By Alex Comstock
"The quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent" - the definition of greatness. But does that hold true when it comes to deer hunting? I've pondered this a time or two. When you hear someone claim they want to become a "great" deer hunter, what does that even really mean? Greatness can be defined in many different ways, and with deer hunting, I don't believe there to be any one clear cut thing that makes a deer hunter great, because there are too many factors. Let's look at some of those factors below and diagnose them. When I think of a great deer hunter, it's not easily defined, and to better explain my position on this, I broke up deer hunters into a few different categories, and will talk about what can make each one of those hunters "great."
The Giant Buck Seeker
One facet of deer hunter is the guy/gal that is seeking giant bucks, and will hunt or live anywhere to get it done. If you want to consistently be tagging not only mature, but giant whitetails, you either have to spend a lot of money on out of state travel and tags each year, or simply live where there is a lot of them. Places like Iowa, southern Wisconsin, and Canada immediately come to mind. You don't have to be killing giants bucks every year to be a great hunter, in fact there are (in my opinion) a lot of hunters that hunt in extreme pressure in the northeastern states that would be considered "better" hunters than someone living in southern Iowa who tags a 140" + buck seemingly every year. But in order to be someone that is great at harvesting giant bucks consistently, you have to hunt where a higher number of big bucks live.
The Best in Area Hunter
As it pertains to being a "great" deer hunter, this is currently where I'm at right now. I want to master to the best of my ability harvesting mature bucks in the areas I hunt. And that means expectations can change if you hunt more than one area. For instance, in my home state of Minnesota, my expectations and goals are less than what they are in North Dakota, even though I live and have more time to hunt Minnesota. The simple fact is that there are a lot more mature bucks, and less hunters to deal with in North Dakota. Therefore, expectations will inherently be different. A great deer hunter doesn't have to be harvesting giant bucks, because the area they live in might not hold those bucks. But that doesn't mean you can't still be a great deer hunter.
The Public Land Master
Public land can be a tall task to consistently be successful on, no doubt. And what makes someone a "great" hunter based on their public land accomplishments can be a wide variety of things. When it comes to mastering public land, the first thing that populates in my head is achieving what most others don't. So if the average buck harvested on public in your area is a 2 1/2 year old buck, and you are consistently harvesting bucks older than that, I'd venture to say you are doing a pretty great job.
When I think of some of the great deer hunters I know in life, I think of the mentors I've had that have taught me a lot of what I know out in the field. A great deer hunter not only consistently harvests mature bucks, but if you can pass your knowledge on to others in some form, that only makes you greater in my opinion. Depending on the stage of your life, you may not be to that point yet, but if you can one day pass the information you know on to someone else, that only elevates your greatness in the deer hunting realm.
An Overall Great Hunter
To be an overall great deer hunter, at the end of the day it's not just about harvesting big or mature bucks. If you shoot a giant buck every year, but hardly ever do it legally, that doesn't make you a great hunter. What I'm getting at is having the right ethics and values can go a long ways. By doing everything right in that regard, always aiming to improve, and working your tail off, you can be considered a great deer hunter.