A PHOTO FIN­ISH

Field and Stream - - GIANT - —Scott Bestul

I spent years think­ing that tag­ging a big buck was my ul­ti­mate goal. Then I shot a buck that I’d known for a while— mainly via trail-cam pics. One day, star­ing at him in my tro­phy room, I re­al­ized that I liked the pic­tures as much as the mount. Over two sea­sons, I’d as­sem­bled quite a photo al­bum of the buck, and each im­age was like find­ing a puz­zle piece that showed me where he lived, when he moved, how he be­haved around other deer. Once I killed him, the puz­zle was fin­ished.

Since then, trail cams have helped me get to know some great deer, lit­tle by lit­tle fill­ing in the de­tails of the an­i­mal’s life. With each new glimpse, I find my­self dream­ing of the buck and won­der­ing what the next pic will re­veal.

They say when you’ve hunted long enough the killing be­comes less im­por­tant. That’s true. But I still work hard to get within bow range of a mon­ster each year. Ex­cept now, here’s my ul­ti­mate goal: As that gi­ant ap­proaches, I’d sift through pic­tures of him in my mind: the first one, the one show­ing the big­gest antler jump, the best of a mock scrape. Then he’d stop within bow range, I’d draw—and then I’d de­cide if I wanted the puz­zle to end. Or not.

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