Not all successful hunts end with a freezer full of meat

You don’t have to bring an animal home every time you go hunting to consider yourself a hunter. In fact, sometimes deciding not to pull the trigger might be the best choice.

Several years ago, there was a Wyoming hunter who drew a mountain goat license, but decided not to shoot an animal. Apparently, he saw plenty of goats, and he took a bunch of pictures. But those pictures were all he brought home from his hunt.

Hunting without shooting isn’t all that uncommon. I was recently reading old back-issues of Field and Stream, and in the 2006 December and January issue there was a story called, “An Improbable Elk Hunt,” by Susan Casey. The author had never fired a gun before, but she prepared for and went on an elk hunt in Colorado. I hate to give away the ending, but if I don’t, I won’t have anything to talk about in the next minute and a half.

It’s an amazing story. Casey is a freelancer who writes mostly about saltwater fish. Not fishing, but the fish themselves. She notes in her article that she recently got into spearfishing, but she’s never written about hunting before. She never hunted until she did this story. In fact, she says she never even held a gun until a few months before her elk hunt.

She put herself on the fast track to becoming a big game hunter. Most people work up to it. She didn’t have time. She got her hunter education card, practiced with her brand-new .300 Winchester Mag every chance she got, then set out on a hunt in a rugged chunk of Colorado wilderness.

The hitch is that when the moment came, she didn’t pull the trigger. She put the crosshairs on a bull elk, put her finger on the trigger, then flipped the safety back on.

She seems to be pretty hard on herself about what she calls “chickening out.” But the next several issues of the magazine were filled with letters from readers applauding her for her gumption. So what if she didn’t bring an elk home? She prepared, practiced, then got out there. She saw things she wouldn’t have seen otherwise. She hunted. In my opinion, that’s the important part. Going on the hunt is the T-bone steak, vegetables, and potatoes. Bringing something home is just gravy.

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