Dear Writing Huntress,
This is my fourth year afield. It took me 2 seasons to kill my first deer, a small doe, with a rifle. I shoot archery but I haven’t shot anything with my bow yet. My duck seasons have always been slow. I hear about “tagging out” and “limiting out” all the time on TV and from my hunting friends. Why do we have limits? Does it make me a bad hunter if I haven’t killed more deer or shot a limit in 4 years?
Bad Hunter in Baton Rouge
Dear Bad Hunter,
Fear not, my friend, you are doing absolutely nothing wrong. Despite popular belief, focusing on limits and “tagging out” isn’t what hunting is about.
History of limits and tags
Ever since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, limits have been placed on the number of ducks that hunters can kill and/or possess at any given time.
Limits today vary by flyway, species of duck or goose and state. Therefore, limits set up the framework for duck season, and are the benchmarks by which hunters stay legal.
The practice of “tagging” dates all the way back to 1087 when William the Conqueror wrote hunting laws because he “loved animals more than the people whom he ruled.”
Since then, hunters have been required to tag their kills. “Tagging out,” or the practice of using all available tags during a certain hunting season, has now become synonymous with success.
The big deal with limits, aside from legality, is that individuals enjoy reaching the peak of perfection. Hence, many hunters strive to shoot a limit every day and to tag out every year. With the introduction of hunting television, many hunters hold the successes of professional hunts to such esteem that they only view a hunt fruitful when it comes via limiting out.
Impacts on your hunt
Now, let’s delve into your problem. First off, you are not a bad hunter. Keep in mind that hunting is difficult and full of complications that may keep you from harvesting anything at all. I’ve gone years between kills, so I’ve experienced firsthand what can impact the outcome of a hunt. Impacts on the outcome of a hunt include the following:
If you live in a place that is not optimal for an animal, disappointment is inevitable. In North Carolina, it took me a full season to finally drop my first duck. Now I live in North Dakota and often “limit out” daily.
So, don’t get down about your kill record. If deer or ducks aren’t plentiful in your area, research hunting grounds in other states or locations in Louisiana.
There are many factors outside your control that go into a profitable season. I would recommend changing your attitude about the importance of “limiting out.” If you’re constantly focused on tagging or limiting out, you’ll miss the beauty and majesty of the hunt as it revolves around you.
Instead of getting down about your lack of limits, set yourself small goals, like shooting 1 duck or seeing 1 deer. Be sure to celebrate those milestones as you grow as a huntress.
Give your hunting self time to experience and learn. View each hunt as a classroom and absorb knowledge and tips from every veteran hunter you can.
But, also remember that you can learn from yourself through your mistakes. I lost my first archery deer, a product of my inexperience and over-excitement. I then took up bowfishing to increase my accuracy, strength and confidence.
Hunters hold jurisdiction over their calls, decoys, spreads, stand placement and scent control. However, our power ends there. Once you’ve done all you can do, Mother Nature takes the reigns.
Bad Hunter, I hope this helped. Limits and tags are extremely important aspects of every hunter’s life, both for legality purposes and for conservation. However, limiting and tagging out shouldn’t be the focus of your hunt. Enjoy your time afield, learn what you can and remember to stick with it!