Now that deer season is over, I’m sitting here contemplating the events of 2012. Personally it wasn’t the most successful I’ve ever had. However, I still find myself reminiscing about the experiences that I had and the knowledge I gained. I still consider the season a good one, regardless of tags filled or unfilled. The cat and mouse game with a true giant during the season gave me mixed emotions. I became truly obsessed and concentrated all my efforts on harvesting that particular buck. I kept his core area untouched after capturing my first trail camera picture of him, and hunted very cautiously. I passed up more young bucks this year than I ever have, and even some that I would normally have been elated to shoot. I decided I would kill this buck or none other. So, throughout the course of the season, no less than thirty-one bucks passed within bow range of me….and I never came to full draw! Ultimately this led to my failure to harvest an Indiana buck this season but somehow that doesn’t bother me all that much.
What determines success in your mind? Capturing the moment on film, killing a particular buck, sharing time with family or friends? Only you can decide.
A few years ago I would not have felt the same way. As I was cutting my bowhunting teeth, I measured success by the number of things I could make dead. Any deer was a good deer to me. Somewhere along the line however, that changed. I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that as I started to manage my hunting properties and improve the deer herd, I started to enjoy building relationships with specific deer and watching them grow. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in the south so to me a 120” buck is still a big deer. I still get excited when I see one. The only difference now is when I see a gorgeous two year old buck that’s borderline pope and young more often than not it is a buck I recognize from trail cameras.
While still enamored by the beauty of such a creature, now I tell myself “gosh he’s nice, but boy oh boy he’ll be a giant if he makes it to four and a half!” I’m content to watch him as he passes by, hoping in the back of my mind to encounter him again in the future. This fall taught me a lot about deer in general that I didn’t know; much of which I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t been so dead set on harvesting one particular buck.
I did encounter “the giant” on November 1st. He worked a scrape line 500 yards from me just before last light and started to work my way when a car on a nearby road spooked him. That one sighting is the only time I’ve ever seen of him on the hoof, but it was enough to motivate me to keep going. Sometimes I nearly convinced myself I was crazy for passing on so many other bucks. And many of my friends told me I was absolutely nuts for passing up any bucks at all. This brought up an interesting question in my mind. Why do some hunter’s seemingly not care about managing the deer herd?
Are you satisfied with simply spending time in the outdoors or does something ultimately have to die?
The answer I came up with is simple; we all hunt for different reasons. That is something I think many of us, myself included, take for granted at times. Some of us are very concerned with trophy hunting and managing the deer herd, while others are simply just not that concerned about it and are happy with any deer. Some only hunt for the meat, others just to get away from the stress of life. And there is nothing wrong with any of those. Myself, I silently cringe every time I hear someone say they shot a button buck, and admittedly it’s hard not to unload on them about how ridiculous that is and that if they only want meat they should wait for a doe. But in truth, I have no more right to do that than anyone has to tell me I shouldn’t pass up young bucks. If I would rather eat a tag sandwich than shoot a young buck, that’s okay. If someone else would rather shoot a button buck to have meat in their freezer than go home empty handed, that’s okay too. It’s a tough pill to swallow for those of us that are serious about herd management, but it’s also a reality we all have to accept.
Each and every one of us hunt for different reasons, and sometimes that gets lost in the midst of everything. Personally, I love the challenge of everything I do: planting food plots, managing the habitat, letting the deer grow, chasing those older age class bucks, and trying to somehow capture all that on film. But I can assure you that if all that was taken away and I had no properties that held big bucks, no food plots, and no cameras, I would still hunt for fun. I wasn’t sure of this until late this season. All the troubles I had this season were really wearing on me. I had camera malfunctions, stands stolen, trespassers, pretty much anything that could mess up a hunt I had happen to me this season. Coupled with my lack of harvesting anything I was very frustrated and actually asked myself “why do I do this?” I felt as if hunting had become more stress than it was worth.
Faced with some tough questions, the author found the answer (and his trophy) in this particular buck.
So to ease my mind I took a trip back to North Carolina to visit my Dad. I did take my bow, and while there I decided one evening to go hunt behind my dad’s house where I grew up hunting. I climbed up into my old homemade wooden stand I put up when I was twelve. I immediately started remembering hunts from the past I had in that stand years ago. I was laughing to myself about how I had messed up so many hunts from that tree when I was “learning the ropes” of bowhunting. Then something magical happened. I think God wanted to teach me a lesson. Not more than 30 minutes after I climbed up, I heard a grunt and a buck appeared 50 yards away.
Now where I grew up the deer population is pretty low, and bucks, especially mature ones, are few and far between. Here was a beautiful 115 inch buck marching straight towards me! Suddenly, I didn’t care what was on his head, and I didn’t care that I didn’t have a camera with me. I was just a hunter. The buck closed the distance to 25 yards and I put a perfect shot on him. When I walked up to the buck I said to myself… “ok, that’s why I do this.” Once again, I remembered how much fun hunting is. Hunting is something that gets in your blood. Only a fellow hunter can understand that. Hunting is my drug of choice, and it gives me a high like nothing else ever could. All of us would do well to remember that we all love to hunt, and that a serious hunter doesn’t necessarily mean you are a trophy hunter.
Why do you hunt? Share your reasons with us…….