It is opening day and just as legal shooting arrives a nice buck shows up. Do you let it pass or do you tag out? The buck has an even rack, is nice sized, and broadside at 20 yards, but…

So, you let the buck pass. Heck it’s only an hour into the season. I still have plenty of time. I saw way bigger bucks early in the Scouting. Its not the biggest buck that I have ever shot. The camp pool for the biggest buck went to a bigger buck last year. Maybe I will let a camp member that has not seen a buck use my stand tomorrow. No matter what your excuse is, you are Buckless!

It’s called Hunting! That means that you will be searching, looking, and trying to find a deer. Everything will change as the season progresses. Weather, food sources, competition, other hunters, stand locations, decreasing herd populations, the Rut, and Luck. There are no guarantees.

One of my Buddies hunted for over 30 years without tagging a buck. He saw plenty, shot at some, missed a few, and never tagged out. He always was a welcome camp member and had fun. We shared our harvests with him, but he was happy to be a hunter.

Several seasons ago, I made an extra effort to help him tag out. On the third evening, it paid off. He tagged his first buck! It is mounted and on his wall. That winter, he had a heart attack. He has recovered, but hunting is no longer an option. There are no guarantees.

When I first began bow hunting, I wanted to get only a buck. My Ben Pearson recurve, cedar shafts, and old-style camo kept me close to herds of does. For three bow seasons, I passed up does, waiting for a buck. At that time in Maryland, you only had one tag for buck. If you used a bow early in the season, you were done. Fortunately, rifle or gun season kept my freezer full. I could always wait for a later chance.

An old archery Mentor told me that the only way to harvest a deer with a bow was to shoot one. He implored me to take the next fat, sleek doe that came by. On the next hunt, my moment arrived. After passing up hundreds of does, you would think that I would be used to being close to deer. Knowing hat I was going to shoot this one changed everything. The excitement was overpowering.

My Dad always told me to “Breathe”. Take a full breath and let it out easy. We used finger tabs to hold the bowstring. He wanted me to let the string slide off so easy that it would be a surprise. Just like a trigger pull. After practicing on targets that were shaped like a deer, I knew the kill spot.
Aim for the Exit!” That is what my Dad always said. Make sur that the arrow passes through the lungs.

The string slipped off my fingers and I watched the fletching’s disappear in the kill spot of the doe. She never knew what hit her and fell just a few yards away. My heart was racing. This was not my first deer, but it was my first deer with a bow and arrow. If this doe would have had 40 points, I don’t think that I would or could have been more excited.

Not only was this deer memorable, but it was also perhaps the tastiest deer that I can remember. I kept the tail for fly tying and made a necklace out of the dew claws. The hide was tanned and used for years as a tablecloth during Eagle Scout and award ceremonies.

This arrow harvested doe was a better choice than Tag Soup. During the rifle season, guess who was the Camp Cook? Not a problem. I was able to mentor and help other hunters with their success. The worry and stress were gone. No pressure to fill a tag.

Years later, tags became more abundant, and the freezer could be full and allow for additional hunting. Special late season hunts or crop depravation tags became common. During those late season Black Powder and archery hunts, I would often hunt until the last legal sunset. On a few occasions a nice buck would make it through the hunting season and show up. More than often, they did not.

As a hunter, you need to decide why you hunt. Is it for the meat? If this is your reason, get out your wallet. Wild game will ultimately cost more than prime beef. Once you get a license, gear, travel, lease fees, club membership, butchering, etc.

Do you hunt for the time afield? Perfect, you will always be happy and satisfied. Hunting fellowship is great and creates lifetime relationships and memories. As we age, this is more important.

Do you hunt for a trophy? Unless you are on managed private land, trophy bucks will be few and far between. You will need to pass up a lot of non-trophies to tag a big one. Be patient!

Whatever your reason for hunting is, go all in. Hunt your heart out. Every outing is a blessing, and you will always take home a new lesson. Hunting companions are also unique and special. Appreciate them and share the memories.

Take the first legal Buck that comes by! Over the course of your lifetime, you will harvest plenty of trophies and much more.

Montana Grant

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