Ground Shrinkage: It Happens, but Does it Matter?

This past week, I filled my 2012 spring bear tag. The tag is a difficult one to draw (for the past 5 years it has been drawing at about a 15% rate) and I filled my tag with a full month left in the season. When I shot the bear from 180 yards away, I was certain that I was shooting a bear of approximate size to the one I’d shot two years prior that checked in at six feet squared. When I found this year’s bear piled up in the brush, however, it became immediately evident that I’d made a gross miscalculation in size. This was a 1 1/2 year old bear and was not close to the six foot boar I’d taken two years ago. I never felt any disappointment, though, and as I tell my story of this year’s hunt, I’m amazed at how often people expect me to be sorry for shooting a small bear.

I admit to experiencing ground shrinkage – this was certainly not the size of bear I thought it was – but, I ask myself: “If I had known the true size of this bear, would I still have shot it?” To which I can answer every time, “Yes, without question.”

My 2012 bear.

In answering that question with confidence, I can be assured that in my particular case, ground shrinkage doesn’t matter. I’m not a trophy hunter. I never have been, and probably never will be. I feel a certain amount of guilt when I’m hunting while my wife chases two young kids all day at home after having been doing that all week. I’m usually trying to satisfy my craving for a hunt while maintaining an awareness of my wife’s point of view. As our children advance in age and we’re able to hunt as a family, that won’t be such a big deal anymore, but I imagine I’ll still be a meat-first hunter. I admire the families of trophy hunters and I admire trophy hunters to a certain degree, as well. It takes discipline to pass on animals not knowing if you’ll see another one – let alone a larger one. And, it takes a very understanding family to take care of the home front while a hunter passes on legal animals. It’s not for me at this point in my life.

A young buck I shot in 2010 near my house.

One theory for the difference in hunting styles is that I love the taste of wild game so much I cannot stand the thought of going a year without. But, I imagine that there are plenty of trophy hunters that love wild game just as much as I. Another way I like to think about it is that I’m simply hunting the way my predatory instincts tell me to hunt. When is the last time you’ve heard of a wolf letting an animal go because it was too small? I’m not really sure what separates the hunting styles, but I know that it doesn’t really matter. The world needs both types. Trophy hunters and meat-first hunters strike a balance. If everyone was a meat-first hunter, the laws would be so restricted and the game so few that none of us would likely be doing much hunting. If everyone was a trophy hunter, the game would be too prolific. It takes both kinds.

I realize I’ve been wandering, now. Let me try and get back on task – ground shrinkage is supposed to be a disappointing experience. Yet, I experienced it this past weekend, and I argue that I felt no disappointment except that I’d be getting a little less meat than if I’d shot an older and larger bear. Trophy hunting isn’t for everyone, just as meat-first hunting isn’t for everyone. I don’t know why this is so difficult to understand or accept, but I will continue to tell my bear story without remorse. And I’ll continue to eat on that bear, one delicious bite at a time.


6 Responses to “Ground Shrinkage: It Happens, but Does it Matter?”

  1. Cory Glauner on April 27th, 2012 7:44 am

    It doesn’t matter. Have you seen some of my bears? I’m a proud slayer of cubs. :) just kidding. Be proud. Pretty bear.

  2. John on April 27th, 2012 8:03 am

    I understand bears are hard to field judge anyway. I know at the start of the hunt what my standards are with antlered game. The two “book” animals I killed just were in range before something of lesser size was.

  3. Tom Sorenson on April 27th, 2012 9:04 am

    Cory – Ha! I will say that the roasts have been tender and delicious! It is a beautiful bear – if it’d been larger, I definitely would have made another rug…it’s probably a better coat than my bear from two years ago. Similar color, but this one had much thicker hair.

  4. Tom Sorenson on May 1st, 2012 3:45 pm

    John – sorry, I didn’t see your comment earlier. It got caught in the spam folder and I’m lazy in my housekeeping there!

    Bears do seem to be really difficult to field judge – especially when you’re not shooting them over bait and have the barrel to judge them against. Interesting what you say about your “book” animals – sometimes it just works out, I guess!

  5. Henry Mitchel on May 21st, 2012 8:11 pm

    Nice article. Haha. And the bear look like Yogi.

    Well anyways, congrats for the catch and just wondering if you just had a bear hug?

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