By Alex Comstock
As I sat and scrolled through trail camera pictures last night of the buck I hunted the past two years, Kobe, I felt a bit of remorse. Ever since Kobe was harvested by another hunter in November, I've questioned everything I did in the pursuit of hunting him. Even though I hold absolutely no grudge towards the guy that got him and am truly happy for him, I just felt so connected to that deer, I knew it was going to take time to get over it. If you need to get caught up on the story of Kobe, you can ready my last journal entry about him here. I knew I couldn't write a full reflection and what I learned while hunting the deer right after it happened, so I've taken time to put a lot of thought into it, and the following is what I've come up with as it pertains to what Kobe taught a young bowhunter.
Scouting is IMPORTANT: It should be pretty obvious that scouting is an important part of deer hunting, but I learned that you need to spend more time scouting than you think. I'm fairly convinced that last spring I got caught up in trying to find Kobe's sheds, and that detracted from my scouting efforts. I truly wish I had spent more time in the spring scouring every inch of the property I hunted Kobe on, and if I could have potentially pinpointed where he was bedding, I think things could have turned out differently. It's one of the main reasons that in the next few months I want to spend more time scouting than anything else. The more you scout, the better you'll be set up in the fall.
Think Outside The Box: One of the first things that comes to mind when I think about everything that went into hunting this deer, is that I thought it was going to be to straightforward. I found him this summer on trail camera, put no pressure on him, and thought I was going to be able to go in and shoot him right away. Obviously, that's not how it worked out, and when I reflect, I think there are things that I could have tried to get a better crack at him. Going forward, something I want to do is think outside the box. Whether I'm hunting a specific buck or not, I want to get more creative in general with how I deer hunt.
Certain Conditions Need to be Capitalized on: When I look back through the two years I hunted Kobe, the encounters I had, and the daylight pictures I've got, I simply missed out on some prime conditions. My best encounter with him was actually in 2016, and there was a strong storm system moving through. I hunted in the pouring rain, but elected to sit in an observation stand. Kobe showed that night, but never got closer than 100 yards. Had I gone with my gut, and pressed in, I could have had a chance that night. And then there's this season. The first major cold front of September came through, and I wasn't in the stand. Of course, I got trail camera pictures of Kobe walking right in front of my stand that night. Simply put, when great weather conditions present themselves, I want to do whatever it takes to get in my best spots.
I Probably Should Have a Backup Plan: I'm not going to lie, once Kobe was killed, I didn't know what to do when it came to hunting. I had to start from scratch pretty much because I had such tunnel vision on harvesting Kobe. Yes, I still had other cameras spread around other properties and what not, and there was other mature bucks living in the same general area as Kobe, BUT I was just not focused on them at all. It would have paid to have been tracking those other bucks and to have stayed on top of other properties still. In the future, when I do focus on one specific buck, I want to keep tabs on other ones still, and have a backup plan or two.
The Details Are Important: Kobe taught me that if I don't pay attention to every small detail, I might just get schooled. What I think I did wrong was get too complacent. What I mean by this, is that even though going into this season I hadn't had an encounter with Kobe since last November, through all of the thousands of trail camera pictures I got over the summer, I thought I had this deer figured out. I didn't pay attention to the small details like where I parked my truck when checking cameras, I slacked on my scent control, and I pretty much always thought all along I would end up harvesting Kobe. If I can take anything away from this, going forward I want to become the most detail oriented/anal retentive hunter I know. In order to harvest mature bucks on a consistent basis and not just get lucky, the details are what will make or break a season.
It's About The Journey: This might be the most important thing that Kobe taught me. At the end of the day, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in the end result when it comes to hunting mature bucks. Success is not always defined by whether you kill or not. Even though I wanted to harvest Kobe more than anything and almost shed a tear when I found out he was killed by someone else, I made countless memories, and the journey that I went on while hunting him is priceless. I learned more than I could have ever imagined, and I'm certain that I will have bucks on the wall someday that Kobe will have assisted in me harvesting because of the lessons he taught me.
Conclusion: It saddens me, but this will officially be the end of the Kobe era. I've dedicated a lot of words towards that deer over the years, but this will be the last of them. Kobe was a challenge, and a great opportunity to hunt, and I'm thankful for what he taught me. Here's to the future, and I can't wait to see what's in store.