Answering the Call

Cameron Hanes discovered his true passion for bowhunting when he was twenty. Now, to get ready for bow season, he shoots his bow every single day of the year, trains in the weight room 7 days a week, and runs 200+ mile ultra marathons in the mountains during the off-season. Part memoir, part motivational manifesto, Endure reveals how Cam—a self-professed average guy—put himself through the paces to live the life of an expert bowhunter, respected writer, and family man. Read on for an excerpt.

The first day I ever bowhunted, opening day of archery season in 1989, I went with Robbie Dunson, who lived down the road from me in Marcola, Oregon. He was nineteen years old when he bow-killed the world record Roosevelt bull, a species of elk on the West Coast. His dad, Dean Dunson, at the time had killed the number four biggest-ever Roosevelt bull. Bulls are very big and can weigh up to 1,200 pounds on the hoof (live weight). 

I’ve always been attracted to people who are the best at whatever they do, knowing there’s no one better to learn from, so I enjoyed hanging out with the Dunsons and asking them questions about bowhunting elk. The Dunsons knew archery hunting for Roosevelt elk as well as anyone on the earth at that time. I went to their house and shot my bow nearly every day. 

That first morning I went out with Robbie. We were sitting by a thick section of reprod (a logging country term for young timber) when I heard the high-pitched bugle of a male elk. The fifteen-foot-tall trees shifted like the parting of the seas and a massive bull stepped out onto the logging road. I was leaning on my knees, trying to look invisible as the black-horned, six-by seven bull bore holes through me with his eyes. He was in bow range and, when I decided that I should try to kill him, the thing I’d been practicing to do for months, I realized that it felt like my arms were asleep and my heart was beating out of my chest. 

I don’t know if I can even pull this bow back. 

The bull stood there, only forty yards away from me. There was no question I should be able to kill him. I’d shot thousands of arrows at this distance all summer. I pulled back the bowstring and released.

The arrow missed the bull, shot behind his butt. That meant I was about seven feet off my mark, which was ridiculous. This was what I’d call “shitting the bed.” My first bow shot of my life at an animal couldn’t have been much worse. 

I didn’t get another opportunity that day, but something was ignited inside of me. I had never had any real ambitions or goals for myself. But something changed. Now all I knew was that I wanted to kill a bull. So right after that first-day hunting debacle, I became obsessed and hunted for the next eighteen days straight, determined to succeed. 

That’s right, eighteen days straight. 

Finally, on September 13, 1989, I killed my first bull. The first animal that ever died from one of my arrows was a spike bull. Granted, it wasn’t anything like the giant six-by-seven I blew it on, but it didn’t matter. It was my first bow kill and my first bull elk. Truth is, I didn’t deserve a big bull yet. I hadn’t paid my bowhunting dues.

And, size aside, I didn’t know many guys who had even killed a bull with their bow, so my spike bull accomplishment still felt special. It was an almost three-week grind, but it was worth it. 

Some people live their whole lives never finding their true passion. I was twenty years old when I first tasted bowhunting success and that marked the time I discovered my purpose. Suddenly I had something in my life to focus my energy on. I quit college and quit about everything else just to be able to bowhunt more. 

I’ll never forget where this journey began and how long it’s taken to hammer away at a dream. We all have to start somewhere. 

Nobody is born great at bowhunting. 

Bowhunting is not easy. Spending day after day in the unforgiving mountains to hunt is a feat on its own, but adding the extra challenge of doing it with a bow takes that challenge to another level. That’s what drew me to the time-honored tradition of bowhunting. At times it feels nearly impossible to get within bow range of an animal and kill it with essentially a sharp stick. 

The elk live in the mountains every day of the year, sleeping, eating, keeping a wary eye out for predators . . . surviving. Imagine sleeping under a tree one night; it would be absolutely miserable. But elk do it every single day, in rugged country. It’s no wonder they are as tough as they are. So when you’re bowhunting them, you have to be close, within forty yards ideally, in their “red zone,” which means you have to outwit them. 

The average success rate on hunting a bull elk with a bow is about 10 percent. So that’s one kill every ten years or one guy out of ten who is going to have success. That’s never going to be good enough for me. Never was, never will be. Average sucks.

Nowadays I earn success on virtually every hunt, in every state, every year. So I expect to be 100 percent when the average is 10 percent. That said, I didn’t wake up one morning great at bowhunting. I have worked for more than thirty years to get to where I am today. It’s not talent; it’s drive. It’s not raw ability; it’s endurance. Hunting is my passion and being successful at it is what fuels me every day to get better than the day before. That’s how I’m able to have a 100 percent success rate. 

 

* * * * *

 

Regardless of how it may appear, this book isn’t about bowhunting. It’s not an advice book. I don’t tell people what to do, nor do I try to speak for others. I just share what I do and what I’m passionate about, because life without passion is simply existence in my opinion. 

We are all hunters in a sense, searching for a more meaningful life. Too many times the weight of this world becomes too heavy to carry through the mountains, so we turn back toward safer, more comfortable conditions. Too often we find ourselves waiting and wondering when success will find us. These pages provide the motivation to keep moving, to stay steadfast, and to be ready for that moment.

Rather than a book about hunting, these pages are about enduring. I love the word endure. That’s what life is all about. There are hard times. It’s a long race. Sometimes it can feel like a battle. 

For those of us not born with it, greatness is easy to give up on. 

There are countless excuses that keep people from going after an extraordinary life. But when we take on the challenge of pushing our limitations, we no longer see our limitations as barriers but as chances to work hard and buck the odds. In order to live a life marked by passion, tenacity, focus, and resilience, you have to simply keep hammering. 

Keep hammering isn’t some clever motto. It is a wake-up call to meaning. It’s a reference that reminds us to pound away at the lie of impossible. 

I get a lot of people who reach out to me feeling like they can’t get started. For most of them, they can’t get any momentum going. What I tell them is that you just need to get out the door and worry about today only. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about a week from now. You worry about today. Win the day. Do something positive. Worry about tomorrow tomorrow. To me, that is what enduring means. To get some positive direction going. To build up some momentum. What you’re barely doing day one, you’re doing easily on day twenty. That’s how it works. You have to get started and then you have to endure. 

A life well lived isn’t a sprint down a smooth track but a steady jog up a rocky trail. Even if you’re born a natural runner, the race of life involves preparation, perseverance, and a resistance to passivity. 

This is your call to adventure. Let’s take a journey together. Picture a place you haven’t been, a road you’ve been longing to travel down, a destination you’ve dreamt of reaching. I don’t know the directions you need to take, and I won’t suggest you follow my path. God knows I’ve taken detours and wandered down a path twice as long as it needs to be. I’m not equipping you with all the necessary tools nor am I giving you the map. 

All I’m asking is that you get up and go. 

I don’t give answers; I take action. I’m not trying to educate; I’m leading by example. I don’t talk about tomorrow; I live out today. 

I don’t know the end result, but I promise you one thing. I know how to endure the race.

Copyright © 2022 by Cameron Hanes

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Cameron Hanes's greatest love is bowhunting the remote wildernesses of the West and Alaska. To get ready for bow season, he shoots his bow every single day of the year, trains in the weight room 7-days a week and runs 200+ mile ultra marathons in the mountains during the off-season in an effort to toughen up for the mental and physical tests that he’ll face in the backcountry. His goal, which he knows is a target he’ll never hit, is to become the “Ultimate Predator."

Pushing his body to failure and raising the bar to this level is what best defines Cameron Hanes. He has inspired and motivated millions of people through his writings, television appearances and social media postings.

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