Forget the Score!

By Travis Roundy, October 2013

The quest for oversized racks and horns is an obsession driven by many reasons. Hunters love the challenge of outwitting and outlasting an older age class animal that has survived numerous seasons and has grown oversized headgear. Conversations at hunting camp almost always turn to tales of big bucks or bulls that were taken earlier in the fall or in previous years. Old timers talk of the “good ol’ days” where big bucks and bulls were plentiful, hunters were few, and access to prized hunting ground was as easy as asking. Times have changed with increasing human populations, decreasing acres of habitat, and more demand for tags to hunt wild game. It’s no wonder we all want to make the best of our hunting opportunities and take home the biggest and best animal we can possibly find.

With this quest comes the question of how big is big enough? That’s a hard question to answer. I believe that each of us fall into different stages during our hunting lifespan. Some of us have a desire to take all of the big game animals available, while others just want a small variety. Some want only giant animals, and others just want to hunt. Young hunters are often elated to tag any size animal. Most of us would rather go home with an average sized animal than no animal at all. So what size animal does it really take to make you happy? That all depends on you!

A few years ago my wife, Colette, and my two oldest daughters, Nicole and Heather, drew Utah general season deer tags for an area near our home. Prior to the season each member of the family had contracted the swine flu during the big epidemic that was sweeping the country. I was the only one who didn’t get it, so I was in charge of trying to take the family on the hunt while they were all sick and miserable. We had hopes of finding a big mature buck, but the reality of it was that time was running out and we didn’t have the health or the energy to really get serious about it.

One evening after work at the taxidermy shop I loaded the family up in the Suburban, or the “burb” as the kids called it. We headed out for an area that holds plenty of deer but is very popular with other hunters. After driving some of the roads and glassing a few likely areas we decided to call it a day and head home. Just as we pulled onto the main road someone spotted a lone buck about 400 yards up the hill. I quickly showed him to the girls, and the two teenagers decided that it just wasn’t big enough for them. Colette looked at it and announced that if it wasn’t big enough for them, then it wasn’t big enough for her either! I became a little anxious because it looked like a good buck for the area and especially for the circumstances. I told them that someone needed to get serious here and go after this buck!

Colette took the hint, and she and I quickly closed the distance to 180 yards where she took careful aim with her 25-06 and squeezed off a perfect shot. The kids were all watching from the “burb,” and they were all excited to start tracking the “monster” buck! We got our backpacks and gear and headed up the hill to find the tracks. The kids were first to find the tracks and quickly headed after the buck, following an ample blood trail in the sand. Dark was approaching, and by the time the kids shouted that they had found it we could barely see the grey outline of the buck under the trees. This meant high fives and happy times for the Roundy family! Mom had made a great shot, and the kids had done a good tracking job. Now it was time for photos. We took a lot of photos, and during the session Colette decided we should call this buck “The Swine Flu Buck.”

The kids took care of the cleaning job on the deer with a little coaching from me, and we took turns dragging the buck through the soft sand back to the “burb.” At the “burb” we decided that instead of getting Mom’s suburban all dirty and bloody we would hoist the buck up on top of the cargo rack and tie it down. The kids all thought it was crazy to have a buck strapped to the top of the “burb!” Colette saw a truck coming down the road just after we tied the buck on, and she said, “I hope those people don’t know us.” I guess she was a little embarrassed to be seen with a buck on top of the vehicle.

For our family this buck is the most talked about and most remembered buck we have ever hunted. It’s far from the biggest and probably doesn’t even score enough to measure it to find out where it stands in the world of score, but what does matter is that our family had a great experience out in the mountains hunting deer. The kids got to see Mom make a clean shot, and they got to track the buck down and take care of the photos and the cleaning and transporting of it back to the truck. It was a team effort, and it will go down in our history as one of our most cherished hunting memories of the Roundy family.

So did it matter what size the buck was? Would the memories have been any better if the buck was 10" bigger? 20" bigger? I doubt it. I really believe that we hunters sometimes let the size of the antlers or horns determine our happiness. As an outfitter I’ve seen it time and time again where a client will shoot a big buck and be elated until someone pulls out a tape and, to our dismay, the buck is 7/8" shy of the magical benchmark, and then our happy client turns into a disappointed client that didn’t get what he was hoping for. As a hunter I feel that sometimes we allow our satisfaction to be determined by someone or something other than ourselves. It would be nice if we could enjoy the hunt for what it is and appreciate the animals for what they are, instead of letting a tape measure determine how big our smile is. I have had hunts where I put too much pressure on myself to find a big animal and it has ruined the fun for me. I resolved years ago to go on a hunt with the attitude that I will hunt hard and try to take the best animal that I can find but to not let the size of the animal determine whether my hunt was a success or not. There is too much in the equation that makes a hunt successful to let a couple of inches of antler ruin it for me.

My philosophy is this: Do your research, scout the unit, take a friend or your family on the hunt, give it all you’ve got while the season is open, and enjoy every minute of the hunt. Sometimes the best hunts are finished up with average animals.