As a huge advocate for QDM and someone who manages several properties, I decided to shoot a young buck. Here's why.
Now if you know me, you know my life revolves around hunting. It is not just a hobby, but a way of life. When I first met my wife Kaitlyn, I had to try to explain to her not only would I be gone working 24-hour shifts, including overnights, with the Baltimore City Fire Department, but I would be saving my vacation for the hunting season.
This would end up resulting in me being gone from home a great deal of time. Last year I clocked in over 400 hours during just the deer hunting season.
If you think about that for a second, the average man works a 40-hour week. That would mean I would be hunting for a working man's 10 weeks. Whether this was sitting in a treestand or backpacking through public land, I was gone for a long time when I hunted.
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I knew with the arrival of my son, immediately things would change. They already were and I was preparing for them. I was able to hunt opening weekend in Maryland and successfully harvested six deer between myself and my team. This would include a beautiful eight point velvet buck that my father shot. But that was about it.
I now have a hunt planned in November to go to public land in New York, then follow that up with a week in Maryland. I know, my time is limited and I am OK with that.
When I bought my house in Pennsylvania, I wanted it to remind me of my home in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. So I bought a house that borders over 800 acres of public hunting land. It also holds a creek that is stocked several times each year with trout.
I was really hoping the best for this property and couldn't wait to get out there and hunt.
The public land blues
When I began hunting the public land that borders my property, I realized quickly a couple things.
For one, there are too many roads and too many hunters. I am a hunter who likes to walk for miles one way, far from the nearest human track. This puts me far away from human traffic and ultimately gets me my own little piece of private land in a sense. Unfortunately, this public land didn't provide that.
I knew there were deer here, I've seen them before. In fact, the year before I passed on probably a 120-inch buck the very first night I sat out. At the time, I thought I may have landed a gold mine.
What I quickly found was that the area was hunted very hard when the gun season unfolded. It's not that I don't like gun hunting, it's just that there were way too many hunters in this little area I liked to hunt.
I figured I would do myself and those hunters a favor and leave the land for them. I mean, after all, I do manage three farms in Maryland, even though it is a two-hour drive one way.
Hunting only days after the birth of my son
As I mentioned, I don't hunt this property much. In fact, the last four years I have bought a Pennsylvania hunting license and never filled my tag.
On the night of October 3, 2017, my brother-in law was in town from Massachusetts visiting and it was his 20th birthday. Last year, he and I connected four miles back on public land on a nice mountain buck in New York. He was my cameraman, and I think now he is my good luck charm.
My wife and I had been without sleep for several days at this point and had returned from the hospital just a couple days prior. The night of the 3rd, she looked at me as I was falling asleep on the couch and she said, "Why don't you go take a nap?"
My reply was simply that if I was going to go take a nap, I was going to go hunting. So I did just that. My brother in-law and I grabbed our gear, walked outside, and headed up to an oak flat that I was sure to have been dropping acorns.
We made it up to the top of a very steep ridge line and sat on the downwind side of the oak flats. We originally separated the oak flat and found what I believed to be where the deer bed, prior to the harvest of the standing corn.
A few minutes in and a lady came strolling up the trail with her horse. All we could do was laugh. Ultimately, we are hunting in a public park and at this point, we figured it was a wash, but we didn't give up.
We moved to the other side of the oak flat, hoping that the deer may possibly come from that side as well. When we got there, we sat on the ground and waited. With no action, I wanted to make my way back up to see if there were any deer feeding on the acorns.
To our surprise, there was a deer heading my way, which at first, I could only hear.
I yelled to Tim, "Do you hear that?"
"Yes, there's a deer walking right towards us on the trail, I think it's a buck," he replied.
I immediately pulled my binoculars up, saw that he had three legal points on his left side, which is required in the state of Pennsylvania, and got ready for the shot.
Tim turned on the main camera and I turned on my Tactacam. My heart was thumping like he was a Boone and Crockett record whitetail.
Why I chose to shoot
As the deer inched his way towards us, rather quickly, I had a split second decision to make. Do I shoot or let this buck pass?
Normally, this buck would get the pass ninety-nine percent of the time. However, this one time, I knew my hunting was going to be limited this year. I also had just received a new Cabela's Carnivore meat grinder and really needed venison to make my jerky and sausage with.
I will say however, most of the time I need meat, I choose a doe and let the younger bucks walk.
This time was different.
I don't have a true reason why I decided to shoot this younger, one and a half-year-old buck, but I'm glad I did. This may have been the only chance I was going to have to hunt in Pennsylvania this year and I was there with my family.
I introduced my brother in-law last to hunting last year as he came to one of our hunts to film. He filmed us shooting a handful of deer his first year and of course we made it look easy. Contrary to what he will find out, things don't always pan out to be as lucky as they have been for us.
But he was there again, behind the camera. It was his birthday, I was beyond happy at the birth of my new son, and for the first time, I drew back on a young buck.
I connected with a great double-lung shot. He went only 40 yards and expired. I was beyond excited and couldn't wait to get my hands on him.
It's not always about the size of the antlers
We've heard it before and of course this is true. That hunting experience brought me back so many years to the memories of hunting with my father and grandfather. It was a hunt that happened very fast but burned a memory in my mind to last a lifetime.
I was able to turn the venison into snack sticks and venison breakfast sausage, which I will share at a later date.
The bottom line is, it's OK to have fun hunting. Ever since I began the journey of turning a hobby into a part time career, I have put so much pressure on myself to be successful.
Success to me was passing up three- and four-year-old bucks, then watching them grow on the trail cameras, and ultimately getting a shot at them at five or six years old. But I got tired of that and needed a break.
I'm not saying you should go out and shoot young bucks; like I said, if you know me I am a huge advocate of Quality Deer Management. I think in time everyone grows to different experience levels and we all hunt for different reasons.
But I am a firm believer now of taking the pressure off of ourselves every now and again, and just having fun. Enjoy creating everlasting moments, fill the freezer, and keep hunting exactly what it is supposed to be about: Family Tradition.