As I see it, one of the most important things that makes hunting so unique from other sports is that each man—and woman, of course—is allowed to define their version of what constitutes a “success” and what constitutes a “trophy.”
In light of the current season, let’s look at football. In each game, there’s a winner and a loser. And the winner, obviously, is determined by the team earning the most points. But in regard to points, there are still standards and expectations to uphold. A team can put an “X” in the win column with a score of 10-6 and still be ridiculed because, by hardened expectations, scoring only 10 points in a football game is a weak offensive showing. Fairly obvious? Stick with me.
There is none of this in hunting. If you choose to shoot a fork-horn whitetail or a 125-pound black bear and it makes you smile uncontrollably when you sit behind it for your picture, you win. And if you spend hours chasing a specific bull elk only to have him slip away at the end of the hunt—and still tremendously enjoyed the pursuit—then you win, too. There are no scores and there are no losers.
But perhaps most importantly, the treasures by which we remember each and every filled tag are always unique. Deer hunters have antlers from bucks, and never-been-cold inner loins from a big doe. Elk hunters have antlers and ivories. Turkey hunters have feathers, beards and spurs. Coyote hunters have breathtaking hides.
Bear hunters … well, bear hunters are a notoriously different crowd. Sure, we’ve got the claw-adorned hide and goose bump-raising skull, but then there’s that bit of buried treasure:
(I claim to love hunting black bears … I never claimed to be normal.)
Keep your nose to the wind.