"Did you get a deer?" is a well meant question but quite frankly it annoys me. It comes from well-intentioned people who know I spend quite a bit of my free time, especially in November, bow hunting deer. This past Monday through Friday I spent 48 of the 55 daylight hours sitting in a tree stand or ground blind waiting for the right buck to cross my path. After all that time, I didn't shoot a deer. I had over 25 deer come in to range at one point or another. During the course of the week I actually drew back on two borderline "shooters" (a term we hunters use to describe a deer that meets our minimum standard for shooting), but opted to let down and let them walk. One of them I spotted bedded in tall switch grass and managed to stalk up to 15 yards away before deciding I wouldn't try to take him. After he spooked and ran off I saw he was a bit bigger than I had estimated through the grass so I'm kind of second guessing my decision now, but it's a choice you have to make in a one-buck per hunter state like Kansas. I also saw an absolute monster from a distance but couldn't get him to break from his doe to come in for a shot (remember, you need to have a deer within 20-30 yards, without obstruction, to take a shot). I also had a fully mature, giant 8-point come right to my calling in a thick woodlot only to shoot under him at 16 yards yesterday morning! Did I get any deer? No, but man it was a tremendous week. Someone asking "Did you get a deer?" (even the phrase "get a deer" irritates me) sort of implies that not shooting a deer means the week was unsuccessful. My favorite is when gun "hunters" ask me the question, then after I say "no", they go on to tell me all the deer they've sniped, I mean shot. Hey, I love shooting guns and have taken deer with them, but seriously, there's no comparison regarding the kind of skill and preparation it takes to get archery close to an animal and shooting one from 50, 100, even 400 yards. I think gun hunting is certainly legitimate and a worthy past time, but please, it doesn't stack up against bow hunting. Hours of tuning and shooting your bow, tweaking this and tweaking that, learning to discern yardages quickly (even with a range finder), scouting in the off season to determine food sources, travel patterns, knowing when it all changes because of the stage of the mating season (the rut), setting up multiple treestands in the heat of summer, picking ticks out of your skin, poison ivy outbreaks, buying gas, camo, and hand wamers, getting up at 4am to be on stand before light day after day etc. etc. is not paralleled by shooting a 30-06 the weekend before rifle season opens, then sitting on a bluff with an orange jacket opening morning and plugging a deer that got spooked by some other hunter with a scoped high power rifle from a heated box blind from two football fields away.
"Did you get a deer?" I hate that question before January 15 when the season ends and it still bugs me a bit after.
I don't hunt to kill stuff. I hunt because I love the outdoors, the solitude (with the exception of the occasional text message on stand), the escape from noise, and the chance at a crack at a beautiful animal and worthy quarry. I can confidently say the 2008 season will have been a success if I don't kill a thing based on the experiences I have already had. I was hunting on the ground Tuesday night and had a deer literally walk to within 7 yards of me and stare at me. He was a 2.5 year old 7-point buck. I am sure he had never been that close to a human ever. I didn't want to startle him and have him blow and make noise alerting his buddies (especially his grand daddy) there was trouble over his way, so I calmly said- "please don't make a fuss, I don't want to spook off the other deer because I'd really like to shoot a big one". He just cocked his head and sauntered off without appearing overly spooked or alarmed. He made no noise whatsoever. My wife found this interchange concerning, I thought it was pretty cool. Now, if God had given the deer speech like Balaam's donkey to say something like- "Dude, you are a nut, you are speaking to a deer", I would have fainted and fallen backward in to the draw I was hunting, probably tearing my rotator cuff or some other such injury. Anyways, I hunt for such experiences, not simply to kill things. Last season I only shot one deer, the buck I took in December. In years prior I have successfully harvested a few does keeping one for meat and donating the others to food kitchens. I also try to take a good buck, one that is at least 3.5 years old, but more preferably 4 years old or older (very rare). This means passing on dozens of young bucks in a given season. One year I didn't harvest a buck at all, but every year I love my time in the field.
"Did you get a deer?"- please don't ask me that. It's the wrong question.