Deer season is under a month and a half away, and while it is eagerly anticipated, it comes with the age old debate, “Is this deer too small to shoot?” This argument is rarely a civil one as it generally appears in the form of ridiculing a hunter for taking a young deer or resenting the neighbors for taking the 2.5 year old you had let walk.
As a deer hunter we all start somewhere. Three years ago I shot my first deer. It was a spike with a shotgun, but to this day I am more proud of that deer than any other. This year my goal is to take only a 3.5 year old buck or better. But that is my choice. If the neighbors decide to shoot every year and a half old buck I might sit down and have a civil discussion about shooting does instead, but I am very aware that what they shoot is their choice and while I may not 100% agree, I will be the first one there if they need help tracking or dragging.
What we need to remember is that regardless of what we shoot, we are all hunting for experiences. A big buck may be what you’re ultimately after, but at the end of the day you hunt because you fundamentally enjoy it. If you genuinely hated hunting no big buck would get you up at four in the morning to go sit in a tree. At the core we all enjoy being in the woods, regardless of what we shoot or don’t shoot. So why do I help the neighbors track and drag their spikes and forkhorns out every year? Because I am a hunter, and as a hunter I can enjoy building and being a part of other hunter’s experiences, even if the young deer I'm helping them drag is the same one I passed countless times earlier that year. Being on the receiving end of their stammering, adrenaline filled phone calls, the high fives, and ear to ear smiles means more to me than what that buck could have been a year down the road.
Now I don’t want to get political here and I am not generally a political individual but I have had this thought for years now and feel it should be mentioned. I don’t know many liberal hunters, and for good reason. But most conservative thinkers will agree that government should play a smaller role in day to day life.
Why can’t we, as hunters, acknowledge that we may not all have the same goals when hunting, but we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, and our youth hunters to positively participate in their experiences.
Next time you see a photo posted of a young buck harvested I urge you to try to put negative thoughts aside and remember some of your first harvests. Chances are you killed some young deer as well.
In conclusion, may your arrows, bullets, and bolts find their mark this year. May your bloodtrails be short and recoveries swift. Go and claim your trophy, whether that be a doe, your first buck, or a 150" Michigan monster- and have a good time doing it!