Greatness – Can It Be Measured For The Deer Hunter?

Posted on July 17, 2012


“Whatever proficiency in still-hunting any mortal ever reaches, with all the advantages of snow, ground, wind, and sun in his favor, many a deer will, in the very climax of triumphant assurance, slip through his fingers like the thread of a beautiful dream.”            – T.S. Van Dyke

Who is the greatest? Muhammad Ali believed he was, dancing about the ring during his hay-day as a heavyweight boxer with the self-proclamation, “I am the greatest.”  But we also remember in the story, The Wizard of Oz, the scene where Oz unabashedly declared, “I am the great and powerful Oz.”, only to find out later that an insecure old man was pulling the strings from behind a façade.

From the recent summer Olympics the question has been asked, is Michael Phelps the greatest athlete of all time? Is he the greatest Olympian? Or, is he the greatest swimmer of all time? Does his eight gold medals in a single Olympic make him such? Determining who may be the greatest of all time in anything is subjective at best, and it all becomes relative as to how one makes the comparison.

It could be asked, did Michael have a distinct advantage over former Olympic swimmers due to the Speedo hi-tech swimwear? Was the pool water at the Cube in Beijing different allowing for world records to be shattered? In that same line of questioning, we must ask, are the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox a better baseball team than the 2004 World Champion Red Sox?

The notion of contemplating greatness, and the individuals that go all-out for such ambition is nothing new to the human race. As far back as Biblical times, comparisons and strife as to who would be the greatest even arose between the twelve apostles as they bickered amongst themselves while sitting with Jesus at the last supper. Humans that strive for excellence primarily begin their pursuit for personal fulfillment. However, once achievements have been reached, some far and above what most could ever possibly imagine, the personal accomplishment often sways to self-glorification. The adulation, it seems, is too much and we begin to bask in the glory bestowed upon us by those wishing to accomplish similar feats.

We live in a culture here in America that elevates our heroes to god-like status, and then these heroes become our idols. We want to be like ‘Mike.’ We could blame the media for hyping such things, and although they are often the culprits for bringing it to our TV, printed page and computer, it really comes down to each individual’s choice of buying in.

 The Deer Hunter

The deer hunting world is not immune to this malady that so permeates our society. But how does anyone judge, gauge, determine or assess who fits into such a category of being the greatest? How do we compare ourselves with the legends that have gone before us? What would be our measuring stick? After all, Meshach Browning killed 26 whitetails in one days hunt, has anyone bettered that in recent memory? In his lifetime, Browning shot more than 2000 whitetails and 500 bears, an accomplishment that cannot ever be matched today due chiefly to game laws and set seasons. With that said, does that make Browning a better deer hunter than the guy that without fail, bags his deer each year?

Perhaps, we the deer hunting fraternity, as a collective whole, have fallen victim to a shrewd trap, one which has insidious consequences. When you finally, at long last, put your sights onto one of the most elusive creatures in the forest wild, and bring that buck to the meat pole, just by the sheer act of squeezing the trigger or releasing the arrow, you have decided to take this particular animal. With that, you find fulfillment and joy in your accomplishment. So, what is it that eventually robs one of that initial excitement? It’s when we begin to evaluate our success against whoever may be the ‘hot shot’ deer hunter prevalent in the sporting press or seen on the seemingly endless line-up of hunting shows.

To our chagrin, we as hunters routinely compare our own accomplishments to those from whom we crave acceptance. That’s the baggage that is carried around. Then it feels that our own pedestal is being threatened when someone out-guns us or shoots a “better” buck and our insecurities immediately surface, usually with ill effects or thoughts towards the party on whom good fortune has fallen.

Hunters who are driven to achieve specific goals are often equally motivated to showcase their success. Those that rise to the occasion become the most prolific. But does that make them great? Each individual hunter takes deer hunting to a level befitting his or her own desires and goals. For some, nothing but a 200-pound, field dressed, buck will do. For others, any legal buck is fine, while there are still others that would not shoot anything short of a book head. Some choose to do this while perched aloft while others prefer to ‘run-em-down’.

The proverbial words of T.S. Van Dyke, written back in 1842 ring just as true today as they did when he first penned them:

“There are still parts of our country where deer are yet so plenty and tame that any one who can shoot at all can kill some. Often when concentrated by deep snows, fires, or other causes, the wildest of deer may fall easy victims to any one of brute strength and brute heart. Even when deer are scarce, wild, and in full strength the veriest blockhead may occasionally stumble over one and kill it with a gun. And in almost any place where the ground or brush does not make too much noise beneath the feet, if there are any deer at all, brute endurance in getting over the ground enough, assisted by brute perseverance, will bring success.

But from all this we can draw only one conclusion, namely that the greater the success one has by careless methods, the better it would be and the more ease and pleasure he would have in it by doing it scientifically.”

As both deer hunters and fellow human beings, should we ever be concerned with the question of who may be the greatest? Of even greater importance, would we indeed be ready to fulfill the requirement that comes with that accolade?

In the words of the greatest man to ever live, Jesus, when asked about greatness stated, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.”

All images on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier

    © 2012 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

Posted in: Whitetail Deer