Monday, November 17, 2014

The Evolution of Me...

It used to be about the kill or rather, I wanted the kill, I wanted to feel as if I had accomplished something. I told myself it was about the meat, but that just wasn't so, I wanted to say that I had killed. Wasn't raised that way, and I am not sure when the momentum shifted that way, but that's what I had become, a killer. 

I'm a constant critic, of myself and my own nature. I analyze myself almost daily and while sometimes it takes me longer to finally see or realize that I have done or become someone I am not proud of, in due time, I am able to make shifts and adjustments accordingly.

I had an awakening last year. Perhaps it was a reaction to something else, but it was positive, it was positive and true to who I am. I'm a hunter and I have a code of ethics that I follow and I have a passion for the outdoors unlike any other.  Realizing this, which was, this awakening of self discovery, it set my sails on a new course. When I say course, I mean direction, and by direction, I mean my approach to hunting. 

I want to tell you a story,  but my reasons for sharing this is not a means to pat myself on the back, it's simply honesty and in some ways it begs a question. I won't judge another's ethics, however, I will question them, as I do my own.

It was my first hunt of the general rifle season of 2014. I was hunting with the man whom I call, my younger brother. We arrived to our spot just before shoot time and we took a stand as the sun peaked over the Sierra Nevada's. We were hopeful, we waited and waited. Being that it was my first hunt in California, I figured that after we sat for awhile, we'd get mobile and take a look around to see if there were any new trails. We "still" hunted together, slowly walking through the area, carefully keeping a watch out for any movement or sign of life. I think we made it about 400 yards or so, when I caught the glimpse of antlers quickly shifting from underneath a small bush, just 20 yards to the east. There was no question about it, this was one of the biggest bucks that I have ever seen in this area with my own eyes, I could tell he was 4 on one side, but never got a solid look at the other set. By far, the biggest animal that I have ever seen in the area. The buck didn't jump out of his bed in the way that you would think a deer of this caliber would, he simply stood up and trotted off directly away from us, all in one motion. Not hurried, or running, just a relaxed trot. I drew my gun, and what I saw, was the backside of a massive deer. This whole experience played out in seconds, but it was long enough to take a shot, I had the buck in my cross hairs, I am sure my bullet would have pierced it's body... but I drew down. For myself, this is somewhat of a defining moment between a hunter and a killer. A deer that is trotting directly away, provides zero opportunity for a quick clean kill, and I'd say 9 out of 10 times would require either a follow up shot or a long track, and there's also a big possibility that you lose the deer altogether. The only shot placement that could ensure a clean quick kill, would be the neck, but this is such a small target that is constantly moving, the odds would be in the category titled, pure luck. So say I pull trigger while aiming at the biggest part of the deer (it's backside) and I hit it, there's a good chance I lose a hind quarter, there's a good chance I destroy the tenderloin and back straps and there's a good chance my bullet ends up in the guts, and that story typically does not have a good ending, so why do guys take this shot? I couldn't find a justification, for myself, and I left that day with zero regrets. There was no questioning of myself, "Should I have shot?" "Why didn't I shoot?"... none of that. I knew I did the right thing.

What I don't understand about those who take high risk shots, is the justification for doing so,  and I hear this a lot, "I hunt for meat, not horns or antlers." So meat hunters take whatever shot they can, even if it is a shot that wounds or destroys a substantial amount of meat? Sorry, I can't grasp that train of thought. 

It would seem to me, that the person who shoots an animal in a way just to knock it down, with no regard... is not the meat hunter, he's the trophy hunter. If meat were the primary goal, you wouldn't take that shot. 

As a hunter, I feel a responsibility to myself and the animals I pursue. Hunting has to be more than about bragging rights in a photo, at least to me it does. It has to have meaning, the act of killing is not a thoughtless action. It should involve skill, patience and we should do whatever we can within our means to ensure a clean and quick kill. My motives for hunting can't be based on killing, for that is such a small detail in a rather big picture of who I am, and why I am... a hunter.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Aaron. I too had an almost identical situation arise last year. A very nice buck stood up nearly 30 yards from me and just slowly trotted off straight away. Years ago having given that opportunity I would have aimed for the rear end and took that shot. I put my rifle down and even slid to the east thinking I could flank the buck. As he past behind a small bush he disappeared. Probably went underground. Only thing I can think is we're getting older, wiser and more patient. Finally listening to what our old men taught us.