Why Some Deer Mean So Much To Us, And Others Just Don’t

Why Some Deer Mean So Much To Us, And Others Just Don’t

A few years ago, we redid our basement floor. According to my wife, since there were new floors going in, we also needed new furniture and a fresh coat of paint on the walls. While she was right, I mostly felt like my time in the boat throwing topwaters for smallies was disappearing a little more with each one of her wishes.

While we flirted with divorce a few times during that lower-level house overhaul, what really struck me as interesting was when it was time to put my deer mounts back on the walls. Even though I don’t mount them anymore, I have enough shoulder mounts to take up more space than we have, so a few have bled into other parts of the house.

Somehow I got distracted during this process, and when I returned home, I saw two mounts hanging in the garage. They’d been demoted by my wife, and they were both the smallest of the lot. Her reasoning was that in my trophy room, I probably wanted the biggest trophies.

The deer, a pair of two-year-olds, represent more to me than many of the much bigger mounts. One was my first buck that wasn’t a year and a half old. He was the culmination of a stupid amount of effort over many seasons riding along on the old struggle bus. The other was my first trad bow kill, which was a big accomplishment for me on many levels.

Those two bucks are the least impressive rack-wise, but are some of the most meaningful to me. They also taught me a lesson about deer that I hope I never forget.

the deer that matter

Big Deer At All Costs

The current vibe in the hunting industry, and largely in the general hunting population, is that bigger is always better. If a 170-inch deer is cool, a 200-inch deer is just better. If you shot a 100-inch eight-pointer last year, a 120-inch deer this year is better. In one way, this is true. No one who has a spike and a 5.5-year-old toad walk in together intentionally shoots the spike. Some anti-trophy people will tell you they will, but they are lying.

This makes total sense, especially if deer hunting, in general, is pretty challenging for you. If you live in that reality, the big bucks that other people often kill represent a world in which you hope to live someday. I felt this way for a long, long time. Then, I hunted in Texas.

On that hunt, an outfitted affair with several industry folks, the big bucks hit the ground without effort. We were driven to our stands, waited for the feeders to buzz to life and scare the shit out of us, and then we picked a big buck out of the crowd and killed him. It was the weirdest deer hunt for me because I’d never had one that easy. I loved it and hated it, all at the same time.

The busted-up 10-pointer I killed is now a euro mount on my shelf, and it means nothing to me. The trip, with some friends I rarely see and one who is no longer with us, was fun for many reasons. The actual hunting part was fun in a novelty way, but the deer were almost like living targets. We played the game in easy mode. It wasn’t fulfilling to me at all.

deer matter

Challenge Matters

This is highly personal, but think about the deer, or turkeys, or elk, or roosters, or whatever, that mattered the most to you. Conjure up your best hunting memories, and ask yourself, what do they involve? Undoubtedly, you’ll recall some of the biggest animals you’ve taken. Some probably won’t.

Some of my favorite deer were does. Some were just tough to kill, like those head-on-a-swivel ladies that live on public land in wolf country, while others were just what I needed at certain times in my life. The success of hunting, both from a dead critter’s perspective and from the perspective of getting what you need out of the time in the woods, is often tied to greater things in our lives.

Times when we were struggling and we really needed a win. Times when we felt like we had given it all the effort we could, after sitting through the cold longer days, and then out walks a little consolation prize at the end of the season. The deer that mean the most to us are often the ones we just had to suffer to kill. The ones that put us through a lot of misery, a little hell if you will, before things broke our way.

Those are the deer that often matter the most. They may be giants or forkies, but they all teach us something about why we hunt—and how we should hunt from here on out.

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