Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Is A Trophy?

Near the back of this months edition of "Bowhunter" is an insightful article that bucks common trends amongst hunters today. The article is entitled "What Is A Trophy?" by Fred Eichler. In it Eichler does a good job of arguing that a doe can be as big of a trophy as a monster buck. What determines whether or not an animal is a trophy is not its size, it is the hunters expectation. Eichler points out that, to him, making a kill is just a bonus. The reward is in spending time outdoors and in the hunt, successfull or not.

My point is not to review or critique this article. Although, I recommend you pick up this months issue of "Bowhunter" and check it out for yourself. My point is that many hunters get discouraged and even upset when they do not kill any game. It is as if the only enjoyment they get out of hunting is in the kill. Is it just me or is there something wrong with this?

I have a friend that I occasionally hunt with. He almost never has anything good to say after a hunt, successfull or not. If he did not kill anything it was a waste of time, if he did kill something it either was not big enough of not "challenging" enough!

Last week I went squirrel hunting. I met a hunter that was down right angry that he had only killed one squirrel. The last thing he said to me as I walked away was that "this was a total waste of time". This man was out hunting with his daughter, the weather was beautiful, he successfully killed his quarry, and yet it was a "total waste of time!" Spending a morning with my daughter outside sounds like a wonderful day to me. Hunting successfully would make it perfect!

My most recent trophies

I can see why many hunters think this way. As I look through the rest of the "Bowhunter" magazine I see page after page of huge deer, bear, and elk. Most of which are larger than any I have ever seen in the wild. It gives the impression that if you cannot kill a monster trophy with every trip, then you are not a successful hunter. If you don't limit out on small game you have had a bad day.

The truth is I feel lucky if I see my quarry while I am out. I have learned to appreciate the hunt. To me hunting is fun. When it stops being fun, I go home.

The funnest hunt I have been on in a long time happened last year on Hogs Island WMA. I didn't kill anything and the weather was nasty, but it was still very exciting.

Hogs Island WMA is a hunters nightmare. There are tons of ridiculous rules you have to follow, lots of areas you are not allowed to go (but the deer are allowed to go), it is thick and swampy, the rangers are kind of jerks, and the mosquitoes are in numbers I have never seen before. I had spent the morning still hunting a stand of woods without seeing so much as a track. I was hot, but the only way to keep the mosquitoes away was to wear my Frogg Toggs. These mosquitoes ate DEET for breakfast. Basically, I was physically miserable. I made it back to my truck and was contemplating going home.

The orange areas are where you can hunt, the other areas are where the deer are.

As I was sitting there I happened to look out into a field 700 yards away. In the middle of it was a doe grazing. I instantly forgot how I felt, grabbed my muzzleloader, and started a stalk. There was cover for the first 500 yards or so, but the last 200 was open field with grass no higher than an inch. I sat at the edge of the cover for quite a while trying to decide whether or not I should see if it would some closer to me. Unfortunately, it began grazing away from me.

So, I got on my belly in the mud and commando crawled out in the open towards it. Every time it looked up I froze. I was able to cut the distance down to 150 yards before the doe looked up and did not look down. I knew this was as close as I was going to get. At the time my muzzleloader only had iron sights, if it had a scope on it I'm sure I'd have killed this doe. 150 yards is pushing it with a muzzleloader, with iron sites.... well, I missed a shot I probably shouldn't have taken. Fortunately, it was a clean miss.

That was an exciting hunt that I will never forget. Would it have been better if the doe was a monster buck and I had made a perfect shot? Sure! But not a whole lot.

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