May/June 2012 EBJ (Issue 71) - I'd rather be lucky than good.” How many times have you said that? I know this cliché represents a basic gesture of humility, but I think it’s used far too often. While luck and chance play into the whole equation of success, truth be known, I’d rather be good. After all, consistent achievement has everything to do with preparation and relative action. Having a plan, working hard and following through are what it takes to make good things happen. It’s a philosophy that influences everything I do. So how is it that after achieving success in the elk woods of Colorado, I find myself uttering those very words?
Life is full of examples of chance meetings or lucky encounters. So let’s be clear, I don’t completely overlook the importance of either. For instance, shortly after moving to Phoenix seven years ago, I laid plans for a trip to my familiar elk hunting grounds. I flew from Arizona to Utah, drove four hours into the mountains of Idaho, and then, hiked another two hours in a snowstorm. By the time Ryan Thon and I set camp and laid our heads on the cold ground, I was sick. I had overlooked the fact that I had become a "flat-lander.” Finally, after two days, my brain overpowered my ego and we moved to lower country.
Upon arriving in the lower lands, we passed a camp with a beautiful 6x6 elk rack next to a campfire ring. Of course the overwhelming feeling of envy made us stop. Sitting next to a white truck with California plates was a guy in grey cargo shorts and flip-flops. He sat reclined in a camp chair with his nose buried in a book. In spite of being one of those "California hunters,” we chose to exchange niceties and even complimented his bull. When we began to leave, he said to me, "I don’t know you, but you look like crap.” A bit forward don’t you think? What this guy did next impacted me in ways I didn’t expect. He said, "Get your camp set and come back. I’m going to make you guys dinner.” I thought to myself, "Are you kidding me? We just met.” At that moment and in my weakened condition, his choice of residence mattered not to me. I was cold, tired and hungry. We quickly set our new camp and hustled back.
This friendly stranger met us with sirloin steaks, potatoes and a green salad. During dinner conversation, we learned that our host is an elk-hunting machine, one of the many credentials of this hardcore bowhunter. We also learned that he was a "one percenter.” You know… one of those brave citizens that protect the freedoms of the rest of us "ninety-nine percent.” He served as an Army medic in the Third Medical Battalion in the early 70s and after his service, put himself through college cutting palm trees. At UCSD he earned his Master’s Degree in Microbiology and Chemistry. He is the father of two children and husband to wife, Patti. And if that wasn’t enough, he built a highly successful company serving the agriculture industry. Talk about busting hunter stereotypes! In a short time, we came to understand his passion for life, people and all things wild. In the matter of an afternoon, Ron Helland became a friend for life.
Fast forward several shared hunts and six years. Ron and I had drawn a deer tag in Wyoming. Even so, the elk woods in September beckoned. While we had applied for a number of states, our mailbox was not blessed with a limited entry tag. Therefore, we discussed our fall-back states of Idaho and Colorado. Then we settled on northern Colorado, since it provided an opportunity to duck into Wyoming for archery deer.
When I moved to Arizona, I was fortunate to have another chance encounter that led to a great relationship. Chip Sarchett is one of those guys that make you better by just sharing time. Chip challenges me in new ways, one of which is my skills as an archer. He also pushes me to new levels of fitness and of late, through trail running. Earlier in the year, Chip acted as my training partner for the Zane Grey Ultra Marathon. Then he volunteered to be my pacer through the most difficult portion of the race. Amazing how easily the topic of hunting can make 17 miles pass and how no one before us found that elk shed. All this commitment to my success drives my need to return the favor. Chip is an accomplished archer and held the goal of harvesting a branch-antlered bull with his bow. I wanted in the worst way to be part of making that milestone come to fruition for him. So as Ron and I finalized our plans for Colorado, we asked Chip to join us.
For a full account of Francis's adventure, go to page 30 in the May/June 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.