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Missing My Bow
I had been putting off writing a story that is very seasonal, because I was waiting for a time when I could give some updated thoughts on it. The subject is the archery deer season. Way back in October of last year I had a piece of my vertebra break off which pinched the nerve that follows my back bone. It was thought that all I needed was time, and things would go back to normal. A nice way to put it would be to simply say, that after nine months things didn’t return to normal and on July 13th, I was operated on in Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. The hope was (and is) that in time I will get normal use in my left hand. I think things are slowly getting back to what they were or perhaps I have simply gotten used to the new me and have found a way to make it work. Anyway, it really hasn’t slowed me down too much as far as using a shotgun or rifle even though the hand still has limited abilities. The thing that really upsets me is that my left hand and wrist lack the support to be able to hold my bow when I attempt to draw it or pull it back to my anchor. It, too, is returning but I fear that I will not be hunting with my Samick recurve bow even though it’s only rated at 45 pounds.
I grew up shooting recurve bows. My first was an old Ben Pearson green fiberglass bow that was probably rated 15 lbs. There were many bows since then including a Shakespeare Manitou and a Red Wing pro line, and a Bear Kodiak Hunter. Finally, a few years ago I bought a Samick Sage takedown recurve. It is a beautiful thing: inexpensive, but it’s a better bow than I am archer.
Speaking of being a bow shot, I am not a very good one. I suffer from target panic. For those non-archers out there, target panic is basically a mental condition which takes away your ability to aim properly and be able to release the arrow at the right time. It is extremely frustrating. I have read countless books on the subject and basically, I haven’t cured it all these many years. To be honest it is worse when I shoot with sights because I’m supposed to hold my anchor until the sight pin is where I want it. At least that’s my plan until something in my head says to my fingers to turn the arrow loose even though I know I am not where I want the sight to be. Years ago, the movie “Deliverance” came out. It is a horrible movie in many ways but when I saw it, I knew what target panic looked like when Jon Voight attempts to shoot his recurve at a deer. He has the shakes so bad that for a time he cannot even release the arrow. That’s my curve when it comes to archery. However, for some reason I cannot explain, it doesn’t happen to me when I have a deer or turkey in front of me. (Not that I have taken a lot of deer or turkeys. I think I’m at eight deer and two turkeys. But that’s not bad for a guy who spends most of his fall hunting waterfowl.)
When instinctively shooting with my recurve I will have my bow held up and slightly canted to the right. I will look at where I want my arrow to hit and pull the arrow straight back to the anchor and release when I get to that anchor point. While doing this I subconsciously count one, two, three. One is raising the bow up, two is drawing the bow and three is the release. I’m not good at it, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it. There is something mystical and ancient about an arrow in flight and to take a deer with archery gear is a feeling like no other. And I take it seriously. Although I have a couple targets that when I could shoot, I used them to practice with. But when it comes down to knowing what distance is my maximum I still use a paper plate. If I cannot keep all my arrows in a paper plate then I get closer until I can. A deer’s vitals are about the size of that paper plate. I owe it to both the deer and myself to be as accurate as I can be and if it turns out to be fifteen yards so be it.
So, there are several memories that come back to me when thinking about bow hunting. I remember a doe I took that was mere feet from me as I hid in a corn row and she walked down the end rows. I also like my deer that I took because I couldn’t stay in my stand. I headed out to my stand one evening after work and as I neared the cornfield, I could hear the combine running. No big deal I thought as I didn’t think the combine would bother the deer when they came out to feed. But as I neared my stand the grain truck was parked almost directly under my stand. I knew my stand was out of the hunting site for the night, so I climbed it and took my black five-gallon bucket down with me and walked through a valley and up on a ridge maybe three hundred yards or so away if not further. I walked on top of the ridge until I found what I was looking for, a game trail that I had found earlier that spring when turkey hunting. I went to the off side of the trail where the wind would carry my scent directly and sat on the bucket with my back against a large oak tree.
Everything was quiet for some time with the only excitement coming from hearing the squirrels scratching among the leaves. I was probably down to my last half an hour and it was going fast as it always gets dark fast within the timber. I kind of sensed the deer’s presence before I saw them coming my way but suddenly, I could see legs and heads and ears bobbing their way towards me. A very large doe was leading the group and sitting on the bucket I felt I would get busted at any time. But just like turkey hunting, when the doe’s head went behind the tree, I raised my bow. When she came out the other side one of the other deer must have seen my movement. Not a deer was moving and it seem as though I had a herd staring at me. The doe was slightly quartered from me at most twenty yards. I knew that any second the whole thing would explode and leave me holding a bag of nothing.
With nothing to lose, I pulled the bow back with a nice smooth draw and the sight was already on the doe. As soon as my eye peered through the zero-peep sight and the pin settled on her off shoulder I released. In those days it was an Eastern XX75 shaft sized 2117 which made them 400 grains. A Rocky Mountain broad head did the job on all my deer in those days. Things exploded and my doe went down over the ridge as fast as she could and things got quiet again. I picked up my bucket and walked to where I had hit the doe. Finding blood immediately, I waited perhaps fifteen minutes so as not to jump her and found her at the end of a perhaps seventy-yard blood trail. The only thing I left out of the story was how bad my knees were shaking before I took the shot. I hope I get the shakes again this year. When I don’t get them, I’ll probably quit.