From an extremely young age, hunting has been a part of my life. I am fortunate enough to have a great father, who is not only an avid hunter, but saw fit to include me as early as possible. Dad had an old frame pack fashioned to carry his toddling son. From mowing the lawn, to tailing a pointer through rice checks, my dad packed me along. I remember going for a ride on rainy days in his old red GMC, sitting in a booster in the middle of the bench seat. On one such trip, Dad stopped the truck and took off up the hill after a buck, telling me to stay put. I quickly unbuckled myself and hung my head out the window, straining to hear a gunshot. When his old ought six rang out I hollered out the window "Did ya get him? Don't gut him till I get there!" With his affirming response, I promptly hopped out of the truck and ran up the hill as fast as my little legs would carry me; I was four years old. I killed my first turkey at age 9, sitting between my dad's knees and using an old 4-10 bolt action single shot; Dad's first shotgun. I'm sure that along the way I spooked plenty of game and slowed him down, but he insisted on including me whenever he could, and the few times I wasn't able to go, I was crushed.
Dad was far from a trophy hunter. You couldn't afford to be too selective with a California general tag, hunting old logging roads. I wouldn't say he was purely a meat hunter, he would take a mature animal when he could, but a common saying was "any port in a storm," that is, take what you can get. He instilled in me an appreciation for the experience, not just the trophy. When I was in high school, my Dad got into archery hunting, so of course, he bought me a bow too. What began as just another opportunity to hunt, to do some early scouting for the rifle season, turned into an obsession.
When I left for college, time to hunt was sparse. Something I had grown up doing at every opportunity was now hard to fit in my schedule. Between studying and other collegiate activities, I watched hunting shows, read books on hunting, and scoured magazines; none could scratch the itch. So, when Dad called to ask if I could join him on an elk hunt in Colorado, at midterm, I lied. "Yeah I think I can swing it." I marched into the admissions office the next day and withdrew from my classes, just a week before the refund deadline. I went to Colorado and killed my first bull elk. A great friend and mentor named Grizz was along on this trip. When I got on the radio and announced that I had a bull down, Grizz was the first one to arrive. I stood in amazement at the sheer size of my first elk, "How are we going to get this thing out of here?" Until this hunt, I had always drug my quarry back to a road; this was not a feasible option with an elk down in a deep canyon. Grizz took me to school that day. He took the time to walk me through quartering an animal on the ground, then helped me pack him out. This is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned as a hunter. After packing the last pieces out to the road, where Dad stood beaming with pride, I told Grizz, "now I can hunt anywhere." Quartering, deboning, and packing animals out on our back was not common practice on previous hunts. I once helped Dad drag a buck a mile and a half down a creek bed to get back to a road. The allure of getting an animal out whole was lost on all of us after this trip. This was a major turning point in how and where we would hunt. "How would we get one out of there?" was no longer a reason not to hunt a remote canyon.
Despite my irresponsible decision, I eventually finished school, and moved to Juneau, Alaska immediately after graduation. I worked as a zipline guide for one cruise ship season. Living in Alaska gave me a whole new appreciation for everything outdoors. My days off were spent exploring, fishing, and backpacking in southeast Alaska. This is where I found a fascination with the wilderness. Hunting with Dad, we were always near a road. Deer camp was somewhere we could drive to, sometimes with a camp trailer in tow. With my recently acquired skill of quartering and deboning an animal, and my newly found comfort in the wilderness, I had evolved into a completely different kind of hunter. By October when the cruise ship season in Alaska had ended, I headed back home to California excited to explore new territory with my bow in hand. I was determined to find remote wilderness areas to hunt blacktail deer.
I took a job at a local retail warehouse, where I met Zach and Dusty. Friends since grade school, Zach and Dusty were hunters at the same evolutionary step that I was. Both had grown up hunting, but were breaking into the wilderness hunting I was obsessed with. We went on one hunting trip together that year, and Zach expressed his idea of filming our experience to share with the masses on the internet. This is where Out West Outdoors was born. Before long we added my brother in law, Jason; new to hunting, but talented with a camera. We have spent the past two years filming, hunting, and raising our families.
I'm sure that each man's story of how he arrived as a member of OWO would be slightly different, but I am confident that each story would describe an evolution of a man and a hunter. As hunters, we have all evolved. We are faced with many questions; "what is fair chase," or "what is ethical?" Hunters are faced daily with questions on ethics, and attacked by those who think hunting is inhumane. For us at OWO, hunting is a way of life. The purpose of our films is to show the experience and the adventure of hunting in the wilderness. The purpose of this blog is to discuss the evolution of sportsmen, to tell our story, and to highlight the responsibilities we have to portray our lifestyle in a positive light.