For some hunting is about trophies, but for me it’s all about that meat. I guess you could say I’m a traditionalist in that way. I hunt to feed my family. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a big animal with a big rack, but not enough to pass up an opportunity to feed my family for another year. We hear it all the time in the outdoor industry, “Hunting is conservation.” And, it’s true! Hunting controls animal populations thus maintaining healthy herds. Well, if that’s the case, not harvesting an animal based on the size of its antlers feels counterintuitive. Forky or 4×4, it all looks the same inside your freezer, but that forky usually tastes a whole lot better.
At the beginning of every hunting season there’s an internal struggle as I remind myself why it is I hunt. The ultra competitive side of me dreams of shooting the big six bull or the 40″ buck, getting my picture and story in a hunting journal. Plus, shooting a mature muley buck is hard. They didn’t get big by being dumb. The challenge alone gets my competitive juices flowing. But, as my husband Ty always reminds me, if it’s an animal you wouldn’t pass up on the last day, it’s probably not an animal you should pass up today. So, despite the battling inner monologue, those are the words I live by.
Opening morning of the 2015 general season rifle hunt in Idaho I shot at a brute of a buck. I mean this guy had it all, size and width. It was about a 450 yard shot with my .270. I missed, barely. Shot right under it. It was so close the buck felt the velocity of the bullet and hunched up. At first I actually thought I’d hit it, but we tracked it for some distance and never found a drop of blood. It was a great learning experience for me though and for that I’m grateful. It is, to this date, the longest shot I’ve ever taken. I replayed the moments leading up to the shot over and over and I know the take away lessons will make me a better hunter.
That same evening we were heading towards camp when I spotted a big bodied forked horn standing about 250 yards away high atop a hillside. Do I shoot, or do I wait for something bigger? It wasn’t a tough decision. The sage brush was thick and the terrain steep. I ran about 20 yards up the hill looking for a rest. There wasn’t one. I kneeled down, pulled up and did my best to control my breathing. I pulled the trigger. The shot was farther back than I like, but I hit lung and liver. A second shot to the heart completed the harvest. He wasn’t what I “dreamed” of, but he was a solid buck. I was grateful for a successful hunt and another day in the great outdoors with my husband. This buck will provide many family dinners: stroganoff, steak, roast, Swedish meatballs, spaghetti, chili… the list is endless. It’s all about that meat.