The first thing that comes to most hunters minds when they hear a buddy shot a buck or a bull is “what did it score?” We have all done it and will continue to ask the question out of curiosity. But, are we starting to loss focus on the reasons we are out in the field? Are we buying into the hype of the TV celebrities that we see in every advertisement for the latest must have accessory? I hunt so that I can spend time in the field with friends and family as well as help to provide for my family by filling the freezer. For me, it isn’t about the inches.
From a young age I learned that in my family hunting was a time to spend with each other while also getting out into the woods looking for a deer and other game. I used to look forward to the weekends that my aunt and uncle would take me to a farm in Wisconsin where we rented a blind to shoot at geese passing over on their way to feed. Now I look forward to heading to deer camp in the fall so that we can relive past successes and continue to dream about the “big one.” The good hearted ribbing that takes place is now as much of a tradition as opening weekend of rifle season in Wisconsin.
Working in retail management for so many years has prevented me from spending enough time in the woods to chase a specific deer caught on camera. Generally I only had a weekend or two that I could get away from my busy schedule to punch my tags. I became of the mindset that the first deer I see I am going to harvest and put in the freezer for my family to enjoy over the year. More often than not, I would bring home a doe and I was proud to do so.
In 2011, my father and I headed to Wyoming for our first ever elk hunt. We both had different expectations of what type of bull we wanted to harvest. For my dad he just wanted a bull as he wasn’t sure if he would ever get to do this hunt again. I made it known that I wanted to take nothing less than a 300” class bull. On the first day of the hunt my father did get himself a nice bull which left me the remaining five days to find the bull of my dreams. I was so focused on shooting a big bull that I passed on a few opportunities to punch my tag. By doing so, I ended up eating elk tag soup for two years until I could get back out west to try again.
This past September, we headed back to the same location in Wyoming and again I had it in my head that I still wanted the big one. Again my dad shot a bull on the first day that I passed on at 35 yards. The next morning I was presented with an opportunity to take a respectable 5×5 bull that wasn’t the large herd bull I was after. Without hesitation I clicked off the safety of my rifle and pulled the trigger. My instincts told me that that was my chance to harvest my first bull elk and not waste another couple thousand dollars chasing a dream. As the other hunters in camp started to bring back bigger bulls over the course of the week, I was still proud of the fact that I had a great looking bull and 200 pounds of meat in my freezer.
I strongly feel that one of these days I will get lucky and harvest a monster buck or bull elk that I will be proud to hang on my wall and brag about to my friends. While I feel that I am a skilled hunter, it will be a case of being in the right place at the right time for me to get a trophy animal. Part of my problem is that I hunt to many different animals and can’t seem to focus on just one. Now that I work closely with a few hunting manufacturers I almost feel like I am obligated to shoot only trophies. Yet, I feel that I should show the average hunter how equipment will perform for them in the field.
Hunting for me will always be about quality time not only spent with nature, but with friends and family. If more hunters would take the time to look at these little things, they might find their time in the field a little more enjoyable. I look forward to the first time I can take my daughter to deer camp so she can take part in the tradition that hopefully will never end. While antlers are great to look at, a hunter can’t eat them. So for me the true trophy is the meat in my freezer and it will never be about the inches.