How we as hunters define hunting success can be a very personal thing. It’s worth considering before, during, and after the hunt.
First-time bowhunter Mark Kephart and experienced archer Kevin Merrow venture to South Dakota for a mule deer hunt. In spite of uncooperative weather and an initial scarcity of deer, Mark is successful in making his first traditional archery deer kill, a beautiful mule deer doe.
“I’ll never forget that feeling,” says Mark. “My first archery kill, my first trad bow kill, and my first mule deer kill. I can’t even begin to explain the feelings associated with success on that level.”
“But,” he continues philosophically, “if success were the size of the antlers, then I failed. And if success was spotting a bedded deer, stalking it and killing it, I failed. But if backstraps, friendships and overcoming adversity define success, then we hit the nail on the head.”
The next day is the last day of the hunt, and Kevin makes a good 500-yard stalk on a bedded mule deer buck, only to be foiled inside the last 100 yards by an unexpected wind change. “To say we learned a lot from our experiences in South Dakota would be an understatement,” says Kevin. “And even though we went home with only one deer, the trip was nothing short of success.”
Upon returning to Pennsylvania for the whitetail opener, their roles reverse as Mark missed his opportunities to bag a deer. “I’ve missed three deer, first week of archery season already,” he said, “and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m having a blast with this recurve bow.”
And while Kevin missed his chance to kill the specific buck dubbed “Big Ugly” he’d been chasing, he did achieve success with the longest longbow shot he’d ever made on a deer (35 yards) with his 2-year-old son at his side. “I’m stoked! Shooting that doe with my little boy with me, means more to me than any buck in the world.”
“Success is what you make it,” concludes Mark. “Whether you hunt with a gun, compound, trad or even a self bow, write your own story. Make your own memories.”