As humans, we constantly evolve on a personal level. Who I was as a 21-year-old is much different from the man behind the keyboard right now, and thank goodness for that. I want to think I’m smarter, wiser, and a better version of myself. What I do know for sure, however, is that we all evolve in an overabundance of ways in many facets of our lives and also with hunting app, and often we are unaware that we have changed. 

Anytime we spend a lifetime pursuing a passion, our progress becomes evident. For example, I don’t even hear the word hunting the same way as I used to when my grandfather mentioned our weekend plans to bow hunt whitetails. Hunting was all I could think about as a kid. While I’m just as in love with it now, it’s a different kind of love. It is one born out of respect and admiration for the same animals I’m trying to kill. 

On my ninth birthday, I arrowed my first deer using a 25-pound Bear youth bow with fiberglass limbs and cams that resembled a match car tire. The button buck didn’t weigh over 60 pounds, but I was 10 feet tall at that moment. I knew then, if not before, that hunting would always be a constant in my life. I didn’t know what that looked like back then, and honestly, I still haven’t completely figured it out. But here I am.

It was an enormous deal for me back in the 1980s in Kentucky to simply see a deer, and a small doe would receive the same attention and treatment as would a big buck, which is probably a large part of why I never killed any big deer until I was well into high school. Shooting a big buck wasn’t even on my radar as a youngster. I just wanted to shoot a deer and get busy eating it. If it were brown, it would be shot at.

I became a better hunter in high school. Although I made every mistake possible, I tried to learn from them. Scent control arrived on my radar, and I was beginning to understand some key concepts on ambushing whitetails, like scent dispersion and proper entry and exit routes. At the time, I was well on my way to becoming a giant buck slayer – or so I thought. 

By the time I graduated, I had killed a couple of decent bucks. Then I spent several years in college, dodging 8 a.m. classes like a pro. I stacked my schedule for middle-of-the-day classes during the fall semester so that I could hunt before and after my classes. While my college plan did not really pay off, academically speaking, I was improving at getting closer to deer, so I had that going for me. 

During my late high school years and college life, I became much pickier about what I would shoot. I would go after the biggest bucks I had access to each year and wouldn’t shoot anything just to fill a tag. I began attempting to be purposeful. If I were hungry or friends and family wanted fresh venison, I’d shoot a doe in an area that could use fewer deer. Outside of that, I was in a war with whitetail bucks. Not in the traditional sense of the word, however. It was really just an internal war within myself. In fact, it was during this time that I began to really internalize and fully grasp the weight of killing an animal that I love so deeply. I mean that I feel sad when I kill a deer. When I build a history with a specific buck by hunting and monitoring him over time and sometimes for years, I feel a bond with the animal. When I eventually harvest the buck, I have a great sense of accomplishment while simultaneously feeling sorrow. Maybe I’m just getting old and soft, but I suspect most hunters can relate somehow.

I’m now 41 years old, and while I still love chasing giant whitetails, I enjoy the journey most. It’s been a long winding road that started when I was six and just big enough to follow my grandad through the Kentucky woods. Nowadays, I get just as jacked up by taking a youth hunter or new hunter into the woods or water. The outdoors has blessed me in ways I could have never imagined, which motivates me and is the primary reason I recently co-founded Operation Youth Outdoors, a non-profit organization to get underprivileged youth involved in hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors. Whether guiding a novice hunter through the woods or championing the cause of outdoor activities app for underprivileged youth, my passion for the outdoors has found new meaning in giving back.

No matter your outdoor obsession, I guess many of us will undergo several evolutions. Another hunch is that the real prize of having true passions is the journey on which they take us. It’s like my parents used to say, “There is no substitute for experience.”

Article By: John Kirby