A couple of days ago, I visited an old friend in Vermont. In 1973, I had given him the mounted head of an elk I had killed the year before in Montana. It was a 6×6, and I think I was prouder of that animal than anything else I had ever taken. I lost 30 pounds in order to be able to climb the mountain where he lived and I shot him on a day when the snow was up over your knees and it was 15 below that morning.

But I had not been to visit my friend in something like 25 years, and my memory of the elk head was not accurate. I recalled it as being a massive beast with a humongous spread of antlers. It is not; it is indeed a 6×6, but it’s a small bull. If you saw him in a herd you wouldn’t look twice at him. But he was the first elk I ever took, and to me he was the greatest wapiti ever collected.

Your memories—particularly the fond ones—rarely match up with reality. If you have a choice, stick with memories.