Most people think of hunting success in terms of a kill, the size of the rack, or the length of the beard and spurs. But a successful hunt doesn't always have to mean an animal is harvested. One of my most memorable hunts didn't end with following a blood trail, field dressing an animal or even slinging an arrow. In fact I never even picked up my bow!
Ok, you might think I am crazy. A great hunt even though there was no shot and no harvest? Well just hear me out. I was in the stand early that evening and the temperature was quite cool. It was early January and it was pre-rut in Alabama. I had seen multiple pictures on my game cameras of a few bucks in the area, and I was buck hunting. I hadn't been on stand very long when a very nice young 6 point came out of the bedding pines and started feeding in the plot to my left. He was not a shooter, but I was glad for the company and encouraged by the early movement. I kind of lost my self as I watched him feeding, but he started to act kind of spooky. That put me on high alert too. I followed his gaze and saw another young 6 point step out of the hardwoods to the right, my pulse immediately quickened.
The two bucks were well aware of each other and they seemed tense and annoyed. They each were giving each other a sideways glare. The hair on their back was standing up; they pinned their ears back and began licking their lips. They edged closer and closer to each other maintaing the sideways posture with the head down low and back arched. They looked pretty evenly matched in regards to their rack, age and muscle structure. It was clear that they were fixin' to brawl! One buck grunted and the other let out a forceful snort wheeze, they were ready to rumble. Both bucks ran headlong into each other and locked up! It was exhilarating, my heart was pumping just like I was getting ready to shoot at a giant buck, only I am a spectator.
They pushed and shoved back and forth tearing up the food plot. Sod was flying; the muscles in their necks and haunches were rippling. Then they separated and started the sideways dance again, another growl and bang, they were locked up and pushing again. I could hardly believe I was witnessing these two bucks sparring. Complete with all the vocalizations and body language that goes along with it. They fought on and off for about 10 minutes until there was some sort of agreement as to who the victor was. The dominant of the pair chased the other into the hardwoods with a head but to the hindquarters for emphasis. And then he stood there in the field panting like a dog.
Wow I was thrilled! There was no shot taken, no blood trail ending in a big buck down, nothing that a hunter would normally equate to a successful hunt, but what a great experience it was. I didn't have a trophy to hang on the wall but I have some great memories to share. Now don't get me wrong, I hope to see them again in a year or two. They will be mature then and on my hit list. At that time my pulse will quicken as a lift my bow, draw back and take aim. But to me I had a successful and satisfying hunt that didn't end with a harvest.