Should you shoot the first animal? Part 2

Bcmoose01 John Snow reported in this space last week about my experience moose hunting in British Columbia, and he raised a question every hunter faces: Do you shoot the first animal you see, or do you hold out for a larger specimen?

If you’re hunting close to home in an area with abundant wildlife, that’s usually a pretty easy decision. Unless you’re hunting meat for the table, most of us would hold out for a mature male, and some of the most memorable experiences in the field are passing on animals that are within range. The question becomes more difficult the further you roam, and the more investment you have in the trip, and whether the locale is known for producing trophies.

It’s the quintessential hunter’s dilemma: Are you willing to settle for any animal or hold out for a single specimen, even if it means you don’t kill anything? It’s a luxury of our age to even have the choice, and after I passed my moose I thought about all those subsistence hunters who would scold me for my selectivity.

Here are some photos from the trip to northern BC’s Babine Mountains. This bull pictured above is the one we called into 15 yards the first evening of the hunt.

This guy came in from about a mile down the valley, grunting and raking trees the whole way. He sounded like a Panzer coming through the spruce, and I was sure he was a shooter. But when he entered the clearing, I knew immediately I would pass. He just wasn’t what I was after – which was a 45-inch or better moose. The area I hunted produces plenty of 48- and even 50-inchers, and I reckoned this bull went about 42 inches. I wanted him to grow another year.

I felt great about my decision to pass, especially because it was the first day of the hunt. The next morning we set up about two miles up the valley and again called in this young bull, which brought a younger friend along. Here are photos of these two bulls.

Bcmoose02

I figured we were in tall cotton – action on the first two days of the hunt. You know the rest: we didn’t see another bull in eight more days of hunting. Was I regretting my decision to pass these bulls? Only a little. That’s hunting, and it’s the price you pay for early selectivity. Would I have shot that bull on the last day? That’s hard to say, but it raises the second hunter’s dilemma, one that I’ve debated with friends and guides the world over. There’s no consensus on this one, but the majority opinion says that you should never shoot an animal on the last day that you would pass on the first.

What do you think?

—Andrew McKean