The sun had only been up for about an hour as I hiked to the second set of mountains. As I hiked, I thought about the past year and how I was eagerly awaiting this opportunity. I knew I was meant to be up in these mountains. I knew I was going to kill a big buck with my longbow. I remembered being told over the past year that I should take my compound, and that it’s not going to be easy. I knew what I was doing. I thought, “I got this.” It just felt like I was supposed to be there.
I slowly moved up a small knob onto a bench, and noticed a small watering hole to my left, about 300 yards away. As I began to focus my attention on it, I noticed a mule deer butt walking up a game trail from the waterhole. I brought up my binoculars and saw that it was a buck. I could see that he was already starting to lose his velvet—his antlers were slightly red, and I could see velvet hanging. I saw that he was heading up between two small stands of timber, and if I didn’t get moving I’d lose sight of him. I started to move across the bench to get up higher so I could see where he was going, hoping to be able to put him to bed so I could plan a stalk, and then it happened. A bachelor group of bucks came crashing out of some aspen saplings 20 yards in front of me. There were four, and two came toward me and veered to my right. One was a nice, tall and wide 4×4 and the other one with him was a forky. The other two went straight away from me to the top of the hill above the saplings and stopped and looked at me. The bigger of the two was another 4×4; his rack was as wide as his ears. He was 40 yards from me in the clear, staring at me. I looked down at my longbow and shook my head. Today is your lucky day, I thought. And then, after what seemed like five minutes of staring, the 4×4 bounced away out of sight, he and his buddies would never be seen again on this trip, and I silently cursed my longbow.
Proverbs, 11:2 tells us “When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.” You see, leading up to my mule deer trip I was so sure that I was going to kill a deer, I thought it would be easy. I thought going somewhere I’ve never been, hunting an animal I’ve never hunted before, and throwing in my longbow would be easy. I thought I’d go out to Colorado and kill a big buck. I’m a big bad bowhunter I thought. I was full of myself. Who was I to think that a big buck would simply fall into my lap?
I went from chest thumping, “Look at me, I am heading out west for a high-country hunt,” to being severely dejected two days into the hunt. I was so upset about losing that waterhole buck, and that I didn’t see that bachelor group before bumping them, that I thought my trip was through, and that’s when humility began to run down me like an afternoon mountain rain. I remember starting to laugh and looking out at a distant mountain range when it hit me. Slow down and look! Stop chasing after these deer like a rut-crazed buck and stop and look around at this great country, so I did. I lifted my head up and saw the beautiful mountains in front of me. What a glorious sight to see, what an amazing experience I just had with those bucks. I remember thinking that I needed to take in every minute from here on out.
James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I was so humbled in that moment that I was able to see through all my self-centered motivations and witness one of the truly magnificent gifts from God’s creation and that’s the Rocky Mountains and the wildlife that inhabit the area. I was so wrapped up in the hunt that I wasn’t witnessing God’s beautiful creation. I wasn’t seeing the forest through the trees.
I traveled somewhere I had never been and expected the best to happen. And it did. I may not have shot a mule deer, but I experienced an unforgettable moment with the Lord. He slowed me down so I could see all the beauty, so I could enjoy every step, and when I was looking out over the mountain range from 12,000 feet, I’m pretty sure I felt his hand on my shoulder too.