By Johnny Mack
Hunting is hard. Flat out. It takes patience, courage, and grit. More often than not you are left with an unfilled tag in your pocket and a long walk back to the truck. So why do it? Why put in so much time, money and effort if percentages do not go in your favor? I know why I do it. I do it because the effort it takes to successfully harvest an animal is unlike any other feeling in life. Because with no risk there can be no reward. It is what makes hunting and harvesting your own meat so special.
Being new to hunting, I constantly second guess myself and have doubt about if I am doing the right thing, especially since I never had a mentor to bounce questions off of. It is my weakness. It is the internal battle that I struggle with when hunting. Have you ever had questions about what others would do in certain situations? Maybe you catch yourself not staying in the game mentally. I know I often do. I find myself double guessing a move or a plan of attack when I hunt. Whether you are new or experienced, hunting can be frustrating and defeating.
This series is meant to be a way to inspire, educate and motivate you when it comes to hunting. Hopefully the advice and insight shared by our guests can help you feel like you are not alone in your struggle against the wild, while you build confidence in your chase.
WBC: What is your name?
Ian: Ian Burrow. The BHA crowd might recognize me as the Green Decoy.
WBC: Where are you from and where do you currently live?
Ian: I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, KS. After a stint in the army, and 18 mailing addresses later, I returned to my suburban hometown.
WBC: What is your day job?
Ian: I’m a Business Analyst for the mobile phone app developer, Powderhook. I’m the middle man between developers, clients, and app-users.
WBC: Do you have any family or pets?
Ian: I have a beautiful wife, Alexis. She has a cat, and I have a dog.
WBC: How and why did you get started into hunting?
Ian: Why? Because I wanted to. That sounds like a silly answer but that’s what it boils down to. I didn’t grow up in a hunting family and, while hunting was never ostracized in our household, it was never seen as a viable form of sustenance nor did it hold anyone’s interest in terms of recreation. Despite this, I’ve been drawn to hunting for as long as I can remember. It’s kind of like when you’re a kid and you know, for no known reason, that you want to grow up and be a fireman (insert whatever vocation applied to you). No one taught you how to be a fireman, or walked you through the experience of rescuing a cat from a burning building, but yet you somehow knew you wanted to grow up and be a fireman. That’s how I’ve felt about hunting. I was always really interested in it but my biggest problem was that I didn’t have anyone close to me to take me hunting. When you’re five years old and you want to go hunting, you can’t exactly swing by Cabela’s to buy a shotgun and then head afield.
I shot my first deer when I was 21. I was on leave from the army and my cousin reached out and invited me. After that, there was no turning back. I was hooked. 80% of the meat that comes across the table at my house is from a wild animal I harvested myself. I take pride in that. The neighbors in my bougie apartment complex think I’m a bit of a nut but, YOLO.
WBC: Did you have a hunting mentor? What did you learn from them and or what did you want or wished to learn from them?
Ian: My cousin, Danny, gets the bulk of the applause on this one. He took me on my first hunt – the same hunt that flipped the switch in my brain when I recognized that I am in fact, a hunter. The biggest lesson I learned from Danny was on ethical shot placement. I had never taken that into account before when I had conjured up my own notions of what hunting was like. He didn’t beat that horse to death, it was just a simple few sentences on where, and why, you aim in a certain area on a deer. That was really when the doors opened up, mentally, on how hunters view the world and interact with wildlife. Isn’t it funny how a few sentences can completely change a perspective?
I have since sought out many more mentors. There’s no one size fits all on hunting mentorship. Why would I ask a deer hunter for advice regarding finding Sandhill cranes? I’m always on the lookout to find my next mentor depending on what I’m looking to go hunt.
WBC: If you did not have a mentor, how did you learn to hunt?
Ian: I will always give credit to Danny as my original mentor but over the years I’ve hunted with a bunch of awesome folks and learned from all of them. I should probably give my brother in law some credit. He’s a hell of an outdoorsman and has imparted a lot of knowledge on me. That being said… I don’t want to paint the picture that I’ve solely relied on others for learning, because while that can make a huge positive impact on your own hunting journey, it’s not the full solution. I try and communicate to people that having a mentor can be a big help but it’s not going to win you the Super Bowl. At some point you have to make the touchdown yourself. I still reach out to current and potential mentors all the time to pick their brains but I’d like to think I’ve entered a lot of DIY headwaters now. I also carry a rich history of learning things the hard way. My parents can attest to that.
WBC: What has been your favorite hunt? Why?
Ian: Tick. I crawled, on my belly, for two hundred yards. One fistfull of dirt at a time, mindful to keep my bow positioned so I wouldn’t run it through the earth, I drug my face through the chaff. Tock. I reached my destination and I rolled on my back – just in time to catch the sky display that brilliant portrait of oranges and reds as the sun sinks. Tick. My tag would expire at sunset. I hastily pieced the decoy together and knocked an arrow. Tock. I grew out of the earth, cognizant to keep my body hidden behind the life-size antelope decoy. I was no longer a part of the landscape, I was a threat to this buck’s way of life. I was coming for his harem. Tick tock, Ian.
The harem tightened and distanced itself from their buck. They were aware of the inevitable. To my back, the harem. To my front, the buck. Like a baroque waltz, the three dancers – harem, hunter, and buck – cautiously traversed the field in a magnificent spiral. The spiral continued to shrink with every knee-aching, hunched-back step. This was the moment. The exact moment the articles and videos explained. I posted the legs of the decoy in the earth, drew back, and peered around the decoy. It was in that moment, of target acquisition, the buck realized he had been deceived. He bolted. I let my bow down and watched the buck lead his harem to safety at the conservative speed of 60mph. I felt the ground thunder as the sun finally laid to rest. The hunt was over.
Last year I went on my first antelope hunt. In Kansas, archery tags are OTC for residents which meant I was going to give archery antelope a try. I had put together a little pet project called Public Pursuit where I set out to hunt every single game species in my home state of Kansas on public hunting land. If not for that project, I don’t know if I would have even realized there were antelope in Kansas. I read up on them, watched a few YouTube videos, borrowed a decoy from a college professor, loaded up the doggo and headed West. I didn’t have a clue on what I was doing.
That trip is one of my most memorable hunts to date. I got kicked out of a township by the sheriff for sleeping on the side of a country road by a piece of public hunting land, I spent a night in a 19th century hotel that welcomed me and my dog with open arms at 2:00am, I saw a Kansas mule deer for the first time, and I pulled off a textbook antelope stalk. It’s the amount of interaction required between a hunter and his prey that solidifies this hunt as my all-time favorite. The hunt requires speed, prowess, stealth, and skill. By the end of the trip I had successfully maneuvered across an open field behind a decoy, separated a buck antelope from his harem, and placed myself just on the verge of shooting distance.
WBC: What has been your biggest struggle when it comes to hunting?
Ian: Communicating my passion for it. I think I meet a unique demographic in terms of a 21st century hunter. I started when I was 21, a lot of the skills I use on a hunt were acquired through my military service, I sought out mentorship and opportunities for hunting, I grew up in the suburbs and I’m back living in the ‘burbs now. Because of my unorthodox start, I have a really tough time accepting other people’s excuses or certain behaviors of state agencies and outdoor space folks. When someone tells me they don’t have time to go hunting anymore, or a state agency isn’t willing to update their hunting maps on their website, or somebody tries to loop 2A talk into a hunting conversation, I just want to rip my hair out.
WBC: Our strengths can also be our weaknesses. What are your weaknesses that can inhibit you on your hunts?
Ian: My curiosity and thirst for adventure can sometimes be detrimental. Especially with stagnant hunts like waterfowl or whitetail deer. I think a lot of people struggle with this too. I sit down, wait for the animals to show up, and after 0.2 seconds I begin second guessing my decision on the spot. I’ve spooked off a lot of deer by being impatient and getting up and walking around.
WBC: What piece of gear can you not hunt without?
Ian: The right footwear. Frozen feet end a hunt faster than anything else and if you’re uncomfortable, that resonates with the rest of your body. That can negatively impact your ability to make an ethical shot. Binos are the cop-out answer on this one, and I’ll admit it’s always great to be able to look at stuff (you know, like find where the critters are), but if you’ve got frostbite, it doesn’t really matter how far you can see.
WBC: What is your favorite place to hunt and or species?
Ian: Archery antelope (or archery pronghorn, depending on how pretentious you are about names) in Western Kansas. The landscape incorporates everything from fertile, managed ag land to desolate rock outcroppings and deep stream beds. Not to mention, the game itself feels so foreign to a place that birthed the Wizard of Oz.
WBC: What is one piece of advice you would have liked to have or known when you first started hunting?
Ian: Just go. Just go hunting. You can spend decades burying yourself behind a computer watching “how to” videos and reading gear reviews but there is no better teacher than firsthand experience. Research is important. It can save you a lot of heartache, but when your research begins to serve as a safety mechanism to stay home, it’s time you closed the laptop and stepped outside. How many tutorial YouTube videos did you watch when you were 14 and trying to learn how to drive a car?
WBC: What is your social media account handles or website?
We want to thank Ian for sharing his insight and thoughts. If you want to know more about Ian and what he does, be sure to follow along on his journey by checking out his social media accounts along with his website.
If you enjoyed reading the article or can think of anyone that could benefit from the insight given, please share it with others. It is “OUR” job to continue the growth of the hunting and outdoor community. Be sure to invite someone to start hunting with you. You never know what type of impact it may have for them and their life. Remember, mentorship is conservation and you cannot out give good.
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