By Mark Kenyon

It took so long to get here. Months of anticipation. Weeks and weeks of hard work. Day upon day counted down until it arrived. And then in a snap of a finger, it came and it went.

Another deer hunting season come and gone.

Almost like sand between my finger tips, the 2012 hunting season slipped away before I hardly even knew it. And now with three months of hunts in the rear view mirror, I begin my annual period of reflection. When looking back on a season, I think we all tend to see things through a different lens. But the question always comes up in our minds, was the season a success? Success can certainly be determined in a great number of ways, and I personally have looked back on seasons past through many of these different lenses. So what does success look like? Is it a number of deer killed? Is it measured in inches on a trophy buck’s head? Or how about meat, does putting food on the table equate to success? Can success be claimed based on the number of laughs, thrills, or smiles in a season?  Great stories, unforgettable memories. Are those signs of a successful three months of hunting? I’m not sure if any one of these or all of them are the answer. But it’s worth pondering.

Is success measured in the number of deer you kill? If so, the smile on my face is justifiable. Three deer killed is a respectable mark. We spend hour upon hour preparing all year for one moment – a shot on a deer. So being able to place three killing shots on deer with my bow is something I can be pretty happy with. I’d call that success.

Is success measured in inches of antler or in the harvesting of a trophy class or mature buck? For some people, maybe. For me, partly. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I view this season particularly succesful given my killing of my best buck to date. I worked incredibly hard to harvest a mature buck, and I did. That’s a success in my book. But that’s not to say that you can’t have success without big antlers.

How about meat? Putting meat on the table and providing for ourselves and our families. That’s definitely a success, and is honestly at the very core hunting, right? If so, I’m a happy hunter. Steaks, chops, roasts, burger, jerky and summer sausage. Fresh venison abounds in my household, and each bite brings back great memories and a sense of pride. That’s success in my book.

Moments. Those moments of pure excitement, adrenaline, laughter, comraderie, reverance. If those special moments that come and go throughout a deer season when emotion fills us up to the brim are success, then I can claim another win. I’ve experienced the rush of seeing the biggest buck I’ve yet to encounter in the woods. I’ve felt the pride of watching deer enter and feed in a food plot I put hour upon hour of work into. I’ve felt shock as two mature bucks in Michigan squared off for battle only 100 yards away from my stand. I’ve felt pure joy for my best friend when he killed his first deer.

And those moments lead to memories, to stories, to legends. If memories made for a lifetime are success, than I can hold my head up high. Enjoying a hair raising close call with my buddy in the tree, trying to shoot his first deer. A great memory. Watching 11 bucks go rut crazy in the span of a late evening two hour sit. Unforgettable. Watching a 170 and 140 class buck in Iowa posture up to spar. Amazing. Spending a four day weekend up at our Northern Michigan deer camp with family.  Helping my best friend finally kill his first deer. Harvesting two does in three days off of my best food plot to date. Success. Success. Success. These memories and good times will stick with me for years to come, and will bring a smile to my face whenever recalled.

So how are you supposed to determine the success of a hunting season? I’m not sure. There certainly isn’t any one answer and I don’t know if it’s any of the above or none of them. But what I do know, is that no matter how you slice it, when I look back on this season in the rear view mirror it brings a smile to my face and a sense of thankfulness that cannot be shaken.  Deer on the ground, a buck for the wall, meat on the table, moments and memories that I’ll never forget. I have been blessed with an unforgettable season for all these reasons. And that, in my book, is success.

So how about you? Was your season a success? And how so?