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Shot a buck today...now I feel terrible


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First off let me preface this by saying I've taken quite a few deer over the years, not dozens, but perhaps 14-16 since I started more seriously deer hunting  ten+ years ago.  About six hours ago I took a very nice 8pt on my property with my muzzleloader.

I have never worked so hard for a deer as this year.  I've sat, I've still hunted...etc for about ten days in total, lots of stand time and it was today or tomorrow to get one.  In any event I sat for a few hours then still hunted my way around my property for a couple hours but saw no tracks- nothing.  Then on my way home, 150 yards away I see a deer head down feeding in broad daylight.  I crept, I crawled and I painfully got to within a decent range, perhaps 75 yards.  As he walked quartering away I put the bead on him and pulled the trigger- knowing it was a small risk without a scope and offhand.  When the puff of white smoke from my .50cal cleared he was standing about where he was but looking towards me.  He walked 10 yards and then stood there looking at me, very slightly humpbacked.  I didn't make any move, being out in the open, as if I missed I didn't want to run him off.  But no way I could reload like that with a muzzleloader so I slowly knelt down and the deer did the same damn thing, turned around 360 degrees as if he was bedding down and then looked right at me and watched me ram another sabot in the barrel.  We stared at each perhaps a full minute, and I raised my binoculars and he was just looking me in the eye, and I saw no blood.

Then he laid his head down, rather a slow flop and I knew I hit him only then.  I wasn't sure what was going on so I approached him slowly and sure enough, the bullet went in behind his ribcage and through the lungs/heart. I always say a prayer after having been given such a gift, and did so today.

I explained to my wife the events and she felt so terrible about it and then asked me if I felt sad...one of those female "Oh honey, how can you do that to that poor animal while he was feeding?"  And damn, if I don't feel just horrible now for two reasons.  One, he stared at me the entire time dying.  And two, I was at a loss for words to explain to my wife how sad I feel about it, but that I will continue to do it.  And now I don't know why I'll continue to do it, it's not necessarily the chase or challenge as I'm not a "trophy" hunter.  I've never felt more than some passing remorse for shooting birds (more for grouse than others) but this isn't settling real well now.  So I'm sitting here drinking a fabulous 16 year old Joseph Phelps Insignia trying to make sense of what I'm feeling and I can't.

Thanks for listening, just typing it out makes me feel better.  Below is the photo, sorry for the blood, I took no others yet.

20101217-DSCF0023.jpg

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PartridgeCartridge

You are feeling an ancient and ancestral, almost aboriginal, emotion. It is what links us to the predator that we are and also is universal to all hunters.

Enjoy your drink and enjoy the gift of what was yours and that deer's sacrfice.

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You are feeling an ancient and ancestral, almost aboriginal, emotion. It is what links us to the predator that we are and also is universal to all hunters.

Enjoy your drink and enjoy the gift of what was yours and that deer's sacrfice.

Thank you.  Maybe time to reread Swan's In Defense of Hunting or Ortega y Gassets Meditations on Hunting?

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I understand your inability to explain, but I also believe your level of emotional response is directly proportional to the level of respect you hold for the animal you hunt. Its a beautiful buck, enjoy your drink.
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I understand your inability to explain, but I also believe your level of emotional response is directly proportional to the level of respect you hold for the animal you hunt. Its a beautiful buck, enjoy your drink.

Thank you Al.  I have always taken high percentage shots and do pride myself on never having lost an animal, none have had to be tracked any distance at all.  That being said, I could have possibly had a few real whopper racks on my wall if I just "pulled the trigger" and kept pumping lead, but it's not about that for me.  Maybe that's why I enjoy woodcock, grouse and Atlantic Salmon, all special creatures.

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I'm a female that agrees with all the guys above.

Death is something all of us must face at one point or another in our lives, and so, too, do all the animals.

Unfortunately, unlike people, very few animals live to become mature, to reproduce, and die an honorable death after having produced a whole brand new generation. That buck did-and then he died an honorable death and will serve yet one more purpose before he is gone. On your table. Like his ancestors and many other types of animals, he died so that we may survive.

Tell your wife that is a far more honorable death than what he could have suffered by coyotes, poachers, starvation, or a car. That's how most old bucks die. He was lucky the day he ran into you.

And go back out and sit all day in this freezing weather without seeing any more deer at all. You'll be very glad to come home to your chair, your drink, and your buck on the table that you will no longer have any regrets about taking at all.

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Say a prayer of thanks, carry the memory in your heart, honor him at your table.  

Beautiful buck, congratulations!

Will do Briar. Tonight: tenderloins with a wild mushroom pan reduction sauce, new potatoes, haricot vertes and a really fine 20 year old Bordeaux.

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Michael Stenstrom

It would be bad to not feel emotion over taking a life.  It is an essential part of respecting the game we pursue.  I had no emotional connection to the cow I ate a part of last night.  That is what makes the venison meals I prepare so much more special, the connection to the animal and realization of the gift it gave me, its life.

When would a better time to shoot the deer have been?  When it was running scared ahead of hounds, or you?  Casually walking from bedding to feeding? I think relaxing and feeding is a perfect time.  It obviously was not a painful death as it didn't bolt, just suddenly felt a little sick, laid down and it was over.

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It is the paradox that true sportsmen feel when we take the life of an animal. That he looked at you while he breathed his last breaths must have been a very spiritual experience and one that would certainly have increased my feeling of sadness over taking the life of such a magnificent animal. That buck met his end with honor, at the hands of an honorable man.

Enjoy your gift.

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