Washington Backcountry and The Soulful Hunter Podcast know first hand how hunting has the power to transform lives through primal adventure. It is the driving force behind our mission and now it’s time to celebrate the success and share the stories. In this series you will get a first hand look into the lives that have been impacted by what hunting has to offer. It is something that is rarely shared or talked about and through the vulnerability of our guests, we hope that you find inspiration for your own transformation.
the Soulful Series | CHAPTER 1
Written by Jeremy Sample
Growing up I hunted with my dad almost every opening weekend between the ages of 9 and 18. I loved camping, hiking, and fishing. I was always anxious to see what was over that next hill or around the creek bend when I was in the woods.
My family lived in the suburbs of a big city and I was surrounded by many different cultures and had lots of friends. In school I had a hard time paying attention and failed to apply myself though. Nothing in the future seemed worthwhile. I rode BMX freestyle for fun which was positive and athletic, but when I wasn’t doing that, often was involved with a crowd of uninspired misfits who looked for trouble. There was a certain kind of failure-culture and victimhood mentality in the kids I sometimes associated with. I learned that mindset young and carried parts of it well into my twenties.
I was 25 when my marriage ended. It was late summer and I was feeling low. I had put all of my energy into my failed relationship. One day at work I overheard a coworker talking about bear season opening soon. I hadn’t been hunting with my dad in a few years and had never killed any big game but had recently moved to a city where I was only a short drive from the woods. A few days later my union went on strike so I was off work.
Opening day for fall bear came shortly after, so I went to an online forum and quickly read some bear hunting tactics. I drove to Walmart and purchased a hunting license, tag, rabbit distress call, grabbed the regs, and headed to the closest spot I could to find a bear. I was out of shape physically and mentally but gaining motivation. The excitement of going on a hunt reminded me of the feelings I had as a boy and the desire to see what was over that next hill.
I spent the next week or so getting up early and driving logging roads. I’d blow my distress call and glass clear cuts hoping to get any opportunity. I never saw a single bear that trip, but the sunny September days in the woods boosted my spirit and I was having fun again. This was the most days in a row I had ever hunted, and the realization that I had the freedom to pursue it made me feel great. A few weeks later I returned to deer camp with my father for the first time in years and took a few extra days to hunt with him because I was still out of work on strike. This was the year I woke up to what my passion was and realized it had always been there, somewhere behind my ego. A hunter and outdoorsman was who I wanted to be. I decided that every year from then on I was going to hunt more, learn as much as I could, and get in better shape to do so.
A few weeks later my union signed a new contract and I was back at work. I overheard a guy in my shop talking about how he had shot a bear and it was in the same area where I was hunting earlier that fall. This is how I met Casey, a guy who would soon become a close friend and well trusted hunting buddy.
Within a few weeks Casey had invited me to go check out some new hunting spots with him. He was fairly new to the hunting lifestyle as well, but was a natural. He had grand ideas of taking backcountry trips and traveling to other states. He was learning to use wind in his favor, getting better at reading sign, and showing me things to look for I had never heard of.
Over the next few years I spent a lot of time reading hunting books, going on forums, and talking to other hunters. I craved getting as much knowledge as I could. I spent more time in the woods, (days and hours), because you’re not going to shoot a buck watching Netflix! I went on my first backcountry hunt and after seeing how difficult it was, I was instantly motivated to start eating healthier and workout more consistently. I started riding bikes again for the added fitness and for the love of it. These are things that I would not have done had I not discovered my love of hunting.
Almost immediately, the benefits of putting in more effort and learning new areas was that I started seeing more game. My second year of taking hunting “much more seriously”, I saw two cougars when I had only seen one once before when I was much younger. I was scouting often and starting to learn the habits of animals. This took time and dedication. On a bear hunt with Casey, we glassed up 14 bears in one 5 day trip. I was blown away, having only seen one bear in the wild ever before that. That trip I wounded a large bear at 80 yards which I couldn’t recover. This was a hard lesson but a necessary one. It was the push for me to buy a better quality rifle and hone my shooting skills. It’s been 11 years since then and now I shoot consistent and confident at 500 yards, practicing at double that sometimes. Within a few years of waking up to my love of the outdoors I shot my first buck on public land, a chubby spike whitetail. It was the hardest deer for me to get. It took 17 years.
Hunting is difficult. To harvest animals consistently it takes an amount of self-discipline that I lacked as a youth. I’m nowhere near the level that I want to be at but I’m getting more consistent and I know it’s a result of the extra work I put into it year after year. I’ve continued to learn as much as I can about hunting and multiple techniques. I enjoy the experiment of it all. I’ve continued to research new ideas about nutrition and workout regularly. I’ve learned to handle my personal finances better so I can travel to new places to hunt and purchase better quality gear. Among many good friends I’ve met through hunting, I often hunt with my bud Casey and since then started hunting with his longtime friend Gary. Hunting with these dudes has made us much more like brothers. Spending a week or more in the backcountry shows you a person’s true character, and lets you see extremely fast who you can count on. Also, that’s a motivator for me to be the type of person someone else can count on. I’d like to think this carries into my personal life as well. I believe that’s the same for almost all of the benefits I’ve experienced from hunting. The thoughts and memories from learning to hunt, and the future experiences from continuing to hunt have created the momentum that drives me day to day, and I can be nothing but grateful for that.
Jeremy Sample | Instagram – @backcountryconnection
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