What Ever Happened to the Love of the Hunt?
Now-a-days when someone mentions deer hunting, most thoughts will automatically think big bucks. It seems the days of being excited about just shooting "a deer" is left to being only good enough for our youth. Back in the day, I personally remember it used to be that when hunters gathered together at the end of the day’s hunt. The celebrations and the only congratulations needed were given in the form of "That is a heck of a shot you made on that doe"or "Good job buddy, that’s a nice 10 pointer." Back then, an antler scoring system wasn’t being used to decide which deer was suitable for feeding your family nor was it needed to measure just how good a time everyone had while hunting together. Not one hunter, regardless of age, was ever made or left to feel like less of a hunter because somebody else shot a bigger buck or simply shot a doe. It used to be that we were all just happy with the Love of the Hunt. Most important was to be spending time together doing something other than chores and the kids were feeling like full-grown men because they were at hunting camp with dad and the guys. That is the way it used to be.
This day and age, deer hunting means something totally different. Yes, things do change and we have to sometimes accept the bad change along with the benefits of the good. But I personally feel that in certain areas, the hunting industry has taken away from hunting what it once used to be. Now everything has to be judged as with a score to see if it is respectably acceptable. Most hunters will label a buck as a dink if it doesn’t reach a potential B&C score. Heck, now a day some bucks that score the Pope & Young minimum don’t even get the respect for exactly what they are. This is where the industry has promoted only the biggest of bucks. Most TV celebrities won't shoot a P&Y minimum buck in fear of loosing fans and most outdoor shows won’t use footage of smaller bucks being taken because that isn’t what the viewers want to see. We all know that our youth is our future. So while our bright-eyed youth hunters are getting an autograph from their favorite celebrity hunting/hero. The well respected TV celebrity is standing there telling dad "I don’t shoot anything unless it is a 170 or bigger". Now just what do you think that is doing to the expectations for our youth while on their hunting trips? It teaches them that the only time their hunt will be a successful hunt, is when they shoot a buck that only the most popular of TV hunting celebrities are shooting. But we all know that if we send them to the woods with that attitude, we are just setting them up for allot of disappointment.
Being born and raised in Illinois. I have had the special privilege of learning how to hunt whitetail bucks in one of the top trophy whitetail states in the United States. Starting out with just eagerly wanting to shoot a deer and I mean just any deer. I personally remember what "doing it for just the love of the hunt" was all about. The more deer tags I could get and the more deer I was allowed to shoot was just all the more fun that I was having. It didn’t matter if it was doe, yearling, small buck or big buck. My attitude with every deer I was able to harvest was "Yee Ha. Thank ya Lord for another successful hunt!". Now I raised three boys into the world of hunting whitetail deer. And man was I having fun, just watching them having fun. They usually always harvested a deer with the firearm. But, it was allot more difficult for them with a bow. So when it came to them there boys? I wasn’t so worried about me having to drag out their deer each night. But with having a good size family, we were always looking to harvest for filling the freezer. Now when them boys got old enough and good enough with them there bows? Whew, Man one day I was forced to start thinking about just how many deer I was really willing field dress, drag out, skin out, cut up and eat. Because I Gotta tell ya, them boys were getting dern good and they still didn’t care what they shot. We had deer in about every way you could think of. We had deer burgers, deer salami, deer jerky, deer steaks, deer kebabs, deer stew, deer chili, deer taco, deer pizza, deer spaghetti. And you know when you eating deer burger helper? LOL, That is just all your gonna have to say about that! Either way, it was time for me to start making decisions on if it worth my while to pull the trigger on just any deer. It was to the point that dragging out a doe or small buck for meat just wasn’t a priority anymore. Because, those boys were still having fun shooting anything that was brown, grunted or bleated. As you can imagine, I still didn’t have to worry about meat. It was at this time in my whitetail hunting career that I chose to look for bucks carrying a set of horns that were impressive, specifically to me. Thus, Trophy Ala Whitetail! Now don’t get me wrong. I had already harvested a significantly good number of trophy class whitetail bucks. The first deer I had ever harvested in my life was monster eight point that I still haven’t scored to this day. And that was more than 20 years ago. That is kind of a funny thing, beings I now know how to officially score whitetail racks. But for me it is still about the "love of the hunt". It never was, never has and never will be about the score that gets me to pull the trigger. I personally look for experience or the time that I have spent hunting a specific animal based on the character of his rack. But you can bet if it steps out of the woods and "SHOOTER" immediately enters my mind? That deer is getting either an arrow or a slug into the bread basket.
Now with having more than 20+ years of hunting whitetail deer in the great state of Illinois. I have obtained allot of experience while hunting whitetail’s. In those 20+ years I have made allot of mistakes, had some blind success, had some planned success or just been really lucky at times. Matter of fact, there were a few years I didn’t know what I was doing at all. But what kept me going back, was that I loved just being out there. I have been fortunate enough to take several trophy class whitetail bucks during the times I have spent hunting. My biggest one is being estimated to score in the high 160's. Yes, I live in the monster land of Illinois and I have never seen nor harvested anything bigger. I have trail cam pictures of 200 class deer, but have never seen one from the stand.
Now, as the boys grew up and I began passing smaller bucks to shoot bigger ones. They too developed a desire to start passing on smaller bucks to keep up with dad. They started asking me how is it I shoot all the big bucks and they shoot all the small ones. My response has always been the same. "Just because the buck I killed this year was bigger than the one you chose to shoot. That doesn’t mean that the buck you shot isn’t a trophy? You were just out having fun and took the opportunity to shoot a buck that made you happy at that time. Just always remember that when you only have one buck tag and you shoot just any deer? You not only end your hunt for that day or season. But you ended the opportunity to shoot that buck you were really after. So, if a bigger deer is what you are after? Then don’t end your hunt for a trophy by shooting a smaller buck. You simply enjoy the experiences you’re having while watching all other deer. You pay attention, learn from what those deer are specifically doing and apply it to each day in the woods. Then when a buck shows up that is big enough to get you so excited that you have to pull the trigger? You shoot him with no regrets. But, if you happen to hunt for an entire season and do not harvest a big buck, that is one of the best parts of hunting. You get to hunt every day and even though you don’t always harvest an animal? Never forget that you are still a big buck hunter. But most importantly, Never forget to simple keep doing it for the Love of the Hunt!