Saturday was National Archery Day. (Thump, thump friends.)BUBS Naturals and the Cult of Recreationalism wanted to highlight friend of the brand and avid bow hunter, Josh Hansen ofHansens Surfboards in Encinitas, CA.
Surf shops and bow hunting...wait a minute.
Josh Hansen has lived a lot of lives.
You can almost kind of plot them out on a line: Young Hansen, Surf Hansen, Fat Hansen (yes, really), Fitness Hansen, CrossFit Hansen, SEAL Fit Hansen, Parachuting Hansen..it goes on.
But one thing has been consistent for Josh Hansen: bow hunting.
Born to Don Hansen of the famous Hansen’s Surf Shop in Encinitas, CA Josh grew up in the surf and skate culture San Diego is known for. “We’re a surf shop. We’re as Mom and Pop as a shop as you get. We’ve been around Encinitas for a while,” Josh said.
So how does a surf kid from Encinitas wind up bow hunting all over the country?
“I'm an avid bowhunter, I really really enjoy it," Hansen told me on a recent phone call. "I'm not necessarily that good at it but I do spend a lot of time in the woods, and it's really really great. It’s a great, I guess you'd call it a hobby, that I enjoy."
Hansen and his family moved from Southern California to Montana when he was 10. After years of surf and sand in San Diego building Hansen Surfboards to what it is today, his father wanted a vacation spot away. Turns out, the lifestyle in Montana suited them.
When Josh was twelve-years-old, he took a hunter safety course and became obsessed with hunting elk and deer. He hunted solely with a gun until he was 15 or 16-years-old, and he loved it so much he wanted to extend his hunting season. Enter archery hunting.
He’s been hooked since.
One of Hansen’s best hunting trips was with another surfer, a man from San Clemente, named Kasey Curtis. Curtis has surfed some of the best big waves around the world, but it's the hunting moments that he and Hansen draw back on.
“We always kind of talked and after those moments that we’ve shared together that we’ve been in bow range of an elk, and he’s like 'Hansen I think this is the most intense experience I’ve ever been a part of.' I would have to probably say the same thing. There’s just something about that, I guess, for us,” Hansen said. “You want it so hard and you’ve worked so hard and you’ve prepared and you've practiced and you have that one single second to make it all come together. It's not easy.”
One trip that wasn’t easy for Hansen was hunting white tail deer in Kansas. Curtis and Hansen flew out the day before their hunt was to start, napped in their car, then got up and got to it early the next day.
On day one, they can make out a buck from about 200 - 300 yards out. But Hansen waits. He was doing as he was instructed; there were a lot of deer in this particular area, it was prime land, don’t get overwhelmed and take the first one you see they told him.
“I’m fresh off the plane, you know, and I live in California, and the size of a white tailed deer is not trivial. It can be tricky, you know. I decide I’m going to let this deer walk. And as it’s walking, it's starting to look pretty nice,” Hansen remembers.
So he waits, fearing he’s jumping the gun, and at 70 yards the deer steps off the trail and just walks off, just like that. Hansen missed it.
Back at camp, another friend asked him how he did. Hansen told him he might have maybe messed up. Turns out, there was footage of Hansen and that buck and it was one of the biggest deer Hansen’s buddies had all seen. Hansen remembers the grief they all gave him. "They all told me it was the biggest one they've ever laid eyes on and there's dudes that have come here like ten years in a row and wouldn’t blink to shoot that deer and you just let that thing walk,” Hansen remembers.
Hansen felt horrible, like the worst hunter in the world.
On his last day of that trip, ten days later, perched in a rickety ass stand that Hansen almost didn't climb into (safety third!) that same buck re-appeared and Hansen got him. He redeemed himself.
Curtis told him, “Josh, I can’t believe that I just saw that. You just got the biggest deer that I think I’ve ever seen with my own eyes."
In that moment, on the last day of his trip, Hansen redeemed himself.
Just like surfing, like CrossFit, like parachuting, like skiing, Hansen made a decision to just start, and then he got to work.
One of the things that Hansens takes with him on his hunting trips now is a backpack that belonged to Glen “BUB” Doherty. Sean Lake, Doherty’s best friend and Co-Founder of BUBS Naturals, gave it to Hansen a few years ago. “One day, I will return Glen’s backpack, full of meat,” Hansen promised Lake.
How does one dip a toe into archery hunting? “Find a local archery shop, start local. Do your research to make sure they have a great reputation, take some classes in an indoor range, start shooting on the indoor range. Start going to target shooting events. Make those connections, find others, and wiggle your way into a hunt,” he said.
And though, yes, Josh Hansen has wiggled his way through many lives, they are all in search of the same thing: a connected moment of shared experience. “At the end of the day, it's about those experiences. You just have to be in those moments,” Hansen said. “With a bow, it's ten times more intimate and it’s much harder. If I had the choice, gun or bow, it's a bow every time.”