by Eric Hall
In this journal entry, I would like to recap my two week long Rut-cation and add some thoughts about the experience.
In all, I spent 85 hours hunting whitetail deer in the beautiful Ohio timber. My net result was one doe harvested and zero mature buck sightings while in the stand. I passed on many doe and two small bucks during my hunts. I was seeing deer, but not the one(s) I was really seeking. My expectation of great deer movement and rutting activity was not realized.
I could look at this time as a failure because I did not harvest a mature buck. I could be angry, upset, depressed or any myriad of negative emotions. But why would I? I just spent two weeks plus pursuing the animal I love the most. Two weeks immersed in my passion for pursuing whitetail deer. Two weeks riding the roller coaster of highs and lows that come with deer hunting. Sure, I would have liked a different result. But in reality, is “that” end result really why I hunt?
On any given day, I could have given up. I found myself fighting the desire to just stay in bed and ignore the 4:30 AM alarm. Fatigue set in as the days drew on. I was tired of battling the weather. I sat through hot, cold, and rainy days. The hardest was having to push through the seven long hours on the stand, ignoring the cold 21-degree wind chill, when nothing in the woods was moving.
A few years ago, I would have quit. I would have asked myself, “Why am I out here when I am not seeing any big bucks?”
That is the tipping point for many men and women who venture out to pursue the whitetail deer.
It comes down to answering this question, “Does the harvest make the hunt or is the hunt what makes the harvest?” I used to get so wrapped up in the notion that I must get a “big buck” that any personal fulfillment from the process never materialized. That was a shame; I missed out on so much hunting enjoyment because the end result was all that mattered.
This year, I experienced some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I can ever remember. I was able to be out and watch the woods wake up in the morning and be in the stand to put it to bed at night. I had the pleasure of watching the woods transform before my eyes. Autumn leaves changing color and falling, made every day feel like a new stroke of the brush on Mother Nature’s canvas.
The locals made their appearances as well. Many mornings were spent watching the squirrels wake up and descend from their nests to forage along the forest floor. One particularly contrary squirrel decided it would harvest the acorns from above my stand, dropping several on my head in the process. I watched flocks of geese flying in that perfect V formation greeting the morning sun. Families of raccoons and skunks would hustle in during the gray light hours to den up for the day, only to re-emerge as the light faded in the evening.
In short, I spent two weeks experiencing Mother Nature at her finest. I got to walk away with so much to be thankful for that had nothing at all to do the harvesting of a deer. How can any of this not be considered success?
This is why I hunt!
Good luck everyone and Stay Afflicted with Whitetail OCD.