In so many ways I’m glad to get 2014 behind me, and get on a bright, shiny New Year! Despite the best planning luck is always a major factor in hunting, and in my experience luck runs in series, both good and bad. So some seasons are really good, others are so-so…and a few are just plain stinkers. Mind you, 2014 wasn’t a disaster. I had some great hunting in Africa (how can you not?), and overall the year brought some things I’d wanted for a long time. I finally lucked into both a serval cat and brown hyena, animals that had eluded me for years. This was also the year I took my 30th variety of wild goat, so that goes down as a bell-ringer.
Mixed in were some hunts that were perfectly good in all ways, except for putting hides in the salt. A September hunt in British Columbia with daughter Brittany was one of the nicest North American hunts I’ve ever been on. She got her goat and my tags went unfilled…and it was still a great hunt. Likewise a late moose hunt in Alberta with buddy Trent Packham. It’s pretty hard to buck unfavorable weather, and although it was mid-November the weather was just pleasantly cool with almost no snow. The moose could be anywhere they wanted to be…but mostly they were some place other than where we were. We saw a few bulls, none that really excited me, and on the afternoon of the last day my young friend and hunting partner John Stucker made the trip by taking his first moose.
That hunt in Alberta sort of interrupted my whitetail hunting in Kansas. Carrying a 10-point crossbow, I hunted 10 days straight and never had a shot at a decent buck. Then came the dry (literally) week in Alberta, and then youngest daughter Caroline came down from KU to hunt Thanksgiving weekend. The rut was still in full swing and we saw an impressive number of bucks…but it was also still archery season, and we put no venison in the freezer. By then I was thinking I was really snake-bit, but the first week of rifle season went okay (not great). Several nice bucks were taken…and after the first group left and I had an evening to myself a huge-bodied, heavy-antlered old buck sauntered right to me.
That was my last shot at game in 2014, so it ended nicely on a very high note. But the major frustration of 2014 wasn’t tags that weren’t filled, but (seemingly) well-planned hunts that just didn’t happen. In early December I was planning on hunting Estonia for Eurasian lynx and wild boar. That’s a lovely little country and I was looking forward to hunting there again, but hound hunting was closed due to a serious outbreak of swine flu. As bad as I feel about missing the opportunity, I feel a lot worse about the catastrophe! Outfitter David Llorente of the Nordic Hunting Club reported taking a long walk in the woods and finding numerous carcasses, so it’s serious enough that the resource is damaged, and right now unclear if hunting will resume next year or not.
Well, that was cancelled early enough that we got on Idaho outfitter Bruce Duncan’s “on call” list for an Idaho cougar for Donna, an animal she wants badly and that she’s tried to get—and failed—multiple times now. Before the Idaho season opened things were looking good, but in mid-December snow turned to rain, snowy roads turned to mud morass, and Bruce was kind enough to call and tell us to stand down…it wasn’t going to happen any time soon.
So I suppose I’ll often remember 2014 as the year that Nature intervened: Weather, animal disease and human disease. I suppose it was good luck that some combination of fire, flood, tornado and tempest weren’t added. Fortunately the year is over. 2015 has come in bright and shiny, time to make all kinds of new plans!–Craig Boddington