Along The Trail 10-13-16

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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We’re nearly two weeks deep into Indiana’s archery deer season and a few of the surrounding states have been open even longer. Through social media and other online pages, I’ve been able to share in some of my friends’ successes and see and read about their hunting adventures. It’s been great to re-live their hunts and see the excitement through their photographs.

But – yes, there always seems to be a “but” – when some of my buddies, either real or online friends begin their posts by stating something like “It’s not the biggest buck in the woods”, or “I shot this little fella” or “He’s smaller than I’d normally shoot”, etc. – Well, that grinds my gears.

I’m genuinely happy when I read about other folks’ success in the deer woods. I can almost feel what they felt through their writing, but it really bothers me when a fellow hunter feels like he or she has to preface their story by diminishing the animal that they took.

The way I see it, by saying something like the quotes above not only diminishes the animal harvested, but it takes away from the entire experience that hunting is supposed to be about. If a hunter feels the need to give an explanation of why they shot a smaller animal or justify their choice, maybe they shouldn’t have shot the critter in the first place.

Deer hunting – especially bowhunting – has fallen into the same sort of media driven marketing like every other sport or pastime in our country.

Sportsmen and women have had it pounded into their heads that shooting any deer other than a buck carrying a trophy set of antlers is unacceptable. That somehow by shooting a smaller deer, you’re less of a hunter or you’re not really successful.

That’s total bunk!

I’ve written before that I really admire other hunters who are disciplined and set their sights on a mature whitetail buck, but if another bowhunter chooses to take a smaller deer that presents a shot, that is between that hunter and the animal.

Recently, I had read a Facebook post that a young friend of mine shared online about his hunt.

He shared photos of a deer that offered up a shot, that by almost any measure was a mature animal that would have most bowhunters salivating. My friend chose to pass the shot in hopes that a bigger buck would come by. I applaud the young man for having the will power to stick to his guns and not release an arrow at an animal he didn’t want to take. But, it was some of the comments posted by others that rubbed me wrong.

Other hunters posted about how the deer would only score in the 130’s (total inches of antler growth on the Pope and Young scale for my non-hunting readers) or “Good pass” or something to the effect of “He’ll be a monster next year.”

I completely agree with the idea of “They can’t grow if you don’t let them go”, but as deer hunters, when is enough, enough? We have fostered a culture of young hunters, I mean folks who have probably only been hunting 5 or 10 years, maybe a bit longer, who think the only animal worthy of taking is a buck that scores a certain number of antler inches.

It’s just my opinion, but that isn’t what hunting should be about.

I would be willing to bet that many of the bowhunters out there today that only see bucks as “shooters” or “Pope and Young” class deer don’t even know whom Pope and Young were and the role those men played in bowhunting and the history behind the scoring system of animals taken by bow and arrow. We have corrupted deer hunting and bowhunting in particular into something that it shouldn’t be.

The late Fred Bear, arguably one of the greatest bowhunters of all time once said, “A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be…”

I think I come down on Fred’s side and hope that more of my fellow bowhunters begin to feel the same way.

– David Hewitt