The velvet buck photos are upon us. Every social media outlet, forums and even the local bow shops are buzzing about the various bucks that have hunters praying their arrow, bolt or bullet connect with this fall.
With this however comes my least favorite question in the entire hunting world.
"Would you shoot him?" or "Is he a shooter?"
It pains me when I see this question posed. I can sense the motivation behind the question almost always revolves around two things; approval or acceptance. Let me make it crystal clear to every single soul reading these words right now; NO ONE ELSE’S OPINION MATTERS.
Just as you are the only one holding at full draw...so are you the only one that matters deciding whether to let an arrow fly or not.
That truly is one of the greatest beauties of hunting, that personal relationship with nature and our quarry we form in our pursuits. Sure, the moments and journeys shared with our family or hunting brethren cement themselves as part of the tales and memories, but it still a very personal thing. Not any two hunters relate to their quarry in the exact same way. Not any two hunters have the exact same experience; because every hunt, every deer, and ever harvest is different.
I have even spoken to hunters that shared the same tree on a successful hunt. They experienced the hunt, the harvest and the recovery all at the same time together. Yet when asked they recall the entire story differently. One heard something the other didn’t. One felt something the other didn’t. Each, despite sharing the hunt together, had entirely different experiences.
I say all of this because in the end if you let the hot air blown by everyone else about what you should shoot dictate your decisions, you will never truly enjoy your hunting season. Now I’m not saying don’t have goals…or even minimum age or size restrictions for bucks, but make those self-made!
So just stop caring or worrying about what your buddy from Iowa is hunting or what the dozen guys say on a forum board about the buck you have on your property! It is your property. It is your decision.
If you want to shoot, shoot…if you don’t want to, then don’t. It truly is that simple. If I based all my personal harvest decisions on articles read, forum discussions or the opinions of my Iowa friends I would literally not have a single buck to pursue most seasons.
As a matter of fact let’s rewind back to my 2016 season. I would enter the 2016 Fall with various bucks on my radar, but to be honest arguably only one or two would many of my friends probably use a tag on. There was a buck which due to his unique split G2’s had caught our eye and I was unsure whether or not I’d harvest him…saving that decision for the moment should the chance present itself.
Splits would appear one October evening. I actually would have him feed out, hit scrapes and mill around with a small buck for a few minutes within bow range. I even captured video with my phone of some of this encounter. Initially my gut instinct was to grab the bow…but I fought the feeling off due to what I pictured others thinking. He was a great buck for my area, and the 3rd largest buck I’d gotten pictures of anywhere on my new property; however he was smaller than what many of my friends would want (I estimated he’d be around 120) to use a tag on.
As I watched him slip off into the brush to my NE, I immediately regretted the entire encounter. Everything inside of me had said shoot, but I’d let outside thoughts influence me and here I was letting a great buck for my area walk away with no guarantee anything better would present such an amazing shot chance. I knew if I’d taken the shot I would have been all smiles about him, but I had let the moment slip away. It was in that moment I knew he was a shooter to me and that is all that mattered.
You see I have no problem eating tag soup, it is actually a fairly familiar recipe I visit more years than I do not. I’ve passed quite a few bucks that many think I’m crazy for (see 2017 buck video), but as Splits walked away, I’d known in my gut I would been happy with him and that is all that should have mattered.
Unfortunately for Splits, he wasn’t gone more than 5 minutes and came meandering back out to the clover plot and fed along in front of me a mere 13 yards away. He would later be loaded into my truck a mere 28 yards from the stand. I’d shot the very first buck off of a property I could grab the dirt and claim ownership…I’d shot that buck for me and no one else, it was amazing.
So the next time you think of proposing the question to someone, shooter or no, I want you to first ask yourself who is going to be with you as you raise the crosshairs, draw your bow back or take aim on that buck? Who’s finger is going to trip the trigger of your release or apply the gentle squeeze to the gun of your choice?
If your answer is not yourself, then go ahead ask the question…if not, don’t. It DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY.