It was an emotional rollercoaster of a season. All I wanted was an eight point buck. I will save the story for another time, but it didn’t happen. But what did happen changed my whole perspective on deer hunting. After twenty years of hunting, I am done shooting small bucks.
I shot my doe in the first hour of rifle season, so having the ability to shoot a doe AND a buck gave me the opportunity to keep hunting and looking for that big buck. I could sit and watch more of the does and fawns at different spots on the property. One morning, I watched a fisher running around my stand. I enjoyed being in the woods, knowing that I had a specific buck that I was after and that I had already put meat in the freezer.
This season was more of a chess game. I had cameras up at different spots on our property and only a couple small bucks were showing up during daylight. I began factoring in hunting pressure, frequently used trails and if there were patterns to the buck’s behavior throughout the season. I usually go a little crazy during hunting season and obsessing about what deer are on the property but this brought it to a whole new level.
I learned more about the buck and the herd’s patterns overall. I canvased some new property and found new spots for cameras. Instead of focusing on shooting any buck, I had to up my game and think more holistically about what and where the deer would be and why.
I laid my eyes on the target buck. It took me twenty years to see a deer like that and it might take me another twenty but I will take my chances. That encounter gave me a whole new appreciation for large, mature deer. It made me realize that I am done shooting small bucks. I still get excited when I see them walking by a trail camera and I know my heart will speed up when I see them while in the woods. But I won’t shoot them.
My mindset around hunting the property is now about overall health and management. I will prioritize shooting a doe over a small buck. The less does around, the more the bucks will have to move during the rut. And we have too many does on our property and throughout the state. I will be happy from now on watching the small spikes and crotch horns walk by.
The countdown to deer season has begun…