“The West is the best. Just get here and we’ll do the rest,” sang Doors’ front man Jim Morrison in The End, one of the band’s first hits. You remember it. Just think of the opening scenes of Frances Ford Colpola’s Apocalypse Now — a drunken Martin Sheen performing tai chi in a nasty Saigon motel room.
The lyrics stick in my mind because I’m a Doors fan, but also because I hold those sentiments dear. I mean, whitetails are dandy — I hunt them as often as possible, in the West more than the East now, but they lack a degree of variety. Now, just so you know where I’m coming from, “West,” to my mind, includes anything situated east of West Texas, western Kansas, and the Dakotas. I include these places because they do offer a degree of variety and open spaces, which is what the West is all about.
I recent exchange with a fellow outdoor writer, I asked “You don’t have a real job, right?”
“I suppose…” he confirmed.
“Which means you can live essentially anywhere you want?” I continued.
“So, why in hell would you choose to live in ________ and hunt only whitetail and turkey the rest of your life?”
(I don’t mention the actual state, to avoid petulant letters from chambers of commerce and devotees to the state in question. People get touchy about these things somehow, as if residence somehow defines them.) And by the way, I love bowhunting whitetails (I’ve become obsessive with them now I’m able to pursue them in my own backyard) and turkeys (I’ve arrowed 60 gobblers with bow, which should tell you all you need to know) – and wild hogs, which appear in many Eastern locales.
I also love bowhunting elk, mule deer, pronghorn, spot-and-stalk black bear with some realistic chance of regular success, Coues whitetail, javelina, turkeys that aren’t as neurotic as Belfast parking valets – with the off chance of some day drawing tags for moose, mountain goat, bighorn or desert sheep (in New Mexico where I used to live, Persian ibex), and (this is big in my book), without the involvement of commercial airlines or multi-vehicle expeditions resembling the Normandy Invasion. Unless Africa is involved I prefer to drive (no more than a few hours) or walk to my bowhunting; preferably out my own backyard.
I guess I’ve become spoiled, having resided in states such as Texas, California (a short time), Colorado, New Mexico and now Idaho. I’ve come to love the variety, the fact that while whitetail hunting’s part of my big plans for every season (each game animal carefully compartmentalized on my bowhunting calendar), so are elk on any given year, bear should I run across one, sometimes muleys, pronghorn, Coues, javelina or wild boar, whenever the fancy strikes me. I grew up wandering wide-open spaces, only gumption and endurance dictating how far my travels would take me. And perhaps that, most of all, is why I’ll always believe Western bowhunting is the best.