I’ve hunted on and off for a total of about 11 seasons now, and my attitude about hunting has changed more dramatically than I ever would have imagined.  Starting out I was always in a rush, especially deer hunting.  The minute I saw a flicker of brown or white my gun was on my shoulder and I was trying to find the deer in my scope. 

After harvesting some nice deer, and honestly making some foolish shots, I realized I’m not out here for the kill, I’m out here for the hunt.  That kind of thinking led me choose archery as my first choice for method of hunting these days.

Archery hunters choose to do things the more difficult way.  We have to get closer, we have to be careful of wind, and scent, we have to make a perfect shot, because follow-ups are rarities in the archery woods.

From purchasing the bow last spring, through practicing daily all summer, I couldn’t have been more excited for the Pennsylvania archery season.  The opener came and sure enough I had some action the first morning.

Four doe came in together.  The problem was when I saw the first I thought she was alone.  So, when I turned to get a better look, the big mature doe bringing up the rear saw me in the tree.  She alerted the rest and they bolted.

I was able to hunt again the first monday night of the season and as I arranged my gear at the base of the tree, two doe came into my setup.  As they fed I was able to nock an arrow and come to full draw while kneeling next to my tree.  The first doe stepped behind some brush, so I settled my 20 yard pin on the second doe.  As I looked her up and down I came to the conclusion she was a yearling.  While it would have been great to punch my tag on my second outing of the year, I asked myself, “is this small doe how I want to use my single doe tag?”  I knew the answer to that question, and slowly let down my bow.  I continued to kneel next to the tree as they fed out of sight.

I spent the next couple of hours in the tree, without another sighting.  Even though I didn’t see another deer that night I felt like that night was the most successful night of hunting I’ve had in a long time.

It’s our priviledge to be in the woods pursuing such amazing creatures, and we choose when to fill our tags, we are never obligated to fill our tags.  That, at least for me, is what makes hunting a great tradition.