So I am drinking my coffee this morning and the big guy is looking down from the fireplace at me in my chair. I started patting myself on the back all over again. I still haven't gotten around to measuring him, but the taxi figured he'd go 165 or thereabouts. In the half-light of the Weather Channel, he looked just as mean as ever. Then I got a nasty thought: "Now what?"
Ooops. Hadn't thought of that, had you shaman?
I remember Norman Mailer positing in American Dream that the only good orgasm was one that was massively better than any other orgasm that you had ever experienced. Now there is a daunting life's ambition. Several years ago, I instituted the shamanic QDM policy, somewhat based on Mailer's formula. Simply put: your last buck should be bigger than the last. Otherwise, take a doe and be done with it. I hunt exclusively on my own land, so showing discretion has a positive payoff in the long run. It is not some arbitrary thing.
It all seemed so easy back then. I'd taken a small basket-racked 8-pointer in 2001, and killed only doe in 2002. In 2003 I shot a really nice one that went probably 125-130 B&C if I really paid any attention to that sort of thing. It was my personal best to date by a good stretch. In 2004, I did not see anything that compared and passed on several bucks and filled the freezer with doe meat. In 2005, I tagged a crippled yearling buck that went 204 lbs that was hopping around on 3 legs. I figured it was God's will to put him out of his earthly misery. It also set things up so that I could argue that any decent buck would fulfill the shamanic QDM mandate in the next season. I did have to add the Hubert the WonderBuck Corollary: putting crippled sub-par bucks out of their misery resets the shamanic QDM counter.
In 2006, I had already filled my freezer and gone out to just enjoy the scenery. I saw what I thought was a really large buck come through and I shot him. It turned out to be the worst case of ground shrinkage I ever encountered. The rack belonged to a massive immature six-pointer. If the early morning light had not been playing tricks on me, I would have probably let him pass. I had to buy a new freezer before I could take the meat home. Compared to Hubert's poor misshapen antlers, however, he was still quite a bit better. I keep his rack where I can see it at all times to remind me to be more careful.
Then 2007 came, and my deer showed up at the processors the biggest one anyone had seen in a few years. That was the one looking at me from the fireplace. As I said: Now what?
There are a bunch of ways I could go. 2005 was mercy. 2006 was a bit of a screw-up. I could just wait until I overestimate again and let the whole shamanic QDM reset. I could stay true to the original vow and wait for a 170-class buck to grace my property. We all saw one last year that made my Monarch II look small. We dubbed him the Chandelier Buck. I could steal a cue from Captain Ahab and go pursue the Chandelier to the Gates of Perdition, but that really is not my game. I could give up the whole shamanic QDM thing altogether, and just shoot what I fancy. However, I would like to start 2008 with something guiding my bloodlust compass.
For those of you who are resigned to buttons and spikes in the coming season, please do not feel that I am gratuitously rubbing your nose in my success-- quite the contrary. This is a cautionary tale for everyone. Once you set your sights on something other than brown-and down, you have yourself to answer to. How do you measure your success? I really do not have anyone else to please in this. It is really just an existential quandary.
I suppose I could change my method, but after 26 seasons I do not think switching from my current battery will change how I feel anymore. I am far too pragmatic. I now know I feel the best when I'm applying something devastating like a 30-06 to a deer at close range. I could eschew treestands and hunt from the ground. That would mix things up a bit. However, I admit to being as graceful as a rhino in galoshes. I know my place in the woods, and it is best to be there a good hour before everyone else to give the wildlife time to forget that a walking landform has thundered through.
Whether I hunt in a tutu or sing opera from my stand still does not address the core issue. What will be in my sights the next time I squeeze the trigger on a buck? The shamanic QDM policy is sitting there staring at me. What is more, I find myself wanting to measure antlers with a tape for the first time in my life. I am not a big antler guy. That is not what it is about for me. This is not a game of inches.
Here is the best I can come up with so far: The shamanic QDM Policy has served its purpose in allowing larger deer to flourish in my woods. One buck here or there is no longer going make the property any better or worse. Spikes, baskets, and nubs are probably not going to be anyone's first choice anymore , and a little bit of waiting will probably yield something better. I have Moose, 16, hunting on his own this year, and I place no limits on his quest. He has to learn to make his own rules. Angus, 10, will be out to get his first. He agrees with me that the first deer to present him a decent shot will be put down smartly. The shaman will have to just see how he feels when he enters his stand on Opening Day. There are dreams to be dreamed and there is always room for magic in the woods. I am just like every other November schlump with a gun and the counter of success really resets every time you pull away from the processor with the coolers loaded.