Is Counting Inches Killing Deer Hunting?

It was about this time last year when we posted the article, Small Buck Shaming, here at Bowhunting.com. If you haven’t read it, go back and check it out when you’re done here. The article resonated with thousands of hunters across the country that are tired of the trophy trend that seems to be pushed as the new standard for all deer hunters. They’ve had enough of hearing outdoor TV hosts say that anything less than a giant buck is, “…just not good enough.” This time around, however, I want to give you a closer look at how, for some, counting inches is killing deer hunting.

No, I’m not against scoring deer. It’s obviously cool to know how your buck measures up. But when you find yourself disappointed in a buck that you took off the face of the earth because he’s, “not quite big enough,” you have a problem. When you find yourself counting inches for no other reason than to beat the next guy, you have issues that need to be addressed. I’ve seen guys get so caught up in antler inches that it was eating away at their lives like cancer.

And if you need a real-world look at how counting inches is killing deer hunting, we’ve got you covered. Below is the story of a woman that allowed antler inches to seemingly ruin Christmas. She’s like that crazy soccer mom, only worse. She’s a deer hunting mom that got way too caught up in counting inches.

how counting inches is killing deer hunting - big buck walking

What do you count as most important in your deer hunting pursuit?

Here’s the story from Daryl Ratajczak, former Deer Coordinator for TN Wildlife Resources Agency…

About ten years ago, I was working late trying to get a few things wrapped up that had been laying on my desk way too long. Even as the deer coordinator for Tennessee, you are sometimes tasked with menial jobs that require you to be cooped up in your office. It was with great relief that I received a phone call from a woman who wanted to stop by my office after work with a deer her son had killed two months earlier. Her hope was to get it scored by an official B&C scorer and present her son with the framed score sheet for Christmas. I had nothing pressing going on that evening so staying after work and helping her provide this gift for her son was my pleasure.

The lady arrived at the office and immediately upon seeing the deer I knew it was something special. It turned out her 14-year-old son had taken it during the October Young Sportsman’s hunt. The deer was not only the talk of the family, but it was also the talk of the town. We took the mount into the conference room and you could see the look of excitement in her eyes as we began taping up the deer in preparation for scoring. It took about twenty minutes as I walked her through the measurements, even having her assist me with holding the cables so she felt part of the scoring process. When all was said and done and the numbers were recorded, I excused myself to use the scoring program in my office to make sure there were no “human-caused” mathematical errors.

I was impressed when the numbers came back. Her young son had taken a brute of a deer scoring just over 164” typical! I returned to the conference room anxious to tell her the final score. When I announced the net score of 164-1/8” and congratulated her, her demeanor drastically changed. Her happy jovial mood was suddenly swept away and tears began to fill her eyes. She actually became quite distraught.

“There must be some mistake!” she said. “His grandfather told him it was going to score over 170” and make the record books! I can’t show him this scoresheet. He is going to be devastated!” We double checked all the numbers to satisfy her denial. Upon her realization the score was indeed correct she grabbed the mount and hurriedly gathered the score sheet, crinkling it up in her free hand. I guess there was going to be no framing for Christmas.

Clearly, this women took the number of antler inches entirely too serious. When you are moved to the point of tears, anger, and disappointment over what your deer scores, you really ought to reevaluate your motives and purpose. This attitude is disrespectful to the animal that has fallen for our pleasure, and it goes against everything the hunting heritage was built upon. Enjoy the hunt. Count the moments and memories that you’ve spent hunting with family and friends.

Shoot the big bucks when the opportunity comes your way, but don’t get so caught up in counting inches that you miss out on what the hunt is truly all about.

Brodie Swisher

Brodie Swisher

Editorial Manager at Bowhunting.com
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
Brodie Swisher

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Comments

  1. Brandon T says:

    Daryl you forgot an important detail! You forgot to tell the woman that a Net 160 is now considered a B/C entry. Even if it isn’t an All-Time Record it would still be a Booner. The moral to this story however when you mentioned at the end of this article is spot on.

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  2. Scott D says:

    Roger Raglin’s recent “rant” sums it up perfectly in my opinion. Hunt for the thrill and excitement….not just for inches. If it is “good enough” for you then it’s good enough!!

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    • Jerry Hutchison says:

      Right on

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    • Joey Bourgeois says:

      Yes sir

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    • Brandon says:

      Agree. Spike or 18 point it should be about the hunt and the story not the inches

      Reply
  3. Many hunters choose to trophy hunt and many judge their trophy by inches. It doesn’t mean they’ve lost sight about what hunting is all about, nor does it contribute to “killing hunting”. This article doesn’t help our overall cause for keeping people open minded about the sport. Spin a controversy using another angle…

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    • developer says:

      There’s no doubt that many hunters judge their success on inches, however, being disappointed because it’s not as big as you thought it was is not a good message to send. Being thankful and humble for what you have is a big part of the hunting heritage. That should be the main message that we’re getting across to young hunters.

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  4. Paul Sebald says:

    From what I read, she was just sad that her son’s hopes of being in the books, (which were given to him by his grandfather), were going to be broken. It wasn’t HER deer, it wasn’t that SHE was mad and acting childish because it was a few inches shorter that she thought. She was simply feeling empathy for her son who was told it was going to be in the books and was about to be disappointed….and SHE was going to have to tell him and see his reaction. I understand wanting good things for your children and seeing the excitement in their eyes and how painful it is to see that dissolve when they’re told otherwise, no matter the subject. Love is a strong thing.

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    • That’s kinda what I took from it too. But wasn’t there to see her actions in person. I could see it going either way but agree with you

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    • Well scored above 160 the deer will be In B&C

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  5. Tim Leming says:

    I think getting a deer is a trophy in it’s own way . There has been times that I was just as excited I got a 4 pointer as I was when I got a big 9. Every deer I have taken in my 25 yrs. All have great memories in my mind. My first deer was 1 1/2 old doe. And she hangs proudly on my wall and the memory is still fresh in my mind after 25 yrs . Your success hunting isn’t by the size of the rack but enjoying nature that alot of people never get to experience . I pray next to each deer I have ever shot and I’m not religious .

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  6. Kevin Mulder says:

    It is tough now with social media and hunting shows to not have buck envy. I have been hunting in Michigan for over 20 years and I put a lot of time and money into bowhunting. I have shot one buck that was 3.5 years old. All the rest are younger. I try to pass all the 1.5 and small 2.5 bucks, but I spend hours and hours in a stand each year and some years I never even have a shot at a Buck that is over 1.5 years old!! It’s so frustrating sometimes. It has been 7 years since I had a shot at a mature buck. That is a lot of hours in a tree, doing food plots, etc with no big buck to show for it. Those of you out there that get to shoot bucks that are worth measuring, be grateful. A lot of us don’t get those opportunities even though we work just as hard.

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  7. Sounds like comments I’ve heard all too often on this site’s own Bow Hunt or Die….. “Just not the deer I’m looking for”, “Just looking for something a bit bigger”.

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  8. Pete Harsh says:

    This article should be a wakeup call for those who shame or want to restrict other hunters choices as to what size buck they harvest. I quit scoring deer for contests and/or the general public some time ago due to the negative issues it brought out in some individuals disappointed with the score their buck received. If fractions of an inch determine the success or quality of your hunt? Perhaps it might be time to reexamine why one even hunts deer. A very good article IMHO.

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  9. Dale Kiser says:

    This was a great article I have ran in to Several guys like this they was not satisfied with The score They got on there Whitetail deer I always tell them It is what it is But I do Trophy Hunt But I Complete with May self no one Else, If your not going to be Satisfied with what you are Hunting then don’t Shoot.

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  10. Dennis Hoefs says:

    I have hunted Whitetails for more than 45 years to this day still do, there are several nice bucks on my wall that I have harvested the biggest in inches is 157 6/8 that I shot with my 14 year old son teaching him the art is still hunting on public land. To me it has been an honor and a privilege to harvest a big whitetail, but has never been my primary goal, only a bonus to beautiful day in the out of doors. The real trophy though exists within the hunt itself. The mounts on the wall is reminder of those memories and a life lived of a majestic and elusive animal. My opinion is, when you only hunt for inches and not the experience, and or providing healthy food for your family then you should consider another challenge in life other than taking a life to fulfill your ego. From what I have witnessed, in my area anyway, is the people who are so worried about the inches are those who plant food plots, feed vitamins and other growth enhancing chemicals on private land to grow antlers. Then sit in their Taj Mahal with their cameras, range finders, sents, calls and $3000 rifles to kill their livestock for bragging rights of who can grow the biggest antlers.

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  11. Dennis Hoefs says:

    Agreed!

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  12. This is a very well done article, and in my mind there is a huge problem with hunting today, and this is the biggest one, People no longer just hunt-they compete. Many have either lost sight of, or never experienced hunting for hunting sake. The journey, planning, figuring where, and when to place a stand, or hunt a spot, leg work, and woodsmanship skills. In todays world folks plant massive food plots, hang out game cameras, build heated hunting stands, and shoot–not hunt, but shoot game. Don’t even get me started on high fence–I don’t care how many acres–fences are designed for ONE purpose–to keep things within in them–IN, and things on the outside-OUT–PERIOD. Larged racked bucks have ruined many people, and cost many friendships over the years, and this is truly sad. It seems that if, and when a guy says”I shot a buck”–the first questioned asked is–“what did he score.” I’m sick & tired of all of this garbage. It literally eats some people alive like a terminal illness. I am one of those folks who has also hunted for many years, and do not like where things have gone at all in the world of hunting. Commercialization has ruined it for many. Big money, big racks, big egos–all combined with the wrong attitude.

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  13. “Is Counting Inches Killing Deer Hunting?” I wasn’t aware that deer hunting is dying. Sure, the number of deer hunters is declining. Those trends have nothing to do with “counting inches”, absolutely nothing. Her reaction is an exception and I doubt has happened very few times if ever before or since. She obviously has more issues than just whether or not the buck scored 170″ or more. I’m not sure what the purpose of the article is, especially from a pro bow hunting magazine/website. This is an article designed to divide hunters, don’t let it!

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  14. I am so glad the landowner that allows me and my boys the privilege of hunting his land always says to shoot what makes us happy. My three boys have never been trophy hunters and actually are disgusted with the hunting shows on TV today. I believe I have raised them right in this regard. I quickly shut down a so called hunter who mocks someone for killing a small deer. If you’re “hunting” strictly for inches, please retire!!

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  15. Russ H. says:

    One person stated that they were unsure what the purpose of this article was, and that it is of a divise nature. What this article is about is pretty straight forward, and to the point. Hunting in, and of itself has become a competition, and way over commercialized. For many they only care about what the buck will “score”, and nothing short of huge will do. I also had an issue a few years ago similar. A pro-shop owner had sold a complete bow package to a father & son. It was the first year the boy would hunt, and his father was totally involved in preparing his son for the season. As time progressed the father & son team were hunting together, and the boy shot his very first deer–fully by the rules–no laws broken–a spike buck. The father brought his son in, and wanted to tack a picture of the deer and his son on the board in the shop. Now–get this–after the father & son departed the shop the owner took down the picture–ripped it in half, and threw it in the trash. He said, and I quote–“No buddy wants to hear about this, and the father needs his behind kicked for allowing the boy to kill such a small yearling deer.” That really changed things for me, and ended my relationship with that place of business.
    Far too many people get wrapped up in what a deer will score, and get a sense of shame because their deer simply will not measure up in the eys, and minds of other people. This attitude has become rampant, and is just outright wrong. We have entered into an era where we shame, berate, and belittle others instead of sharing in their joy, and the story they could share about the trip to the great outdoors. Hunting was never, or should never get to a point where it becomes a competition. Not one single person should feel shame, and anguish over a deer they have taken, and have the feeling of shame because those around them have the mindset–“Your deer simply doesn’t measure up.”
    This mindset as I said in my last response is like a terminal illness in our sport. It has to stop. If one wants to only take large bucks that’s fine. However it’s not fine to berate, and belittle others, and feel shamed when, and if “Your buck doesn’t measure up.”

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  16. Stubby p says:

    Well to me it sounds like she does not totally understand scoring .The green score then 30 day dry. Changes things.As far as hunting inches I hunt mature bucks is all I shot a 31/2 year old this season that was basically the same as he was last season just a bit more mass. So not every buck is going to be a giant .TV shows etc are not the way it is in the real world .Those guys hunt for a living and make there money off products they promote. If you want to hunt to hunt and have fun then do that. Just don’t put all your time into trophy hunting unless you own or lease a huge plot of land.The deer hunting seen has changed alot in the last 20 hec even the last ten. We as hunters have to do what is rite for the game we hunt. I watched a show the other day a buck came in to the hunter mid 120s limping hard he walk few steps and stop his tounge was out . Now on camera or not you do the rite thing and put him down then the hunter says I hope he makes it .That peed me off I’ll never watch that show again. Sorry for the rant this is my opinion .Here in NY our deer are not supposed to be baited like they are on those shows.Alot of money gets spent on there gimicks etc I buy what I know works and just take care of my gear to make it as scent free as I can .Hunt away spend time making deer comfortable in your woods give them a sanctuary that you just don’t go near hunt so you don’t even put wind on it.Set stands up for many different kinds .Good Luck

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  17. Many of the television shows are nothing but entertainment, and product endorsement, and sales pitches. The so called “pros” that some may look up to are hunting on prime managed land that encompasses many acres. This is not typical of how the everyday average joe hunts. If we were to reverse roles–take the everyday average Joe who has hunted typical land, and has experience under his belt, and place him on these managed areas they too will be successful. Take those so called “Pros”, and place them where many are forced to hunt, and we’ll have a different scenario on their success, and outcomes.
    Far too much emphasis has been placed on these television shows. These people are paid to endorse, and sell products. It doesn’t matter to these guys if folks are successful, or not–they are there, and in my mind are total “sell-outs” to our sport. As long as their bank accounts, and wallets are full–thats all they are truly concerned about. I do not watch any of the hunting shows at all anymore. I have watched some enough to realize–this simply isn’t how most people can hunt, or can afford to hunt. When we take vulnerable minds, and feed them the ideas that they absolutely must have all the stuff they see advertised, or have them watching over, and over people who continually shoot massive animals year after year–seasson after season–well those of us that have been around the block know–you aren’t killing animals like this season after season without being where they exist. Where they exist is on carefully managed properties that will cost a lot of money to access, and hunt. The craze of massive antlers for some reason has really changed many people.
    Again I go back to the juncture in which I feel many are at. They kill a buck that in their mind suits them–totally legal, but become afraid to tell friends, and associates about their self defined trophy, or share photos, and a story for fear they will be judged, and shamed because their buck simply didn’t “measure-up.”
    This idea that only certain deer, and only certain people “measure-up” in the world of hunting is absurd. Do not allow others to define for you what a trophy is, what success is, or what, and how you should be hunting–or how you should define happiness with an animal you have taken all while remaining fully within the outlined rules, and regulations of the sport. I’ll define for myself whether, or not I “measure-up”, and will refrain from judging, berating, or poking fun at others in a totally idiotic way in the attempt to tell them whether, or not they, and their trophy “measures-up.”

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  18. If the deer net was 164 they should have given her the gross as well. I do believe the woman’s actions were childish at best however she obviously wanted to be the one to deliver the good news. It should have been a great learning experience for this young man. I had no problem putting my 140 on the wall next to my 170.

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  19. After 11 years of hunting I killed my first buck, my dad, which has always been my mentor since I was 5 years old and started shooting and hunting, was so proud of me. I was actually alone on this hunt and it has been a rough morning. My dad asked me, “Did you finally find one that was to your satisfaction”? I responded, “Dad, all these years it’s not been about killing the biggest deer, it’s been about spending time with you”. My fondest memories as a child were dad and I hunting, fishing, or just being outdoors together. It set a bond that can never be broken. Now married, with a son, I still can’t get enough of going hunting with my dad and can’t wait to hear the stories of when he takes my son. There will never be a better hunting partner than my dad! It’s not about who kills the biggest buck or breaking the state record, it’s about the love of the sport.

    Reply

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