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?
Steve: Steve Opat
WBC: Where are you from and where do you currently live?
Steve: I was Born and Raised in small-town SE Minnesota. I now live in Alaska.
WBC: What is your day job?
Steve: I am a medevac nurse.
WBC: Do you have any family or pets?
Steve: I have a pretty rad girlfriend named Kayla. Other than that, I don’t yet have a dog or kids.
WBC: How and why did you get started into hunting?
Steve: I think I’m just genetically inclined to be a hunter. When I was two, my parents bought a small rural acreage that allowed my two siblings and I to roam in the woods. I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t interested in hunting, camouflage, fort building, bows & arrows, etc.
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?
Steve:My grandpa was a big hunter but smoking really kept him from doing that much when I knew him. Nonetheless, we admired the huge deer he had on the wall and his room full of gear.
My father did a good job of introducing us to people in town who could teach us the things he couldn’t. I have vivid memories of the guys he arranged to take us trap shooting and pheasant hunting. I remember the guy we called to help field dress my brother’s first deer. I remember the guy he had come to the house to show us some fishing lures before our first fishing vacation. I remember fishing with the guy who owned the cabin we were staying in. We fished and learned the lake with that gentleman as dad was attending a conference.
WBC: If you did not have a mentor, how did you learn to hunt?
Steve: My brother and I rarely missed a Saturday morning of ESPN outdoors. Guys like Babe Winkleman, Ron Shara, The Lindner Brothers, Bill Jordan, and the Primos brothers all hold significant influence in my hunting and fishing skills.
WBC: What has been your favorite hunt? Why?
Steve: I don’t have a favorite hunt. I have favorite traditions. I love the annual trip out to western North Dakota to hunt pheasants with friends I’ve had since college. I love the annual pilgrimage up Alaska’s famous “Haul Road” to hunt caribou. I love floating a stretch of river to hunt with my buddy Ian. I love meeting up with my brother back in Minnesota and hunting the woods we grew up in. And I absolutely love going back to SE Minnesota and walking/canoeing the river behind my house to cast for smallmouth bass and trout.
WBC: What has been your biggest struggle when it comes to hunting?
Steve: As much as I’ve been a bowhunter my whole hunting life, I can still fall apart on a shot with the best of them.
WBC: Our strengths can also be our weaknesses. What are your weaknesses that can inhibit you on your hunts?
Steve: I have a tendency to look over “just one more ridge.” I’ve chased a lot of rainbows. I’ve learned there’s a lot of benefit to getting to know one area really well. A ‘pretty good’ area that you know well and hunt perfectly is better than ‘the perfect area’ that you never find.
WBC: What piece of gear can you not hunt without?
Steve: I won’t go into the backcountry without a length of closed-cell foam. As for clothing, here in Alaska, I won’t leave camp without my puffy clothes, rain gear, and a layer of merino wool – just in case things get dicey and I have to stay on the mountain for a night.
WBC: What is your favorite place to hunt and or species?
Steve: I found a new place to moose hunt that is pretty special. That state, I can’t deny that I am addicted to hunting the Haul road. I hunt there once or twice a year. I shot my first caribou there. I later arrowed my first caribou there. I arrowed a grizzly there. I had my first hunt with Kayla there and we had a high-adventure rafting trip. My buddy and I caught a salmon on the river up there and now have our name attached to the farthest north farthest upstream documented salmon in the anadromous fish catalog.
WBC: What is one piece of advice you would have liked to have or known when you first started hunting?
Steve: Harvest every buck or bull that gets your heart racing.
WBC: What is your favorite inspirational quote or verse?
Steve: Never pass up the world class opportunity in front of you just to grind out a pre-established ideal or goal that you have. You’re only thirty seconds away from everything being dramatically different – from being successful.
WBC: Do you have a favorite social media page that inspires you to be a better outdoorsman?
Steve: I really enjoy what the guys at MeatEater are doing. That’s a great mission. They are helping us engage with the non-hunter community, they aren’t taking themselves too seriously, they are educating us, and they are keeping hunting fun.
WBC: What is your social media account handles or website?
We want to thank Steve for sharing his insight and thoughts. If you want to know more about Steve and what he does, be sure to follow along on his journey by checking out his social media accounts as well as tuning into his podcast Alaskan Odysseys.
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.
We want to know what you thought about the article. Tell us your thoughts below in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog!