Tag Soup with Hang'Em Outfitters' Shelby Nusz

Shelby and husband Macklin take time for a quick hunting selfie this past fall. Shelby and husband Macklin take time for a quick hunting selfie this past fall.

If you have been hunting long you likely know by now that sometimes the odds don’t fall in your favor. All those cold, early mornings rolling yourself out of bed, every minute you spent hanging tree stands, trimming trees, planting food plots and checking trail cameras, every stream of Trinity scent eliminating spray that landed on your body, every day you sacrificed freshly styled, hair sprayed hair and used your ScentBlocker shampoo and conditioner instead (huntresses every where feel my pain), every minute you were away from your friends and family have somehow left you without the satisfying feeling of a harvested buck on the ground and feeling the antlers sitting heavy in your hands. Tag soup is on the menu tonight!

A beautiful Kansas skyline. A beautiful Kansas skyline.

If you are from the Midwest you likely faced many of the same challenges I faced this previous deer season. This year’s rut was extremely different than any year I have ever experienced. I never felt like we had that exciting period of big mature bucks moving around constantly chasing does. Instead I would see a buck here and there on the trail of a hot doe. There wasn’t a single time this season I saw a buck truly chasing a doe. Seeing that rut is always my favorite time to hunt and so many fun memories are made during that time period I was pretty disappointed. The weather was also bizarre. The day after Thanksgiving I sat in a tree stand during a single digit degree ice storm (thank goodness for my SOLA Artic weight shirt and pant set). Fast forward a week and I was sitting in the same exact tree stand in my performance 1.5 shirt sweating in the 70-degree sunset. The uncharacteristic climate dramatically altered typical deer movement. As each day of season passed I knew my chances to get an arrow through a buck on my hit list were decreasing. Still, I packed my gear, tried to maintain as scent free as possible and hiked with my bow out to a tree or blind up until the very last second of daylight of the season.

Shelby's SOLA gear is perfect for warm... and cold conditions. Shelby's SOLA gear is perfect for warm... and cold conditions.

As my Kansas season came to an end I still had high hopes for tagging a buck on a late season trip to hunt Ohio. Unfortunately late season Ohio hunting was just a tough as late season hunting in Kansas. On our last morning sit of the Ohio trip I couldn’t help listening to the birds chirp, watch the sunbeams break through the trees, wish I wasn’t wearing my WindTec insulated pants in this January heat wave and feel as if I was waiting on a turkey versus a buck.

When you hunt from opening day through the final evening you may find yourself exhausted and disappointed to be walking away with an unfilled tag (or in my case this year, tags). You’ve worked hard, you’ve done your time, you’ve made sacrifices, you were prepared. I won’t argue that you should feel slight disappointment. However, what I have also learned over my years of hunting is that it’s not always about the kill or the trophy buck you can put on your wall. Sometimes it’s about the time you spent in the outdoors, even if all you see is a breathtaking sunset. It’s about harvesting a mature old doe, that is likely to bust you if your dream buck shows himself anyway, and filling the freezer for your family. It’s about the memories you make hunting with new friends in a new terrain. It’s about all those close calls that make your heart beat out of your chest and make you excited to set your Saturday morning alarm for 4:30am. Whether I end my season in one week with a monster to mount or I hunt all season long and have enough tags to make tag soup for months, I end with a full and grateful heart, respect for the land and animals I was able to enjoy and excitement for another upcoming season.

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