Back when I first started hunting, I shot a cute little 3×2.25 (yes, I am sticking with the .25 part!), which is something I would NOT shoot now. My bucks have since gotten bigger, while not being “big” to some standards, they have made me excited. I have ended up shooting either some really old bucks or the younger bucks so far–never anything in its prime–ungulate-wise. That being said, they have all tasted awesome, as my really old whitetail was turned completely into sausage and pepperoni–and he was delicious. All my young ones were hamburgered and steaked out and were equally delicious.
Last year, my boyfriend, Jason Maxwell, shot his first bull elk, and we were so excited. I was definitely looking forward to having a freezer full of elk, and that would be a nice change from venison–not that venison isn’t good by any means. Change is good (not the Obama kind). Because I still hadn’t shot my bull after Jason did, and neither had the other hunters we were with, we went back out and came across a bull that was broadside at maybe 100 yards or less from me. He was a spindly 4×4, and I wasn’t interested in shooting him–mostly because we had just gotten our freezer full of elk meat. We didn’t NEED any more meat, and if I’m going to shoot a bull, I would rather have one that I am, personally, proud of and he would have to get my heart racing. That is just me, though. I am sure if Jason hadn’t gotten his bull already, I would’ve had that feeling of bull fever and most likely taken the shot if not for the meat alone. I love elk. But, the fact is, we already had hundreds of pounds of meat, so I was fine passing on the little guy. I got some slack from the other hunters for not shooting being told that you never know if I will ever get another chance to shoot a bull elk…but that’s okay with me if I don’t. I don’t need to shoot any bull just to shoot one. It wasn’t necessary for me to take that young bull’s life, so I passed. He was meant to live that day anyway, because the other hunter I was with took a shot at him and missed. If he made it through the season, he might be a looker next year, though. You just never know if we’ll cross paths again…
Fast forward four months, and something terrible happened. Our freezer died. All of Jason’s elk meat turned into a pile of soft bloody mush. It really was heartbreaking. But, the world kept turning, so we got over it and moved on. Fast forward to now. I am ready to get meat back in the freezer….a NEW freezer, of course. Oh, on a side note, it is amazing to me what people will take for free. We ended up taking the rotten meat out of that freezer and sending it off with our garbage (poor garbage men), but there were about 8 inches of old smelly, rotten blood in the bottom of that thing that produced one of the nastiest stenches. Being a trapper, I can handle pretty intense smelling baits and lures, but this was like nothing I have smelled before. The funny thing is that we had it out back until we were ready to take it to the dump. But, somebody took the freezer! Ew. Somebody actually decided they wanted the worst smelling freezer on the planet (exaggeration maybe, but it was close). I just thought that was funny. That thing was disgusting, but I suppose the saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is true. Anyway, back to the original point….
This year, I drew a muley buck tag in the Big Hole, I am first on the list for a game damage deer hunt in HD 250, I have my elk tag, I am 67th on the list for a game damage hunt in HD 270 and am in the same place for a game damage antelope hunt down near Dillon. That is me alone, not including Jason! With whatever he gets this year, we should be sitting pretty for the next couple of years meat-wise–which means it will give us time to go after those big bruisers and be picky without having to worry about filling the freezer. On top of that, I am fortunate enough to have plans to be wolf trapping with one of the state’s best wolf trappers this season! I am still hoping I find my girthy non-typical muley, though, too. Someday….
Anyway, again, my point of this is that we all hunt for different reasons–actually, not really. I think we are all pretty much out there for the same basic reasons: meat in the freezer, the added bonus to filling the freezer and remembering the animal with a wall hanger, to connect with nature and wildlife on a level that sightseeing alone doesn’t allow, to bond with family/friends, to get away from family and friends and enjoy your passion alone, etc. But, we all pass on certain animals for different reasons–and that’s okay. Regardless of what you go after this year, just remember the reason you’re out there going after whatever critters you’re going after, and may your freezer be full and your shots be accurate. And for my fellow trappers, may your traps be full and coats be prime. Oh, and take a kid with you! After seeing the game damage hunt roster, even though it’s 80 degrees, I’m counting the seconds for this fall/winter. Hoping this is my year! GOOD LUCK, SPORTSMEN!