WILTZ: I’ve always been goal-oriented
Though I’ve always marveled at Shakespeare’s mastery of the English language, his insight into human behavior was just as amazing. He was a psychologist before the science was recognized. In his “All the world’s a stage” scene, (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII) he takes us through life’s seven stages from “an infant mewling in his nurse’s arms” to an old man with “pipes and whistles in his voice.”
According to some outdoor writers, hunters go through similar, predictable stages. Supposedly beginners are bent on making a kill regardless of trophy quality. Seasoned hunters relish the experience. Making a kill is secondary to them. For the most part, I’ll go along with this notion. I believe it has more to do with the hunter’s level of experience than age.
I say this because of my father. Dad never hunted deer until he was in his 70s. Early on, making a kill was important to him. It was like a manhood thing. Getting a deer with antlers was even more important. I can remember when I was like that. It was almost like I had to prove something.
So why this long introduction today? It has to do with me and where I’m at in the deer hunting scheme of things. I know exactly where I’d like to be.
I’d like to be able to go out for a week, for the entire season, and lay off pulling the trigger unless I confront a true trophy. If I don’t have a deer at season’s end, fine. I don’t need a deer, and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Newspapers aren’t going to fire me if I don’t kill a deer next fall.
Last fall still haunts me. I killed a respectable 4-by-4 mule deer the first morning out. Later in the hunt I had a huge whitetail buck in front of me.
He was so absorbed in making a scrape, he didn’t know I was there. All I could do was watch and wish. There was only one other time in my deer hunting career when this happened, but if I only had those two deer on the wall, I’d be very happy.
My problem is this: Next fall, God willing, I’ll be out there again. I’d like to tell you for sure that I’ll keep my finger off of that trigger unless a truly big guy comes along, but I can’t. If and when a mature buck comes along, I might forget everything I’ve told you today. All I can tell you right now is that I’m going to try to resist temptation.
Apparently there’s still some of that “got to bag my buck” left in me. Is my behavior typical? Do most senior hunters do as I do, or do they do as I wish I could do? I’d like to know.
There’s one thing I can tell you. Some units hold more big deer than others. The Missouri River timber on the east side of the river from Yankton County through Charles Mix and into Brule, and then Gregory County on the west, are such units. I have of late, without success, tried to draw a Charles Mix “any deer” rifle tag. If and when I get that tag, I’ll hunt patiently, right through the final hour, for “Old Mossy Horns” to come along.
While I would like to bag a monster buck before my final trek into the river bottom, there’s one thing I’d like even more. I’d like to see my byline in a major outdoor magazine. At the Safari Club International Expo last January, a friend and noted outdoor writer came up to me. “Roger, I haven’t seen your byline lately on anything other than your column. I hope you realize that you’re good enough to make a major publication.” He went on to ask me how many submissions I was waiting on. I had to admit that I had nothing going. For the moment I had quit trying.
I don’t know if he was right about me being good enough for a major publication, but he was certainly right about me not trying. It has been awhile since I’ve sent out any submissions. He lit a fire under me and got me going. I don’t know if my strategy is good, but I decided to start at the top. If I fail, I can always submit the same manuscripts to less significant publications.
I am currently waiting to hear from Sports Afield magazine. I feel it is the best of what I’ll call The Big Three (Outdoor Life, Field & Stream). While attending SCI in Las Vegas last January, I did talk to Dianna Rupp, editor of Sports Afield, about what I was going to send her.
My next move was even bolder. I applied for a position that doesn’t exist when I sent a personal letter to Mike Schoby, editor of Petersen’s Hunting. Petersen’s Hunting once featured a monthly column called “Buck Sense.” It was written by the late John Wooters who passed away last year at the age of 84.
John had an informal, rambling style that made the reader feel like John was a personal friend, like he had shared campfires with John. While John had hunted the far corners of the world, he was mostly about his home state of Texas and the game he hunted there. John Wootters could also talk guns. I suggested to editor Schoby that Hunting magazine hadn’t been the same since Wootters penned his last column. I believe that Mike Schoby would agree with that.
My letter to Schoby suggested that I be given the opportunity to fill Wootters’ shoes by writing a monthly column for Hunting. Though I realize that Wootters was an icon, we have our similarities. The first is age, experience and the wisdom that comes with it. I know my guns and I have reloaded my own ammo for 48 years. Leader Hardware’s Gene Webster got me started.
Wootters had his Texas, I have my South Dakota. Other than Texas, I don’t know that any state gets more TV hunting show coverage than South Dakota. I ended my letter by telling Mr. Schoby that he had nothing to lose in taking a look at my proposal.
If and when I hear from Sports Afield and Petersen’s Hunting, I’ll let you know what they had to say. See you next week.