A first-time youth deer hunter passed on a trophy buck in November and is now receiving an award for his act.
The Star Tribune reported that 12-year-old Blake Holbrook saw an eight-point buck from his deer stand just five minutes before the start of legal shooting time. It was only about 15 yards away and he had a clear shot. But, he passed. The result was a missed opportunity in the field, but a Deer Hunter Ethics Award from the Minnesota DNR. He was named as one of two winners.
Hunt long enough for deer and most hunters will be faced with this dilemma at least once. I have faced it several times, including this year. I ended up shooting a small buck right at the start of shooting hours, but I saw two deer before that.
It’s a tough call. In all honesty, I wouldn’t have a problem with Blake shooting this deer, provided he could see it clearly and it was a safe shot. As a firearms safety instructor, I am charged by the state to teach three rules of firearms safety:
1. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded
2. Always keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction
3. Be sure of your target and what lies beyond
As long as these rules are followed, I don’t think it’s wrong to shoot a deer five minutes before shooting hours. The whole idea is to keep the hunt safe and make sure there’s enough light to properly identify your target. It’s clear to me that Blake clearly identified the creature in front of him as a deer.
On the other hand, I applaud him for not taking the shot. In doing so, he has a chance to experience all of the other aspects of hunting that motivate so many to spend time in the field. Whether or not he took the shot, he still got the reward of seeing a majestic animal up close. And, he also got to spend quality time with his father, who was in another stand nearby. These two things are more than worth it.
On top of that, he has the satisfaction of knowing he made a sacrifice for the sake of his ethical values. In other words, he bagged something more valuable than a deer. He bagged integrity.