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Does Size Really Matter?

Apparently, depending on who you ask, size does matter. However, here at least, exploring this subject will remain in the realm of fish and wildlife rather than venturing towards the birds and the bees.

The subject came up, rather abruptly, one day last September in the ponderosa pine country of Arizona. A respectable 5×5 bull elk walked within 20 yards of my buddy’s Mathews bow while I filmed. I didn’t hear the twang of the arrow so I assumed he might not have a quality shot through the pine scrub. I kept whispering over and over, “readjust, shoot, move, shoot, he’s leaving, shoot.”

The elk walked back into the pines and out of my camera lens forever. I looked over to my buddy and all he said was, “Had a great shot but I thought it was too small.”  The echoes from my screaming could be heard bouncing from tree to tree throughout the Arizona Kaibab National Forest. I incoherently spouted phrases like, “It was the perfect video and a beautiful elk,” or “It took you 12 years to draw this permit and you didn’t even shoot!”  We flew back to Alaska after 14 days with no elk meat. Every time I stop by my buddy’s house and ask what’s for dinner, the question usually sounds something like, “Probably not having elk steaks for dinner, huh?”

Without having elk meat in the freezer, the nextbest thing for dinner would be moose steaks. It never fails that when a group of hunters are glassing a hillside in prime moose habitat, they will spot a legal 40-inch moose 500 yards away and a 74-inch bull of the woods two miles away. Everyone wants to tag the 74-inch bull and hope the rest of the hunters will help pack the behemoth back to camp so they can go home and hang the heavy, wide antlers on the wall and brag about the hunt. Straws are drawn and half the hunters go after the bull of the woods and the other group heads after the 40-inch moose. Both moose are hanging in camp by the end of the day and night. When it’s time to divvy up the meat at home, nobody wants to eat the bull of the woods. They all want the meat from the younger bull. Apparently, size matters differently when you’re moose hunting as opposed to sitting at the dinner table.

When moose steaks from the bull of the woods are tougher than saddle leather, it is time to have halibut for dinner. Halibut live in a body of water called the ocean. The ocean is related to Mother Nature and she can turn a great day of halibut fishing into a nightmare instantly. A 70-mile run across the open water for huge halibut takes lots of gas money, time, bait and Dramamine. Dropping the bait 120 feet to the bottom of the ocean could yield a 300-pound halibut or a 20-pound chicken. “Chicken” is Alaska lingo for a small halibut and not a real chicken. Chickens are found in the grocery store or maybe a farm and I don’t think there is such a thing as a 20-pound farm chicken. Soon, a 220-pound halibut gets hooked and the fight is on. Everyone pulls their lines from the water and waits for 30 minutes while the large flatfish is brought to the surface. The halibut gets the full treatment with a harpoon, a shot to the head with a .410 shotgun, a gaff to the gills and then is hauled onto the boat. People are slapping high-fives and having fun. The waves and wind start to pick up so a flurry of fishing produces several 40-, 50- and 60-pound halibut before the boat heads directly into the pounding waves in the direction of town. Everyone wants a trophy picture with the large 220-pound halibut but nobody wants to take it home for dinner. Fishermen prefer to eat 50-pound halibut and brag about 220-pound halibut. Apparently, size matters differently, depending on whether you’re halibut fishing as opposed to sitting down at the dinner table to eat.

If you’re not willing to sit at the dinner table and eat large, chewy chunks of a 220-pound halibut, then maybe it’s time to have some deer meat, a rabbit, a mountain goat or a fresh lake trout pulled up through the ice. Apparently size matters with all these delicacies because whenever a hunter shoots a doe blacktail, it miraculously becomes a “big doe.” I once won a big rabbit contest and got a fancy wooden trophy with a bronze rabbit on top for my effort. It was a 2.8-pound snowshoe hare and overall weight was the winning factor and not the size of the ears or the length of the lucky rabbit’s foot. Really, does size matter for either of these animals? The factors for determining a record-book mountain goat is determined in inches. When you’re spotting a goat from 1,000 yards away through the dense fog can anyone tell whether it’s 11 inches or 9 inches? The fact is that size doesn’t matter at the dinner table for goat because it isn’t on the Alaska top-ten list for edibility.

My favorite Alaska delicacy is a freshly-caught, seasoned and grilled lake trout from anyone of the numerous coldwater lakes around the state. I can safely report that size doesn’t matter as far as the length or weight of a lake trout. They all have a tasty, mouthwatering, supreme flavor and texture.  However, size does matter when it comes to the size of the hole you drill through the ice. Bigger is better and 10 inches is better than 8 inches and 12 inches is better yet. I’ve lost 10-pound lake trout trying to bring them through the ice in an 8-inch hole. Every time I tell the story of howthe lake trout wouldn’t fit up the hole, the fish gets bigger to the point where now it’s a 25-pound lost laker. I’ve since tossed all my 8-inch augers in the scrap metal pile.

Basically, size matters when it comes to some aspects of hunting and fishing and each person has their own standards. The best standard for size in my humble opinion is the fact that bigger memories from each and every quality outdoor adventure remain the key to a happy, healthy and fun-filled lifestyle in the great outdoors.

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