I had a pretty long streak of bad hunting luck during the 2000 through 2003 seasons. I think I tagged just one buck through those four long years, so before heading out to the woods in 2004, I decided to sit down and take stock of what I was doing wrong. After some pretty heavy thinking, the conclusion I came to was that I just wasn't having fun any more. It wasn't that I had lost my love of hunting. The problem was that I had been putting so much pressure on myself to take a "big" buck that it had become more like work.
You can probably remember how much fun your first few deer seasons were. For me, the night before the Pennsylvania rifle opener was worse than Christmas Eve -- there was no way I was getting any sleep that night. And I bet you can recall the first deer you ever shot. For me, it was a 5-inch spike that gave me a grin much wider than the height of the young buck's tines.
We all want to tag bucks like the ones on the covers of Buckmasters, but it's important to remember that those bucks are few and far between. If, as I was, you're measuring your success against such deer, you're in for a lifetime of hunting disappointment. There's nothing wrong with managing deer and passing up smaller bucks -- if you're having fun doing it. But if taking that 6-pointer on a beautiful fall afternoon will put a smile on your face and give just the right ending to a memorable day, then pull the trigger!
Since I relaxed and started to have fun in the woods again, I've tagged a buck every year. A few made the BTR record book, and a few others would probably make some guys snicker. But that's okay, because my smile is bigger than theirs.
— Ken Piper, Buckmasters managing editor