Outdoor Columnist Ben Smith says he was so caught up in not seeing bucks on his recent hunting trip that he lost sight of why he really enjoys being in the woods.
As the sun set on my final hunt of the trip, frustration began to kick in. As I climbed down from the stand I muttered a few choice words under my breath and threw myself a little pity party. Looking back on it, I feel more like a spoiled brat than ever before.
If you’d talked to me on Saturday night, you’d have thought the world was coming to an end. Most of you know by now that I missed opening weekend of rifle season, which is not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Mississippi is one of the best states to hunt in when it comes to opportunity. Our rifle season lasts longer than most other states in the country, and if you’re an archery hunter, you have four months out of the year to hunt deer. However, after missing that first weekend, I wanted to make sure I was in the woods the following week. As soon as we polished off the Thanksgiving feast, I packed my bags and left out the next morning.
The weather was great, food plots were finally coming up, and the leaves were dropping. I was almost certain I’d have plenty of opportunities to see deer. And I was right. Each time I went into the woods over the course of the next couple of days, I saw plenty of deer. To me, there was only one problem: none of them had antlers.
In my first two hunts, I saw over twenty deer. I even saw deer on the way in the woods to my stands and on the way out. There were deer around my tent after dark. I believe that I could have poured corn into the tent and left the door open, and they would have slept in there with me. Deer friggin’ everywhere. Usually, this would make me happier than a fat kid eating cake, but I was so caught up in not seeing bucks that I lost sight of why I really enjoy doing this.
I’m going to blame my frustration on myself. There’s obviously nobody else to point the finger at. The truth is that I’m the most competitive person that I know, or at least I think I am. I wouldn’t sell my soul to win, but I might sell someone else’s. That said, this competition with our William Carey baseball team and the USM baseball team to see who can put the most bone on the ground really gets my competitive juices flowing. On the other hand, looking back, this was a great opportunity to put things into perspective. Something I clearly didn’t see until driving home.
I was about halfway back to Hattiesburg when it hit me. How in the world could I be angry about the weekend that I just had? I grew up hunting in places where we might go an entire month without seeing a deer. And now, I’m ticked off about seeing a couple dozen in two days? My personal pity party turned in to the biggest guilt trip I’ve had in a while. Not only was I acting like a brat, but I also robbed myself of an enjoyable moment in God’s creation. And not only did I do that, I forfeited time that could have been better spent with my family.
For the final few minutes of the trip home, I did my best to reflect on the good things to come out of the trip. For starters, I did kill a deer and bring meat home, even if it didn’t have antlers. I was able to scout some new areas out that move prove to be successful in later trips this season. Also, I introduced our dog, Tessie, to sleeping in the tent for the first time. Usually, I enjoy being alone in the quiet tent at night, but her companionship made the adventure much better. And finally, I found out what crummy neighbors we have hunting next to us. Seriously, if you hunt land that borders other people don’t be the guy that puts your stand on the property line facing your neighbor’s land. It’s a good way to get your corn pile peed on.
Things should start heating up in the next few weeks for deer hunters across the state. It looks like we are finally going to start getting a little more rain to help those food plots continue to grow, and hopefully we can close the book on summer (at least until our usual Christmas heat wave). In the next couple of weeks, the does should start shaking off their fawns in preparation for the upcoming rut. Pre-rut activity is already starting in a lot of the state with younger bucks sparring and making a few scrapes here and there.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the loss of our former president at William Carey University, Dr. Tommy King. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the things he accomplished in his career and his time at William Carey, and our university is better today for his service. On a personal note, I owe a debt of gratitude for the opportunities that he gave me in my career. Please keep the King and William Carey families in your prayers in the days to come.
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