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It was not an easy decision to start this blog.  I’ve followed successful hunters for decades and am fully aware that I’m making myself vulnerable to criticism, false accusations, and even hatred.  

“What? How?” you may ask.

Just look around.  Many successful hunters have been tarnished by unfounded accusations, gossiping, and just plain old meanness over the years.  If he is truly an upright person, the truth usually prevails but not before great damage is inflicted. 


The old adage “sticks and stones break bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a lie.  Ask anyone who’s been falsely accused or slandered. 

Unfortunately, we have many examples of lame hunters breaking laws, often flagrantly, to achieve success.  But we also have many examples of hunters who’ve done it right: of Larry D. Jones, Dwight Schuh, Chuck Adams, and Jim Shockey, there seems to be no scandal.

So, you might ask, “Is Robby really squeaky clean?”

No, I’m not—and I’m here to set the record straight. 

Late in my teens and up to 22 years old, I broke the law on more than one occasion.  In 1990, I shot a mule deer well after legal shooting light.  In 1991, I helped a friend fill his premium late buck tag.  By “helping”, I mean I shot the buck “for” him as he couldn’t get a shot through the thick brush.  That “help” I gave is called party hunting and is highly illegal.  I broke the law.

Now I considered myself an ethical hunter and not a poacher.  After all, a poacher shoots big bucks on the winter range, cuts off the antlers, and leaves the meat, right?  Wrong.  A poacher, according to Merriam-Webster, is simply “one who kills or takes wild animals illegally.”  That’s painful, but true.  I was a poacher, at least twice, by that definition.

Although that was over 22 years ago and my ethics have changed, they likely wouldn’t have if an unforeseen event hadn’t happened; In December, 1992, I became a Christian. 

“Whoa, here comes the religion part,” you might be thinking. 

Hang on, I promise I won’t beat you over the head with my faith, but you need to know where your host is coming from, who I really am. 

That day that I admitted to God I was a sinner and wanted forgiveness, everything changed.  Suddenly, I saw my actions described above (and in many other areas of my life) for what they were: rebellious toward God and the laws of man—period!  Anyone who really accepts Jesus as his savior will have a similar experience.

For the next few years, I really felt that God was changing my life and, pertinent to this conversation, my views on hunting.  Suffice it to say, 1992 was the last year I knowingly broke game laws. 

The greatest part, however, was that as my views and ethics changed, so did my satisfaction for hunting—it grew in leaps and bounds! It wasn’t just killing a big deer that made hunting satisfying, but learning about them and the hunt—the key to my success now. 

My test came a few years later, 1994.  Most people know about Wyoming’s ridiculous law banning unguided non-residents from hunting wilderness even though backpackers, horsemen, backcountry fisherman, and berry pickers are allowed in the wilderness, unguided. 

Back then, Wyoming’s Region H was a lot better than it is now.  I’d drawn a tag and legally scouted several designated wilderness areas in the summer.  I’d hunted National Forest many times but noted that there were more quality deer in the wilderness.  Although many non-residents hunt the wilderness undeterred, I decided not to hunt those bucks. Something inside me, (God), told me I could do better than that.  Once I made my mind up, I was left with really learning how to hunt the more heavily-hunted National Forests of the West. 

Nearly 20 years later, I’m still blessed by that decision as I’ve learned how to hunt bucks where they’re often harder to find.  Those years of doing right added up to an ability to find and shoot big deer.  God, as He’s known to do, gave me back way more than He asked me to give up.

So here I am, the real McCoy, vulnerable to all who want to throw the first stone…but if you’re going to do that, please take a look in the mirror first. 

I’ve put much thought and prayer into this project and have decided the risk of becoming vulnerable to attack is worth the benefit: to share a lifetime of hunting experience with you.  I hope you’ll be gracious to all who may congregate here…

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Wyoming’s ridiculous law does allow non-residents to accompany residents into designated wilderness.  I’ve enjoyed several wilderness hunts with my good friend, Bill Kelly of Boulder, Wyoming shown here loading the packstring. I’ve always seen good bucks on those trips.

Questions:  How have your ethics changed and has that change led to more satisfaction in hunting?

 

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Robby Denning started hunting mule deer in the late 1970’s, only missing one season in 35 years. At 25, he gave up the pursuit of all other big-game to focus on taking the best bucks possible. He began hunting the West on a DIY budget hunting an average of 30 days a year for mule deer. Robby loves the hunt as much as the kill and the entire process from research to scouting to hunting. He’s killed four bucks over 200 inches in the last 15 seasons, mostly on easily-obtained tags. He owns a public-land scouting service and runs a private-land outfitting business helping other hunters in their pursuit of deer and elk. Robby has scouted and hunted literally thousands of square miles of mule deer country and brings a wealth of knowledge about these experiences with him. To him, the weapon of choice is just a means-to-an-end and will hunt with bow, rifle, or muzzleloader – whatever it takes to create an opportunity to take a great mule deer. He is also the author of "Hunting Big Mule Deer" available on Amazon. Robby believes all of creation is from God for man to manage, respect, and through which to know its Creator

10 COMMENTS

  1. Due to the glitch we had yesterday, Shawn Nelson’s comment posted to the wrong blog entry. It was a great comment so I moved it to here. “Hey Robby can’t wait to read and learn from you and who ever else joins in. In regards gossiping and criticisms to become a better person we have to learn from our mistakes and that of others. We all have done things at time or another we just have to remember that what goes around comes back around. Some laws may seem dumb but if we follow them at least we have the personal satisfaction of knowing we did it the right way. I try to teach my boys that just because nobody is watching doesn’t mean that you can do it. Always be true to yourself and others and everything will Turn out for the best. Just my thoughts.”

  2. As someone who has been criticized on the taking of game
    before, I want to say that what you and the guys at Rokslide are
    doing is great!
    For those who don’t know I am legally blind, my best
    corrected vision is 20/200.
    Despite this I have adapted very well. Through the use of
    great optics, patience, and perseverance I have been
    fortunate enough to take some amazing bucks and bulls
    with rifle and archery equipment.
    This did not come easy and it did not come with out a lot
    of criticism.
    This Is the only place that I truly feel comfortable telling
    my story in hopes it helps to inspire someone else out there.

  3. Robby – that was incredibly brave to put yourself out there like that. I truly admire and respect your honesty and your faith! I’m enjoying the blog and truly appreciate your wisdom on all of these topics. I’ve already made some mental notes that should help me out this season and for years to come.

    God bless!

    Coop

  4. I’ve only just discovered this story Robby, through the FB page. I take my hat of to you, you laid it all out there. Being responsible for ones actions is an extremely honourable thing to do. Your ethics sound first class. One of my best freinds is a Church Minister and a mad backcountry hunter, and I am a better person from hunting with him, there is just something ‘about’ him.

  5. Great post and very brave. I came to hunting rather late in life (40). I’ve been through my rebellious phase and like my friends stick to ethical side of the law when hunting. In other words, if it’s questionable, don’t take the shot. I could have filled my cow tag two years ago in NM if I were willing to take the shot 10 minutes before shoot time. The local guy I was with did. He feeds his family on the meat for 6 months as a necessity. I can’t fault him for that.

  6. Scott, thank you and as you indicate, personal ethics are personal. I just know that when I try to do it right, the satisfaction I get can’t be traded for anything. I predict that your next elk will mean all that much more.

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