Despite what social media might make you think, not everyone in New England tracked down a buck last season except you. Some guys had tremendous success. Yet even some of the best hunters I know, the ones you never read about or see pictures of, but who consistently get it done, said they struggled this year.
If you're in the tag and track soup crowd, and I am, it is important to remember to take a step back, relax and put the lack of fresh venison in the freezer into context. I have to remind myself this is not an existential crisis. It has happened before and will happen again. The excuses can be many, and even valid, and we each have to be ok with how things played out based on the choices we made.
Tracking a buck that got shot in front of me? Check
Cut off on a track? Check
Couldn't find the track of a buck I wanted? Check
Found his track and ran him out of the snow? Check
Weird year all the way around? Check
And on and on and on....
Got to hunt with my Dad and a bunch of my buddies? Check
Saw some cool stuff that most people don't? Check
Was better than being at work? Check
Learned some new areas and generated some ideas for next year? Check
Am I more motivated than ever to track down a big whitetail buck? Check, and heck yeah!
As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
This moment becomes a good chance to reassess a few things and set up for next season. Times like this make me think about the years I spent going deerless when I first started tracking...I wanted it so bad that there wasn't any other way I wanted to hunt. I still feel that way. I absolutely love tracking bucks in the big woods.
Refresh my gear (I wore out a pair of boots and almost wore out my woolies this season!). Go through my rifle. Double down on scouting, shooting, and my fitness.
Next season isn't that far away. If you're eating tag soup this winter, let it fuel you and use that as motivation for doing what we love. Read those books, shoot that rifle, get a hike in, check out that logging road this summer, find a sign post. In less than 11 months we'll be chasing bucks again.
In the meantime, after I finish my soup and drink this bitter lemonade, I'm going to find a snowshoe hare to track down...