I was a just a young chap barely knee high to a duck when I first was extended the privilege of accompanying a deer hunt with my father and uncles.
True to form my uncle Eddie dropped a stunning 10-pointer on the second drive and we began the ritualistic trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house where we hung our deer for aging.
Along the way, as I recall, we made a quick stop for some road Pepsi's and a group of looky-loos wandered over to admire the slammer rack that peaked over the side of the pickup bed.
"Nice deer," one of them exclaimed, then turned and congratulated my uncle.
Ed spun and without skipping a beat said: "Don't congratulate me, congratulate the deer - he grew em'."
Interestingly, in this age of record-book keeping, antler restrictions, selective harvest and land management depicted on popular television shows, I think some have lost sight of one simple fact: Deer are tasty.
Our forefathers hunted not for the trophy rack or bragging rights but rather to put nutritious, high-protein food on the table. Most would roll over in their grave to see Michael Waddell let a 140 class walk by because it wasn't a "management buck."
I have a real problem with trophy hunters - I have no qualms saying it. I find it disheartening that some place more value on the trophy than the meat. In my mind, if you aren't in it for the latter it gives true hunters a bad name.
It also is not always what's best for the herd as a whole.
Shooting an animal to put the antlers on the wall is no different than cutting them off in the woods and leaving the meat to rot.
Aged traditions of crews butchering their own deer and dividing the meat have in some cases been replaced with dropping the deer at the taxidermist and piling the leather-like meat in the freezer bottom till its gangrene.
I remember a recent conversation between a longtime hunting chum and one such hunter who was boasting about letting an 8-pointer walk by because it wasn't worthy of the wall.
"Guess you didn't need the meat," he said.
Amen to that.
Don't get me wrong - I begrudge no one a trophy set of antlers and have taken tremendous pride in dropping several sets of my own.
But that, in my mind, should be the icing on the cake, not what defines the hunt. And no one should be apologetic for filling the freezer - as long as they do it legally and need or enjoy the meat.
I was reminded of this the other day when my cousin Danny entered a small spike horn he shot this season in a "monster rack" competition at a popular local radio station.
He entered it not because it had a chance of winning, but because he shot it after his young son Hudson spied the small buck and pointed it out to his Dad.
It was Hudson's first time hunting and he is now hooked for life, my cousin said.
"Besides," Danny said, "You don't eat the antlers ... they just help stir the stew."
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsmen. He can be reached at email@example.com.