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Scott Rall: The best of the five stages

PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT RALL The David and Donavon Kuehl duo harvest what could be the first of a lifetime of deer hunting trophies.

Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors writer 

This week I am feeling pretty old. There are things you do when you are young and those same things that you no longer do when you are old.

I was young once and after losing a bet I bungee jumped from a very tall crane. I now ask myself, “What were you thinking?”

Every activity that I consider now has to pass the pheasant hunting test. Before doing anything I ask myself, “If I do this thing could I get hurt bad enough to not be able to walk around and hunt pheasants?” If the answer is yes I don’t do it. It the answer is no, at least I can consider it.

Older age is not all bad.

As I have gotten older I think back about the five stages of a hunter. These are five very different thought processes that a hunter uses to define if their hunting experience was a good one or not. Everyone stays in different stages for different lengths of time. Some hunters never make it to stage five.

Stage one is, “How many shells or bullets did I fire.” Inexperienced hunters come home after a day in the field and say, “I only got 2 ducks, but I shot 45 times. Boy was that fun.” They are more concerned as to whether they were able to go hunting and the actually firing of the gun than they are about how much game they harvested.

Stage two moves on to how much game was harvested. Success is measured primarily by limits and total harvest compared to their hunting peers. “I got my limit the last 10 times out” becomes the measure of success. It is all about the numbers and besting their hunting companions

Stage three is a move to what is called method hunting. An example would be the duck hunter that only shoots ducks over decoys in harvested corn fields. They could harvest ducks in any number of settings, but the method of the harvest and the testing of his/her skills to be successful with one particular method is where the satisfaction is derived.

It might require highly skilled duck calling talent that maybe only 5 percent of the duck hunters possess. Hunting with a very small gauge shotgun for pheasants is much harder and requires better shooting skills. So a method hunter will find satisfaction in being proficient with a smaller gauge shotgun and equal the success of others who chose a bigger gun.

The fourth stage of a hunter is called the trophy stage. For most trophy hunters they will harvest almost no game in a year’s time but the game they get will be very big. A deer hunter might only shoot a deer every five years. They could shoot any number of deer every year but they only want the biggest, baddest buck in the area to consider the hunt a success. The trophy stage usually requires a lot of travel as the biggest deer, elk, bighorn sheep and other exotic birds and other game animals do not often exist close to home.

The fifth and final stage of a hunter is the outdoor experience stage. Shooting is not important. The amount of game harvested is not important. How it might be taken is also of little consequence. It is the opportunity to be outdoors and interacting with nature that makes all the difference. If game is harvested it is a bonus but has no bearing on weather the hunting experience was considered a success of not.

I am in the stage five position. I had the opportunity to take a 15-year old boy deer hunting for his first time. His dad came along and he had never hunted deer before, either. We sat in the deer stand for a few hours and I left them mid-morning to go do some honey-do’s.

Ten minutes before the end of shooting hours for that day the young man harvested his first deer. Both dad and son were equally excited and as a result I was at least as excited as them.

It mattered not to me if I shot it or not. But the opportunity to expose this pair to the joys of an outdoor lifestyle was more than enough for me to call this exercise in hunting a complete success. This one exposure might very well help turn these two into lifelong conservationists who will direct their time, effort and energy to the protection of all wildlife in our state.

This is the fourth “first time” deer shot out of my deer stand in the past four years. Each deer was a trophy in its own right even though they were all what I would call barely average bucks.

To the first-time deer hunter and to this stage five hunter all deer are trophys depending on who is sitting next to it in the picture. The David and Donavon Kuehl hunting duo are two of Minnesota’s newest deer hunters and I congratulate them on a quality hunt with a great shot by David to start what I hope is a lifelong outdoor hunting lifestyle. I now need to find another young hunter who would like to shoot his/her very first deer.