Deer Hunting: Keeping it Real

Finally. The work day had come to an end and I was headed for one of my most favorite places on earth. My work load of late had been staggering. Deadlines and commitments have become the norm. Slipping into the woods for the much needed mental break and stress relief has become almost impossible. This day was no different.

I hadn’t been in my favorite spot long when the two grizzled monarchs appeared on the opposite side of the food plot. The plot had been planted and nurtured for their behalf months earlier. There were at least 15 other deer already in the field as well.

I strained to make out every detail of their 150-plus-inch racks. They appeared to be mirror image of one another. Guessing them to be twin 4-½-year-olds, I knew either of them would be the trophy of a lifetime for most any hunter. Yet there they were, not one, but two of them without a care in the world and plenty of daylight left.

As if they’d read the script, the pair closed the 200-yard distance and were now almost within bow range. I could feel my heart rate slightly increase when the lead buck turned broadside at 20 yards. I took a deep breath and focused my attention behind its shoulder anticipating the shot.

As both deer continued to slowly work their way past the stand and back out of bow range, I slowly reached to my left, grabbed the remote control and shut the TV off. I wasn’t in the mood to hear about how great the management plan was working on that particular private farm and how big those deer would be in another year or two from now.

Blame it on the media, the hunting industry, or even hunters, but somewhere down the line, it appears as if “we” as a whole have lost touch with the true spirit of deer hunting. I’m as guilty as anyone. I get excited over big antlers as much as the next guy.

I don’t know how it happened, but when did food plots, mineral licks, vitamin supplements, management bucks, age structure, buck-to-doe ratios, shooter bucks, and other like terminology infiltrate the psyche of the average hunter?

Let’s face reality for a minute. In today’s economy, a lot of people are working their tails off just to make ends meet. Most hunters I know have to save up for the better part of a year just to purchase a new bow. I take calls nearly every day from hunters who struggle to purchase the small things such as arrows and broadheads.

When did age and antler size become the measuring stick of a successful hunt? For the hunter who can only hunt two evenings a week and one Saturday a month, that year-and-a-half-old 8-point buck is just as much a well-earned trophy as any other animal harvested.

Archery hunting is such a personal experience that any given hunter can be rewarded on many different levels. Every animal legally harvested is a trophy. One should never be berated into feeling less about their accomplishment because it doesn’t meet someone else’s criteria.

Last season I was able to partake in a real world hunting adventure that transpired within driving distance of my home. In a small way, I was able to help a good friend connect on his first-ever whitetail.

For the small group of hunters and family members who celebrated that day on a snow-covered ridge in western Pennsylvania, it was about the accomplishment of the moment. A hard-earned deer taken under fair-chase conditions shared with family and friends. That’s what “hunting” is all about.

How about it Guide Outdoors Readers: Do you agree with the author that age and antler size should not be the measuring stick of a successful hunt?


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