Hunting is easily one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States right now. With the past year keeping many people at home, a rapid increase in hunting license purchases has been seen all over the country. It seems like every time I get on Facebook I see a post with a caption like ” My first buck with a bow”. As a hunter myself, I love to see it. What I don’t love to see is comments like “What did it score?”, or “Needed another year”. So this poses the question, is it really that important to be scoring your deer? The short answer is no, but let’s discuss why.
These days, it seems like every hunting show you watch is a story of chasing 200-inch deer. I’ll give credit where it’s due, the industry has done a great job educating hunters on deer growth and management. But let’s be honest, our grandpas, great grandpas, and even great great grandpas didn’t start hunting because they wanted to be in a Boone and Crockett record book. Heck, I doubt most of them even knew what scoring a deer was!
They hunted because it was a way of life. Not only was it a way to provide meat for the family, but it was a way to bring the family together. For some, it was weekends spent around a campfire at deer camp. Or maybe it was showing the grandkids how to field dress their first deer.
My point is, hunting was a way of bringing everyone together, and in many ways it still is! I love driving the Forest Service roads during deer season and seeing all of the trucks and campers at the different deer camps. I still know plenty of hunters that have the old-school views of the sport, and that value the memories and traditions more than anything. If you ask me, that is as good as it gets. Most of my favorite memories growing up were made because of hunting.
As I’ve gotten older, I have learned the importance of proper deer management. However, I still cherish the old-school values I grew up around, and don’t let today’s keyboard warriors kill my excitement of filling a tag. Doe, buck, Booner or basket-rack, if it was good enough for me to fill my tag on, then that’s what matters. You sure won’t catch me upset about a deer not scoring well.
Nearly every landowner I know has some sort of food plot for deer, and enjoys seeing them grow on their trail cameras year to year. I think that has contributed tremendously to the increased success of hunters everywhere.
It is no surprise that there are more big bucks running around now than there were 50 years ago. Although everyone may have different criteria for what makes a deer a “shooter”, the moral of the story is that most hunters are managing deer to some extent.
So don’t misunderstand my point when I say the score of your deer doesn’t matter. Believe me, I want to shoot a buck of a lifetime as bad as the next hunter. Having said that, the age of the deer is much more important from a management perspective than the scoring of a deer is any day of the week. Bill Winke wrote a great article about this for Petersen’s Bowhunting.
I could be alone in saying this, but I enjoy hunting for the old “scrub” bucks as much as anything, and often times they wouldn’t score worth a darn if you put the tape to them. But man are they smart! Sure, hunters will pass deer to let them get to a mature age, but often times those old bucks get there because of their own ability to evade us. That just makes the chase that much more fun, and rewarding when you seal the deal.
Shoot For Smiles, Not For Score
At the end of the day, a big deer to one person might not be to another. Or maybe a “shooter” on one farm might be a deer that needs a couple more years on a different one. So, the most important thing that we can do as hunters is continue growing the sport. Sure, there are going to be people shooting deer that you would have passed, and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is hunters tearing other hunters apart in the comment section of a Facebook post. I do see the point of scoring deer, and there is definitely a place for it. But don’t let it be what pushes a new hunter away, or what ruins the enjoyment of hunting for someone.
So if you find yourself getting upset that John Doe on the next farm over shot a button-buck, stop and think back to why we really hunt in the first place. As long as they did it ethically and legally, and it made them happy, that’s all that matters. There really is so much more to hunting than scoring a deer.