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Tag soup: Why an empty freezer doesn’t feel like failure

Homage: Tag soup

A reminder that there’s more to hunting than just bringing home meat

I spent a lot of time preparing for last season’s deer hunt. I treated myself to a new rifle, and spent hours sighting it in. As mid-November approached, I bought maps, put snow tires on the SUV and started shopping for exotic snacks. When my hunting partner Kerry walked off the plane—wearing flip-flops—from California, the Nissan was packed and I was all prepped to bag that big buck.

Mmmm tag soup—we’ve all been there. But here’s why it shouldn’t taste as bitter as you expect Click to Tweet

I didn’t bag that big buck. I had two chances. With one, a buck came trotting toward me, but caught a whiff of danger and stopped just behind a blowdown. I waited. He waited. The buck was in a bad spot and knew it. With the gun raised and my heart thumping, I stood there seemingly forever—really maybe only three minutes—then attempted a step sideways. Ha! I had revealed my position and the buck was gone in a flash.

An uncut tag still comes with plenty of memories

The second chance came on the last day of the season—a standing shot at 150 yards. Okay, two shots, both clean misses. How could the rifle shoot two-inch groups at 100 yards and miss a standing buck at 150? Can I try it again? No mister, you can’t try it again. This is hunting, not killing.

So, my freezer remained empty. But Kerry and I had at least managed to ditch our calendars and cellphones for a few days. And we ate well, slept well, shared some stories and hiked every day through a primeval valley that hasn’t changed in 10,000 years. True, you can’t eat tracks. But if hunting was just about harvesting meat, it would be easier, and a lot cheaper, to sell all that gear and just shop at the supermarket. There’s no such thing as failure when you’re a hunter. You might not cut your tag, but you still acquire a freezer full of memories.

Winnipeg contributor Jake Macdonald aims to fill his freezer this fall—or at least have fun trying.