getting our deer, catching fish, making it to the top (or bottom) or whatever the goal of the day is that we get ourselves in serious trouble. I want to share with you two pearls of wisdom I have learned from my misadventures that hopefully will minimize some of your future disasters.

First of all, don’t forget to fly the plane. That means, don’t get so focused on tracking your elk or pushing through that snow bank that you forget to pause and assess the situation from time to time to make sure you are making good judgment calls and can safely make it back home. Don’t let your ego, or pride, or whatever you want to call it, push you into a bad situation.

Second, plan for the worst possible outcome. Expect to have your truck break down, get caught in the snow, get lost or get caught out over night. I’m not saying that you carry a 50-pound survival kit everywhere you go. I am saying that you take a second to consider what could go wrong and have a plan in place for when it does. I love the quote by Mark Walberg in Deep Water Horizon, “Hope is not a plan.”

I’m sure you will still have plenty of adventures, but if you follow my advice, maybe you will live to tell your grandkids about them.

Have a misadventure or word of wisdom you would like to share? Please contact us at

Rod Carpenter is an avid sportsman, certified registered nurse anesthetist and president of the Bear Creek Shooting Range.

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