Anyone who knows me ? except perhaps my mom, and who thinks I have always been a really good boy ? will tell you that I am something of a rules breaker. For some reason my mind works this way ? someone tells me something should be a certain way ?just because,? and my first thought is, ?How come?? If someone says you should hunt in a specified manner, I ask, ?Says who??
Some examples. A cardinal rule of tree stand whitetail hunting is, after accessing your stand by a predetermined route designed to minimize the chances of a deer smelling you, to stay in your stand, no matter what. And, generally speaking, this is a solid rule of thumb. Had I not violated it one frosty October morning when I spotted a dandy buck trolling a hundred yards away with no intention of passing close I would never have tagged him. After quickly assessing the situation I bailed out of my stand like it was on fire, vectored down a brushy creek channel to a spot where I thought the buck might pass by and set up quickly behind a fallen log. Indeed, the buck did walk by at 37 steps, so intent on whatever his mind was thinking he forgot to look to his left. He rode in the truck.
So you break a rule? This time it paid off.
Another time, completely by luck, I spotted a dandy 8 point bedded in a cut cornfield. I was glassing from the farm road to the edge of the woods a half mile off when I saw the sun glint off his antler tips. That?s all I could see of him, but there was no hesitation. Set a stand on the field corner and hope he walked by at dusk, or attack? You?re kidding, right? I got the wind right, used a small hill in the field and the thigh-high cornstalks as cover, and after an hour of muddy, grimy slipping and sliding found myself within 40 yards of the buck. I hit him with the rangefinder, came to full draw, and mooed like a cow as loudly as I could. He stood up to see what I was, but before his knees locked him in the upright position my Gold Tip 7595 had zipped through his ribs. He green-scored 162 2/8.
On an elk hunt just outside Yellowstone Park one September, I was working a big 5×5 bull who had a handful of cows cornered in a timbered hollow near a creek. He would bugle his head off early and late, but the winds never quit swirling and I was afraid to go down there. He would not come out to challenge me, no matter how I tried to call to him. I needed something to flip his switch. So one morning before dawn I slipped into the hollow from the bottom so the thermals would be right, and set up close to where I knew the little herd lived. When you could barely see I heard them stirring, cows mewing and chirping and the bull grunting and groaning. When he let out his first bugle of the day I responded, this time from within 75 yards. I saw him whip his head around, eyes locked on his nemesis ? the 5 point shed I had found on my hunt. I was hunkered down behind a small Xmas tree, pawing the ground with one hand while aggressively raking the tree. He couldn?t stand it and came charging as fast as his hooves would carry him to battle. I barely had time to drop the antler, raise my bow and get it drawn before he appeared, 7 steps away. I shot him quartering to me while praying the hit would turn that 800 pounds of psycho elk. It did. And those steaks were as sweet as any I have ever tasted.
Another rule broken? Well the results worked well enough.
Now, I?m not saying that all of a sudden you should forget about the basic tenets of hunting. Truth be told, I am a firm believer in low impact hunting, whether it be in the trees after whitetails or stalking elk, deer, or bears out West. The key to a quality bow shot is to get into a comfortable shooting range from the animal without it knowing you are anywhere on the planet. But the more time you spend afield, the more you begin to recognize those special moments when opportunity comes knocking. When it does, you often only have a few seconds to make a decision. Stay or go? Be still or attack? Follow the rule book or take a chance, breaking the rules and going for greatness? Risk all for a chance at success, or be content to passively hope everything will work out?
I call it controlled aggression. That means being smart, but not being afraid to trust your instincts and go for it. Setting a stand in the right place, accessing and egressing it in a low-impact manner so you can hunt it again, but if a stud comes by and is about to walk out of your life forever, doing something unconventional to try and get the shot. That doesn?t mean being stupid, it just means trying to make it happen to the best of your ability and without adversely impacting the chances of others in your hunting party.