INTRODUCING A NEW HUNTER: A Short Story
By Ryan Gentry @ryan.the.creature | @blackhornguideservice
The slow controlled pull, the thoughts, the focus, as everything fades and seems to slow you’re locked into a mind-grasping tunnel vision, and then in an instant, it all gives way to the crack of the rifle and the eventual sound of the bullet to the body.
Someone’s first time pulling the trigger on a live animal can have a range of emotions and outcomes. In this moment, they bridge the gap from non-hunter to a hunter. It is now, in this short period, the “non-hunter” goes from thinking about the shot, to executing the shot and now owning the responsibility that comes with the action of releasing a bullet on an unsuspecting animal and knowing it can’t be undone…to a hunter.
As a hunter, it is your responsibility to introduce a new non-hunter to hunting with respect and patience. You get one shot to make an impression on a non-hunter, and it better be the right one. From this point on, the new hunter will judge all hunters based on the perspective they got from whoever introduced them. From meat care to respecting the animal in death, obeying the laws, to making good ethical decisions throughout the process, it all matters, and you’re representing us all.
This is the story of Mike Flores, a multiple Award-winning Videographer/Photographer from Los Angeles, California. You might be saying to yourself right now, “from LA?” Yeah, I know, right? A Hollywood hunter? As I meet more and more people through my professional travels, I’m generally the only hunter, but you’d be surprised how many people from all walks of life are not against hunting. They don’t know what they don’t know. Our responsibility as experienced hunters is to be a good example, educate, and, most of all, inspire non-hunters to see the good associated with hunting, not only for the wildlife management principles but for ourselves.
Humans are meant to be hunters. It is in our DNA. There’s a natural curiosity to it that can only be described as an urge to live as our ancestors did, grasping for some sort of primal freedom. For me, there is just a balance in life when I’m hunting. The stress of life, career, family, etc., all fades into a mental and spiritual “natural balance,” a grounding that isn’t always there in the hustle of daily life. I am addicted to hunting because it means so much to me. I compete against myself and a wild animal, and the landscape, that’s it. That deer, elk, sheep, or whatever species I’m hunting makes me happy. I love it, and I love to share it with people.
I met Mike a few years ago through a mutual friend. We hit it off immediately. Mike knows his way around the outdoors. He’s spent some time in some very remote places doing time-lapse videos. He has experience in mountaineering and has an extensive background working in off-road racing in Baja, Mexico. I had seen some of his video work in the off-road scene, unaware of who he was. Now here I was, sitting with Mike learning all about this dude from LA, and he was getting the low down from me on growing up on the southern New Mexico border. We went nerd mode talking about cameras, photography, and modern creativity. Mike is a sound individual, very grounded in his spirituality, like “earthy hipster” mixed with some “skater” type vibes. He had a deep understanding of nature. Mike respected the outdoors and the animals, and brought a spiritual outlook to what he thought about hunting. He saw it as a sacred, respectful way to honor the earth and live from the provisions of nature. You know, kind of like the way you’d expect a dude from California to think.
At this point, Mike had never had the chance to hunt for himself. He’d watched hunting on YouTube, he knew friends that hunted, and heck, he even worked on a film project for GoHunt on an elk hunt. So, Mike was no stranger to the idea of hunting. He just wasn’t a hunter and never had the opportunity to become one. Mike said that when he did it for himself, he wanted it to be meaningful. He wanted the right hunt and wanted to be respectful to the animal.
Mike and I had a lot of conversations after our initial introduction on various topics, but they always centered around hunting. We discussed the “why’s,” what motivates hunters, and the idea that we needed to get him on his own hunt. You know, where he’s the one pulling the trigger.
Now, as one of the owners of New Mexico’s Black Horn Guide Service, I had some options for Mike. This was different, though. I didn’t want him to have to sit and wait on a draw process that would most likely, as a non-resident of New Mexico, leave him tagless for years before he could satisfy his desire to become a hunter. So, we have a ranch in northern New Mexico with some Pronghorn tags available. I explained to him the difference between the public draw and the private tags, and I offered one of those to Mike, and he immediately said he was in.
It was on this hunt that Mike became a hunter. We all think of Pronghorn hunts being pretty quick and easy, especially on a private ranch, but as the universe would have it, that would not be the case. It was a grind. Call it the earths energy or whatever hippy hotness you want to call it, but it’s almost as if nature knew Mike wanted to work for his first hunt.
The first morning we got in the truck out of the tent, and Mike’s rifle scope ring had come loose, and his scope was moving all over the place. That set the tone for what would be a frustrating hunt. Now we had a spare rifle, but this was a rifle Mike had never even seen. He was excited to use the rifle he had built, so he felt dumb right from the start. I assured him we’ve all had gear malfunctions, and this is the type of thing that makes you a better hunter. I said you’ll always remember this, and it will make you on point with your gear from here on out. We glassed until our eyes hurt, struggling to even find a buck on the property. We then got on bucks for them to not be on the right property by the time we got to them. We hiked way more miles than you should ever walk on a private antelope hunt. No matter what we did we struggled to turn up a shootable goat on our property. It just wasn’t working out in our favor.
Then, as we were sitting on a knob overlooking a flat, joking about why this hunt was a struggle and how bad of an outfitter/guide I must be if I can’t even get the man an antelope on a ranch, it happened. I glassed a lone buck, a solid buck, too. He was working from my left to right, almost at an angle towards us. I said, “Mike this is it, dude. This is the buck.” You’ve got to take this one.
One of my best friends, Jim Carey, of JC Custom Kydex, was on the hunt with us. His rifle was the one Mike now had in his hands. Jim immediately got Mike ready and began to make the stalk with Mike while I stayed on the spotter. As I watched in the spotter, my excitement grew, knowing this goat was working right to them and was clueless as to what was about to happen, just the way we like it. I could now see the goat and Mike together in the same field of view. It wasn’t even a few minutes later that the Pronghorn was dead on the ground. I was stoked! I was so excited for Mike. I rushed down there with more excitement than I think I’ve had on any of my hunts. I knew what this meant to Mike.
In the transition from a talker to a doer, Mike always talked about one day being a hunter, and today he was a hunter. He exceeded every expectation and remained calm in an unusually difficult hunt. Mike executed flawlessly on his end, other than the scope ring malfunction. It happens to the best of us, I told him. I told him he reaped the rewards of never giving up. It only takes one single event to change the outcome.
Mike got his introduction to hunting from the perspective of the hunter this time. It didn’t come easy, but that’s not Mike. He didn’t want it easy, he wanted to respect nature, earn his provision, and he wanted that Pronghorn to mean something. As we were leaving the hunt, Mike said this is what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. I love this shit, and I’m thankful for my goat and the meat.
As his Pronghorn shoulder mount hangs in his Los Angeles home, it means something. Mike Flores, multiple Award-winning Videographer, is a hunter, and it was through the proper introduction to it that he will now be an ambassador for all of us in the most unlikely of places and crowds that you would ever think to find a “Hunter.” The introduction you give and the impression you leave someone with matters. It not only influences them and their idea of hunting and hunters, but that of their sphere of influence, as well. Do it right.