Photos have already started pouring in from the early antelope and mule deer seasons out West, and soon I’ll be seeing some tremendous elk and whitetail photos from across the country. I’m “friends” (at least on Facebook anyway) with some great hunters that have already killed beautiful animals with their bows, and the temptation for me – when I see these photos – is to get jealous. Well, that used to be the case, anyway.
At the root of this temptation is something silly. Something to do with worth, and ego, and all sorts of stupid things that so easily become part of hunting for too many people.
Hunting is more than a hobby. Hunting is, for many people, a part of their identity. You don’t hear too many people say, “I am a tennis player.” But you’ll hear many hunters talk about how they were born to hunt, live to hunt, and will do anything they can to be able to hunt as long as they live. Hunters are proud to be hunters, and consider it a badge of honor to define themselves as such.
You’re going to find your self-worth from an animal that you shot?
You may think that sounds crazy, but if you’re a passionate hunter, then I would place a bet that says it’s at least partially true of you, too.
Maybe you don’t get jealous of other hunters, or find your identity/value from hunting – or at least you think that’s the case – still, I challenge you to remember these 5 things this hunting season!
Hunting Doesn’t Matter
Yes, I said it! Hunting doesn’t matter. This statement is coming from someone that finds his sanity, rest, adventure, some income, and even part of his identity in hunting. I am a hunter. I spend every single day, probably every single hour of every day, thinking about it. I spend hours every week writing about it, and dreaming of it.
Still, I would say that in the grand scheme of things, hunting doesn’t matter. Not when compared to your spouse, your children, your friends, or a dozen other things in life.
Before you take hunting too seriously, or make too big of a sacrifice to kill an animal, just remember what really matters. When all is said and done, what good is a trophy photo or an impressive set of antlers on your wall? I would hate for you to lose even a part of the truly important things in life, just so you could kill an animal.
How > What
Remember that how you kill something is more important that what you kill. At least that’s the case for me. A lot of “great hunters” aren’t all that great, they just have a lot of opportunities, or money, or both. In my book, a hard-earned 110″ buck is better than a record-book buck that wasn’t killed through difficult circumstances. Hunting was never meant to be just about the kill. And it was certainly never meant to be about a trophy photo. Hunting is about the experience, the pursuit, challenge, patience, courage, and then the kill.
What You Have, Where You Are
You can only do what you can, given what you have, and where you are. Hunting, like real estate, is all about “location, location, location.” It’s stupid to hold out for a 150″ buck when they simply do not exists where you’re hunting.
Be realistic about what you can harvest, and don’t forget that the quality of animals you see on the TV and Internet isn’t the norm. Focus on how you hunt, and shoot what is a realistic representative of the species available to you.
Audience Of One
When it comes to what animal you’re willing to pull the trigger on, you’re the only one that has to live with the decision. Hunt for yourself, not for anyone else. Who cares what your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or fellow Instagramers will think?! Don’t make some stupid excuse like, “it’s a management buck”, or “he isn’t the biggest, but…”
If the animal makes you happy, and it’s a legal/ethical shot, then what are you waiting for? Pull the trigger!
Celebration over Aggravation
Finally, choose to react to other hunter’s harvests with celebration, not aggravation. Don’t get jealous that someone else killed a monster buck, or a toad of a bull. On the other hand, don’t assume that everyone must meet your standards of what “a shooter” is.
I know a guy that shot a buck that he was absolutely thrilled with. He was all excited to show his friends, which he did, and then one idiot in the group exclaimed, “I guess he’s alright, but I would have given him another year.” Okay, jerk, that’s fine for you – but you didn’t shoot this deer. Wether big or small, celebrate other hunter’s success!
“It’s paradoxical that the death of your quarry is besides the point and at the same time the whole point. A chase without a kill as its object is like a journey without a destination; a kill without a chase employing all the hunter’s craft is killing, not hunting.”
– Philip Caputo