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The last deer season

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    The last deer season

    The last few seasons I've tried to focus less on the size of the bucks I hunt and kill and more on enjoying every hunt and kill. It seems that too often the "give him another year" approach was in fact I never saw them again or someone else didn't have the same approach for that deer. Don't get me wrong, I'm still letting most young bucks grow and my ranch partners appreciate that, but I don't have a problem shooting a meat buck either.
    Yes killing "management" buck and doe is fun I guess but there was a growing discouragement in me realizing that each year was starting without the promise of that 150 buck as a possibility no matter how much time, money and effort I was spending.
    So with my focus changing that way I still struggle with insisting on only killing them with a trad bow and leaving tags on the table and worse, one season, coming up a little short on freezer filling. I have worked through some of that as well, but this season I got another thing to think about.

    What if this were my last season? What if I get the news I won't get another? Did I mess up passing that wide 8? Should I have taken more shots early and filled all of my tags?

    We all read and comment on threads about how this season was slow or weird or down because of drought, acorns etc. And honestly it was for me. Killed two small bucks, one here and Missouri, two doe here and a couple of African animals although I doubt they count for "the season".
    Although from an antler and number of kill perspective it was "slow", all and all, it was a pretty satisfying season for me.

    Some good friends got some nice kills with their trad bows and the excitement of them doing well was intense. Even though the buck in Missouri was one I normally wouldn't shoot having to hunt hard and move stands and on the last day . . . It made it a very real "trophy" hunt for me. It seemed that every nuance of the season was a pause to reflect on and appreciate.

    A lot of hardship of friends and family the last year and half, two years have caused me to really look at a sunrise in the stand differently. Everything my friend Randy, his wife and family endured, to my own brother's ongoing battle with cancer, to watching a friend struggling with his ability to be effective with his trad bow, have given me a profound appreciation for what I have, get to do, and the ones I care about who share in this love of hunting and the outdoors.

    Dave didn't get a single day in the woods last fall. Chemo for the intial cancer wore him out and now the brain tumor has him barely able to walk. The fall before he wounded and lost two deer. Something he had never had happen. Disappointed as he was, now I wonder if it weighs on him that, what if that were his last season?

    As a survivor of four cardiac incidents including some stents, of being on a dock hit by a tornado, having been in a serious car accident losing some inards and a couple of other serious injuries it makes me think, what if this were my last season?

    I do know one thing. If it was, I had a memorable one. Not necessarily in ways I would have measured it in years ago, but in ways the intangible outweighs the tangible. I'm grateful for my family and friends. Enjoyed my hunting partners, even if we only enjoy hunting together through texts and TBH.

    I look forward to next season with complete acknowledgement I'm not promised it. But if I get the news it most likely won't happen, I can go on to the next step knowing my last hunting season went well. And I was blessed with good memories and meat.

    As I age my focus is more on the memories and experiences rather than the size of the rack.


      Good thoughts here.
      I agree priorities change as we get a little older.
      I keep a hunting journal and although I'm only 42, I can read back 20 years and know my priorities have changed just in the way I record aspects of the hunt. Never know when it will be our last hunt- always thankful for the time afield.


        You, Sir, understand.
        After probably 30-35 sits in the stand this year without pulling the trigger on a buck, (saw lots of nice bucks, just not "The One") it gives a guy plenty of time to reflect on the good stuff and realize how blessed I am.
        You sure don't have to look very far to see how bad it could be.


          Well put Gary!!!!!

          And you don’t have to worry about the friend who is struggling with his trad bow because he is just fine with things and not in a bad place!!!!!!


          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro


            IMO if your hunting with traditional equipment, you’re in it for the thrill of the shot not antlers.

            I never saw a shooter buck but did see a few culls that I probably should have slung an arrow at, but I was waiting until my kids got some sits in. Well they have other things going on and hunting just isn’t high up on the list for them. So I passed up some shot opportunities waiting for them to hunt which didn’t materialize.

            That said, I’m thankful that I have a place to hunt where I can go whenever I want and hunt however I want.

            Our hunting culture has some great aspects as far as management goes but can also swing too far to the other side of the spectrum causing us to second guess every decision we did or didn’t make.

            I don’t think this was near as prevalent in previous generations


              Well said Sir ! A good and honest assessment of our lives and how frail they are, especially as we age, is something all of us need to think about from time to time.


                Well written and to the point Gary. I’ve been thinking of the same things here lately. Going through family hardships and turmoil makes you think of these things and appreciate every sunrise and deer coming into the area. I put a lot of hours in the stands this season and as Fred Bear put it, “I was 10’ closer to heaven in my stands”.
                I personally had my best season to date with no regrets and nothing bigger than a 7” spike! Lol


                  Originally posted by BillyJack1975 View Post
                  Well written and to the point Gary. I’ve been thinking of the same things here lately. Going through family hardships and turmoil makes you think of these things and appreciate every sunrise and deer coming into the area. I put a lot of hours in the stands this season and as Fred Bear put it, “I was 10’ closer to heaven in my stands”.
                  I personally had my best season to date with no regrets and nothing bigger than a 7” spike! Lol
                  You had a great season bud. Between you, Trumpkin and Jaybay3405 I was pumped the whole season in anticipation and celebration.

                  Sent from my Nokia XR20 using Tapatalk
                  Last edited by DRT; 01-24-2023, 10:00 PM.


                    Very well put Gary, I never have to struggle for meat, heck if I do I will just get out the rifle and bust an axis doe. The tradbow hunt, is so thrilling that size of horns does not even come into play for me. If I dont get another season I have no regrets, that being said I sure hope I do. Dan Toelke called me Monday and said my new Pika will ship next week!!


                      I had those thoughts about ten years ago. Bottom line for me is, I'll be around and hunt until the good Lord calls me home. It no longer matters if there is another year of hunting ahead of me. I didn't hunt one time this past season and don't regret it. I watched the deer struggle through a brutal summer and decided that I wouldn't add to their misery. I am fairly certain that our fawn crop was a bust. I went ahead and planted wheat last fall for forage even though we sold all the cattle last spring. Now there is a good source of food for them so maybe I will see some fawns in the spring. I didn't see a single one in 2022. Seems like there was once a bumper sticker that said "No Regrets". Stop worrying about what may or may not happen and deal with today and hope for tomorrow. You will be happier.


                        Well said Gary! Nothing like sharing in hardships to give some perspective on life. I'd have been fine waiting another 20 years to start gaining perspective though!

                        I realized a while back that I needed to be thankful for all the experiences of hunting, or it wasn't worth the time and effort. This year was a heck of a season for me, despite missing two shots at deer, and never punching a tag. Going all in on public land was what I wanted to do, more than filling the freezer (much to your chagrin, hah!). My wife didn't quite get my decisions, till I explained that I'd be asking "what if...?" all off season. And I can tell you right now, a couple weeks into the offseason, I haven't said "what if..." a single dang time!


                          I’ve killed my share of deer. I’ve killed some nice deer. I’ve passed a lot of deer to “give them another year.”

                          But at 63 the idea of starting over on a new property and waiting 5 yrs to improve the herd is not something I’d look forward to.

                          You hear the old saying

                          First you want to kill a deer.

                          Then it’s how many deer.

                          Then it’s big deer.

                          Then it’s the experience.

                          When in the beginning it was really about having fun. I can enjoy myself without killing a deer but if not killing one was the intent I’d have a camera instead of a bow in my hand.

                          At 63 two shoulder replacements and a crappy back I try to enjoy every year I have left.


                            I'm sure age and failing parts plays into it for sure. I've lived my whole life like I was gonna live forever. But expecting to die tomorrow.
                            With that though, if I ever get to the point where I only take a camera to stand, I'm gonna take up pickle ball or something. [emoji1787][emoji23][emoji1787]

                            Sent from my Nokia XR20 using Tapatalk


                              Nice, well written!!