Dark Side Memories

After reading Art Summers post from his Simplyoutdoors.net blog site this morning, I felt I wanted to follow up on skeletons in my own “Dark Side Closet!”  He stirred up a couple painful memories, that I’m sure will follow me to my grave.  I am not trying to be melodramatic, but in my case “the facts are the facts!”

I posted this picture of a buck with an arrow embedded in his shoulder.  I don’t like the fact that the pictured evidence could be used against us (hunters) in the court of popular opinion.  As a hunter, and nature lover, I don’t like looking at this “wounded deer” either, but there really is more to this particular story.  I have another picture of this deer from early in the season, when he was a young 8 pointer.  The broken arrow clearly in the same position.  He had made it through the fall and into the beginning winter months and appears to be healing from the nominal shot.  Of course not all wounded animals make it after an errant shot, and end up coyote or crow bait.

It’s the personal dark side of each hunters own secret places, that keep them awake at night, as they replay over and over in the movie theater of the mind.  Unless your just a heartless “killer” the off target shots, follow up tracking jobs, and empty game poles bother you immensely.  We, as hunters, owe it to the game we pursue to be lethal and proficient concerning a clean quick kill.  We also are aware that “in reality” there are those times when circumstances don’t play out according to plan.

In a hunting career that spans some 52 years I have two “Dark Side” memories that bother me to no end!  Once on a Quebec bear hunt I hit a 500 pound plus boar, but missed the lungs.  We tracked that bear into the wee hours of the morning until he reached a wet nasty swamp.  We lost the blood trail, and lost that bear.  The guide knew he was mortally wounded, and was certain with the help of his dog we would retrieve this animal.  At three in the morning, as the lanterns grew dim, we called off the search, and a feeling arose in the pit of my stomach that can never be totally removed.  The disappointment  and anguish over leaving this magnificent animal to the wolves and other forest creatures made me consider taking up other pursuits.  The second incident took place on a Colorado elk hunt when I arrowed a big 5×5 with a well placed lung shot.  The heavy ribs kept the arrow from full (double lung) penetration, but I felt this bull was mine!  We only had one day left on the hunt and after tracking him about 1/4 mile we ran out of blood.  We spent several hours trying to pick up a trail, but he seemed to vanish in thin air.  On the flight home, the next day I had a light bulb moment, and could not believe that three seasoned hunters made a rookie mistake in tracking this bull.  The reason we couldn’t find his trail is because he turned around and back-tracked on us leaving blood on both sides of the trail.  We mistakenly felt the arrow “worked” its way through, and that was why we were finding blood on both sides of the game trail.  If we would of followed the trail back this bull would of been recovered.  A ranch hand found his carcass months later on a ridge not far from where we started our tracking job!  He had provided food for the mountain lions, coyotes, and crows, but left me with anxious thoughts, as I replayed the “what if’s” in my fragile mind!

There I said it-it’s out of the closet, and will never bother me again!  Yeh right!  These “Dark Side” memories will never be fully eradicated, and actually shouldn’t be.  They should serve as a constant reminder to every hunter that our goal is always an ethical shot, a quick clean kill, and reverence for the hunt.  It’s a privilege to be called a hunter, and not a right.  It takes allot of practice, sweat, and toil to be a “good hunter”  and that is something we should all try to be, so we keep those Dark Side memories at a minimum!

3 Responses to “Dark Side Memories”

  1. Art says:

    Mike,

    All of us hunters have those nasty memories, and I thank you for sharing yours.

  2. Phillip says:

    A lot of this kind of discussion going around these days.

  3. Phillip says:

    Oops, hit submit too soon.

    Was going to add that it is those dark memories that, for most of us, helps us learn. It makes us more careful and conscientious… and that’s a very good thing.