I ran into an old friend of mine the other day. I call him and “old friend” since he is at least as old as I am. Naturally the conversation turned to deer hunting. He told me of an afternoon hunt where he and a buddy waited in a blind over a food plot. The deer were moving in, well within range. Jim said to his partner, “You should shoot that young buck over there. He would be good eating.” His partner replied, “No, I think I should let him grow another year, but go ahead and take him if you want.” Jim agreed, it would be best to let him get to be a big trophy buck in a year or two. Before long, a nice fat doe came into the food plot, presenting a broadside shot as she ate. Jim’s friend suggested Jim should shoot it. There would be a lot of meat on a fat doe. Jim considered it for a minute and told his friend to go ahead. He did not really feel like cleaning a deer and dragging it out this late in the day. The friend had the same problem. He did not relish the idea of that much work. A few more deer came and went before one said to the other, “We might as well go home if we are not really out here hunting” The other agreed. They had not really been hunting as neither of them wanted to shoot anything, but they were enjoying watching the deer come and go.
I must say, I enjoy hunting as much or more than most people, but as Jim and his friend found, the hunt is usually more fun than the actual getting something. It is hard to beat a day in the woods wildlife watching with friends, family, or even alone. It is peaceful and relaxing to be in the timber as deer and other animals moving about either not knowing you are there or not caring. It makes a person slow down and notice the world around them.
It was almost sunset Sunday afternoon when I took the dog out for one of his necessary trips. Sometimes the trips are really necessary and at other times, he just wants somebody to go outside with him and throw the ball. As we walked around the edge of the garage, both the dog and I stopped when we saw a nice fat doe in the garden just down the hill. Deer season was still open and I still had one tag that was not filled. The deer did not spook and we stepped back around the corner. My shotgun was on the table just inside the door, waiting to be cleaned. The shells were next to it. I thought for a moment wondering how badly I needed a deer. I thought about the work involved as opposed passing and having the enjoyment of chasing her out of the garden all next year. It did not take long to convince myself, it would be more fun to have her around than eat her.
It seems, when we get to a certain age, it is easier to let the deer walk and enjoy having seen them than go to all the work of turning them into meat. I know when I run out of deer meat next spring, I will regret the last deer of the season pass, but I never regret the time spent hunting.