In my second season as a whitetail hunter in Ohio, I had the unrealistic expectation that I would have my “dream season.” I assumed I would tag out and would undoubtedly get a monster buck. Unfortunately, my season didn't go quite as I had planned. I did, however; experience a dream season in a much different way.
My preparation work was limited, which can make any season far more challenging than anticipated. I didn't understand the pattern of the whitetails and I certainly didn't take the time to seek out perfect stand locations. Given that I don't have access to managed land, its imperative that I coordinate with other land owners to gain access to the best hunting grounds, which, I did not do. Clearly, I was set up for disaster. A little scent spray and a haphazard approach to the season will rarely afford you the opportunity to even see, much less tag a monster.
With that in mind, I knew that I was likely not well positioned to experience what I had anticipated would be a successful season. Early on, I noticed a large buck and began to watch him closely, but because I hadn't taken time to work with the adjacent land owners, I couldn't get a clear shot of the big boy. Instead, I watched this 150 inch buck every night on the neighbor's hill, seemingly staring at me. It was almost as if he was mocking my inability to take him.
I ended the season with not a single tag filled. For some novice hunters, this might be devastating, the kind of thing that stops them from returning to the woods again. For me, this season was truly a dream season for a different reason.
In the beginning, I found myself competitive, wanting to tag more deer than anyone else in the woods. I didn't think about what it meant to be a good steward of the land or what true appreciation of our natural resources was all about. Then, I had a hunt that changed everything. I spent an evening in the stand in the torrential rain. The sound of the water rushing down the stream nearby, the fog rolling in, the heavy trickling of the rain as it hit the tree limbs overhead, the experience was beautiful. I went that entire hunt without even seeing a deer. From this hunt forward, I noticed a change in my sentiments about the woods, hunting and becoming a successful huntress. A dream season isn't always about who can fill the most tags or how big your buck is, sometimes it's about appreciating the quiet moments in the woods when the sun is just rising over the trees, or hearing the coyotes howl as dark sets in. Sometimes hunting is about experiencing the habitat of a whitetail and understanding how they move and act in the heat and sun or rain and ice. I think every new hunter needs time to mature and grow into the kind of outdoorsman/woman that they will be. For me, this season was a dream because I became the outdoorswoman that I want to be; one that values the entire outdoor experience.
Don't misunderstand, I still want to fill my tags and I was thoroughly disappointed that I didn't have the season I had hoped for. I have already begun preparations to ensure that next season is much more lucrative. I know though, that I will go into next season with a new approach, one that makes me a more sensible, mature and responsible hunter.
So, the next time you are heading into the woods, take a moment to think about the bigger picture. The time spent savoring the scenery could be just what you need to get through a long, slow season.