Hunter with a longbow overlooking an inspiring vista. Where would you rather be?
The author hunting elk at 9,000′ with his longbow. Where else would you rather be? Photo: Jordanne Kemper

The Calm Before the Storm

The forecast called for four days of rain, and the radar showed a green and yellow amoeba swirling across much of the state. My buddy invited me to hunt with him in the morning; one last hurrah before the fall monsoon stranded us in the muddy backcountry. 

“I appreciate it, buddy, but I’m not sure with how the radar looks,” I responded reluctantly.

“Would you rather just sit around here?” he replied with a smirk.

“If this rain holds off enough that I can get my truck in there and back out, I’ll be at your camp at 5:30,” I told him after a sip of coffee at the plastic kitchen table. I’m sure he saw the hesitation in my eyes.

That night felt like Christmas eve. Thoughts of a bugling bull pushing cows across the flats kept me up. I prayed tomorrow would be the day I called in a bull for Josh. It would be his first time with a traditional bow.

It appeared as if once my eyelids touched, the alarm clock rang, and out of bed I leaped. A light mist of rain showed through the porch light, but the roads were passable and would likely stay so for the next few hours.

My morning blood sugar was 107. The cool weather and the first smells of fall had me itching for a piece of my wife’s banana-apple cinnamon loaf sitting on the counter. The last time I had a slice before a hunt, we called in a bull, and my sugars stayed stable, barring a few dips from a strenuous hike that morning.

The Best Laid Plans

I pre-bolused for the bread and savored it, thinking I bolused properly. Holding back just enough insulin to prevent dropping too low and keep my CGM alert from spooking every elk in the drainage, I packed my things. As I climbed the road towards his camp, my pump vibrated and showed a 182 reading with double-up arrows.

I knew we had a good hike in front of us. With a pack on, a little insulin goes a long way. I had miscalculated my morning snack as the numbers on my CGM climbed. The sickening feeling of mega-high blood sugars crept in. As we hiked, I tried to juggle giving enough insulin to bring me down while also trying not to flip my double arrows up to double down.

We set up in the brush and glassed over the rain-soaked flat, awaiting the first elk to turn the corner as the fog lifted. After some time, my buddy kicked the mud away and exposed dry dirt below where he lay flat to take some pressure off his back. Shortly after, he stood again and continued glassing.

The elk never came. Well, they came, but they beat us to the punch. We noticed fresh droppings littering the trails and new hoof prints gouging out the mud. We hunkered down and called, hoping for a response that would at least point us in the direction of a living, breathing–hopefully, blind and dumb–elk. As the air warmed and the thermals rose, we mosied to a dead snag to take a load off.

Would You Rather?

Josh has chronic back pain after his years of service in the military. To mitigate the pain, he constantly shifted positions. One position usually leads to pain elsewhere, and the cycle continues. As we sat on the log and scanned the country for elk, he asked, “would you rather have diabetes or a messed up back like mine?”

The question hit me funny. Would you rather not have diabetes and trade it for something else? I’ve never been a fan of the circumstance Olympics; is what I have worse than what you got? Everyone has their struggles that they have to deal with. Regardless, I can’t count how many times I’ve cursed diabetes and affirmed I’d never wish diabetes on my worst enemy.

“I think I’d take diabetes any day of the week,” I replied calmly and confidently. “It’s a real bastard some days. But when I do my part, I manage well. It’s frustrating when you think you’re doing everything right and it doesn’t work out, and most frustrating when you know you did everything right and it still doesn’t cooperate. But, to this day, there’s nothing I haven’t been able to do because of my diabetes.”

My diabetes. I own it. It’s nobody’s responsibility but my own. Maybe that makes diabetes harder to handle mentally? Knowing that the burden is solely mine is tough when even after 23 years, there are days when I want to throw my hands up and say ENOUGH. But owning my diabetes has helped me gain better control and thrive in the wild places I love so much. 

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