The story of the one you let walk away

Today I passed on a buck that I would never have previously passed on. This 10 second interaction and quick decision left me deep in thought for the rest of the afternoon.  I was thinking about the “why” and if I had actually crossed the threshold to a “trophy hunter”.

Let me be clear on a few things up front. I don’t hunt deer because I like killing them. I also can’t say that I despise it either because as a bow hunter there is no rush that compares.  I eat every deer I kill, and I butcher them myself to ensure I get all I can out of them, I wouldn’t say zero waste, but I’d say it’s very little. That out of the way, back to the why.

First and foremost.  I am hunting public land in Kansas. This means that if I killed the deer, I would be packing the deer out 1/2 a mile on foot. This wouldn’t be my first rodeo and it’s not something I dread.  Quite the contrary actually. But I have deer at home that are much less work and let’s just say I want the effort to be worth it. Right there, when I said “worth it”, that’s where the subject gets really deep and I start squirming.

Second.  I almost don’t care about bragging. I say almost because who doesn’t like to share their successes, but I also don’t mind sharing failures. In some respects, most failures still contain elements of success you just have to try harder to sort them out.  So, I disregard this as being a variable though I know there’s an inkling to it.

Third. Last year I shot a real doozy.  From this exact tree as a matter of fact. He wasn’t a Pope and Young, but he was an old guy and big bodied.  I shot the doozy after passing on a very small 3 point buck which sounds like a no brainer but after 13 straight hours on the stand and only seeing deer in the distance self-doubt creeps in. To this point, Kansas is the land of big buck opportunity and I don’t have bucks of this caliber in my home range. So yeah, I’d like to shoot a biggie.

Fourth. The rut just switched on. On this very day up to this point I had seen 4 bucks in 4 hours. This was all middle of the day movement and they were targeting does.  By that math I should see 5 more before dark (9 total). I’m skeptical but we’ll see.  Needless to say, if they keep up the pace opportunities should abound. (Story update, I saw 8 total – I really wanted to see one more for grins.). Last but not least, this was on day 2 of a 5-7 day hunt.

Now put on you shit kickers, cause we’re going all in on the topic of “worth it”.  Essentially, it’s subjective.  Let’s say this was the last day of my hunt. Done. I’d have sent my arrow flying. But it wasn’t so why did I hold back? Well it was because I hesitated. I was ready to draw, and something said no. Now mind you I hadn’t had the conversation with myself about what it was I was after but subconsciously, I guess, I knew.  Given a different person and a different set of circumstances that would have been a fine animal to shoot and no one should pass judgment on anyone who decided it was worth it to them.  So, have this conversation with yourself, define your goals and forget about what anyone thinks and go after what you want.  And even then, if in the heat of the moment you still take the shot don’t let anyone’s potential judgement enter your realm of thought. Live in the moment, enjoy how truly special it is and honor the sacrifice of that animals’ life.

As I sit here 4 hours later thinking of that encounter, I am happy I didn’t shoot. I had an awesome encounter with a mature buck and next year I may even get to see him again. Ask me again in a week and I may be crying.


– The 8 Point




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