You are eagerly anticipating your first Alaskan big game hunt with your dad. Your thoughts are full of images of the huge antlers on the moose and/or caribou you plan to shoot.
Perhaps the mental picture of a trophy grizzly bear fills your imagination, but you just know the entire hunt will be a failure unless you actually kill something. For a beginning hunter, the measure of the hunt depends on filling the bag limit.
You’ve become bored with the relative ease with which a high-powered rifle allows you to harvest your annual moose or caribou. The short-range limitations of a “primitive weapon” like archery gear or a muzzleloading rifle are appealing because of the need to stalk in close for a shot.
You anticipate the excitement of a short-range shot after an intricate stalk and the thought of this season’s upcoming hunt once again gets your blood boiling. For some, method hunting sparks their hunting interest. You’ve drawn yet another subsistence caribou tag and your son has too. You’ve been doing this for so long that qualifying for the tag is almost a given.
This year, though, you learn that your grandson will be coming along for the first time. You begin thinking about instructing him in the fine art of judging a trophy caribou rack and how to process the animal.
What had become a routine hunt to fill the freezer has now become an opportunity to pass traditional methods you’ve learned down to your grandchildren. Time spent with family in the hunting fields has now become your main focus.
While the chance to take an animal remains the basic premise for hunting, we all participate in the hunt for varied reasons. Most of us hunt for the meat – the chance to fill our freezers with some of the healthiest protein available.
Some admit to wanting a trophy set of antlers to hang on the den wall. Others say they enjoy the time spent with family and friends in a wilderness setting. Most say they enjoy the experience of hunting.
Planning the details and logistics for a hunt holds a strong fascination for many folks as does trying out new equipment and finding that perfect “gadget” to improve your hunting success.
I have always, first and foremost, been a meat hunter. I will shoot the first legal animal that provides me an opportunity. However, I hope that one year, the first legal bull I can harvest will also be wearing a trophy rack – a true bragging spread. I can always use the pressure cooker for the meat a “mature” bull would provide.
When I lived on Afognak Island and hunted Sitka Blacktailed deer, I got “bored” while hunting with a scoped, bolt-action rifle. One season, I decided to only hunt with handguns and filled my freezer using revolvers, a semi-auto, a break-open single shot, and a bolt-action handgun at ranges as long as 100 yards.
Another year, I used only lever- action rifles, including an 1873 Winchester replica in 44-40 caliber to put meat on the 2 table. Since I retired, I’ve gotten back into archery because of the special hunts and local area opportunities available only to those using this type of hunting equipment.
I had only killed a couple of big game animals in my life when I accompanied my dad on a white-tailed deer hunt in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the mid-70’s. He had moved to Georgia a few years before and I didn’t understand why he so enjoyed sitting on his stand along a game trail on a white birch-covered ridge. He missed the look of a stand of white birch, which didn’t grow in the Deep South, and used his time during the hunt to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of that ridge.
I teased him about passing up shots at bucks just so he wouldn’t have to end his hunt early. From the look I got after my comment, I may have come closer to the truth than I would have guessed.
What I didn’t understand was that my dad, who had harvested many deer over the years, had progressed to the stage where the experience of the hunt was more important than bagging an animal.
Whether you hunt to feed your family, to see your name in the Boone and Crockett big game record book, or for the opportunity to experience the natural world, enjoy your time with family and friends in that wilderness setting and experience your own personal version of the essence of the hunt.
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