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.
This is the week.
The week every bowhunter looks forward to like a kid looks forward to Christmas morning. The bucks are up and cruising looking for love and chasing the does around with their amorous pursuits. If a big buck is to slip up, now is the time when his mind and usual wariness is somewhere else.
Several of my hunting friends have already taken some fine bucks in the last few days. The kind of deer that make other hunters envious. I admire my fellow hunters that have the resolve and persistence to target a specific deer and wait it out until they get their chance. My hat’s off to those guys and gals that routinely bag large bucks year in and year out.
Bravo, because they are much more patient than I am.
Every fall, I hope to tag a mature buck, the kind other folks will ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ about. I think deep down, all deer hunters feel the same way. But, in the end, if I’m given a chance to take a deer, whether it be an old, fat doe or a fine young, basket racked buck, what matters most is if I am happy with my harvest.
Too many of us as deer hunters get caught up in the size of the antlers rather than the hunt itself. For several, it has become about reducing an animal to nothing more than a trophy. A huge mount or set of antlers to be hung on the wall.
Hunting, be it chasing a mature animal or a yearling, is so much more than that.
I saw a recent posting on a social media site from an acquaintance of mine. He had taken his young daughter out for an evening hunt and the youngster was lucky enough to bag a deer – a buck to boot! But the story sours for me when the father prefaced his retelling of the hunt by saying “He was just a small buck, but I couldn’t tell her no,” referring to his daughter wanting to shoot the deer.
“Why would he tell her no?” I thought.
Here is what looks to be a 7 or 8 year old girl, hunting with a crossbow and her Dad is seriously considering telling her not to shoot a young buck. I just don’t understand that mindset. I still get a charge out of seeing a deer in the woods, up close, buck or doe. I can’t imagine asking a young hunter not to shoot when she was ready, willing and able to do her part and play her role as a hunter.
Now I know the father didn’t mean anything by his words, but when we say things such as “He was just a small buck” or “another year and he’d have been a monster” or “It’s a decent deer to take with a longbow,” we diminish what we’ve accomplished as a hunter.
What’s worse in my opinion, we diminish the fact that we’ve taken the life of an animal. It’s actually disrespectful in my book. Rather than preface the recounting of our hunts and harvests with “He’s okay for a…”; or “it’s not the biggest buck in the woods”, maybe we should just share our excitement, our true feelings about the experience.
There is no need for any hunter to feel ashamed about their particular prey.
If a hunter chooses to harvest the animal in front of them, then I say good for you. More power to you. But, if you have a twinge of a thought that you might have to censor your excitement or preface your hunting story with “he’s just a small one”, maybe you should think twice about dropping the string on the deer in the first place.
– David Hewitt