Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Lessons Never End

Expensive equipment, countless hours of your time given up, and arguments with significant others; all in an attempt to outdo our past adventures.
As bow hunters, we have all been there and we all hope that the upcoming season is the one where the wind blows in our direction, the prey of choice makes that fatal mistake, and the arrow finds it mark.
The 2016-2017 season was a tough one for me.  It came upon me quickly, and with outside obligations, it seemed as though there were never enough hours in the day to get the work in to ensure a successful year.  Feeders were filled as the opening of bow season arrived, stands were placed in a rush, and nothing seemed to go right leading up to my first hunt.  But the first hunt finally came!
It was a typical hot South Texas October evening where I had to keep my sunglasses on in an attempt to keep the mosquitoes from biting the one and only small area of skin visible to them as rain from previous weeks had really allowed them to flourish.  Having hunted this spot before, I felt confident that I would see some game and before too long an 8 pt in velvet and a few does emerged.  As they ate quietly in front of me, I got a kick out of the old doe imposing her will on the younger animals, keeping them from the prime eating area.  Even the young buck seemed to keep his distance as she gave him a look any child recognizes when mom wants you to quit.
As the shadows grew longer and wind began to die down, across a small clearing I saw what I knew was a buck we did not want breeding on the property.  When you hear that of a 10 point buck with an 18″ spread, one might immediately think we have the bar set a little high at our place, but seeing him with those spindly short tines, it was obvious he was not of great genetic potential.
My heart began to pump vigorously as I ensured my release was attached and ready for a quick draw. He made his way toward the other deer. The old doe’s stern gaze did not even phase the buck who knew in the pecking order, he was the one who would be dining wherever he would like.  By moving the doe aside, he put himself directly in my window of shot opportunity, and I was not going to let the opportunity slide!  All the mess ups of the off-season did not even seem to matter as the buck I was after was right here on my first hunt of the season!
The does scattered, the young velvet 8 had long since made his departure, and now it was just the junk 10 and me.  Something got his attention across the field and he stared in the opposite direction long and hard. This was my chance.  I drew the Bear Legion and heard the slightest sound of the arrow moving across the rest.  Immediately the buck’s ears pivoted in my direction and I knew he had heard the very same sound even more clearly than I, and he was 20 yards away!  His head spun in my direction and his tense body jolted abruptly.  In a fraction of second the buck had moved to about 25 yards as he tried to pinpoint the source of the noise.
It is amazing the number of thoughts that run through your head in such a short amount of time.  My heart was racing and nearly beating out of my chest.  I foolishly felt as if I did not take this shot I may never get one again!  And then I did it.  As the deer was still circling toward my direction I hit the trigger on my release.  The arrow was on its way.
I’ve told a number of people this story, and although it is hard to fathom, the last thought I had was, “NO!” before I let the arrow fly.  The deer had moved, and was still moving, when I made the decision to shoot, but by the time my eyes captured the image and my brain computed that the shot was not optimal, my finger had no time to stop already having begun its motion.
Instantly a feeling of dread came over me as I watch the deer run across the field with an arrow sticking out of his gut.
Time was given in hopes the deer would expire, but as night fell and the search began, the outcome of this hunt seemed very bleak.  No blood, no arrow, and no sign the hunt had ever even taken place.
Searching for a wounded animal in the South Texas brush country in complete darkness is not easy.  It is downright difficult.  The evening was so warm I knew giving it the night would likely spoil the meat, but I couldn’t see any other viable option.
A sleepless night of second guessing came to an end and the morning search began with luck no better than the previous night.  The buck would not be found.
Any respectable hunter has great admiration for the game he hunts.  I’ve often thought that part of the draw of hunting the wild is to feel, if only for a short time, as though you are part of the wild.  Knowing your prey completely fends for itself, has to live through harsh weather, and relies completely on itself for survival absolutely makes seeing it run off wounded by an outsider who has not earned the right to live this wild lifestyle almost unbearable.
The hunt was a bust, and it ended so pathetically because of my over ambitious enthusiasm.  It happens.  It happens because it is the first hunt of the season, or because you don’t get to go all that often, or because it is the buck you have been waiting to shoot.  Whatever the reason, the problem is the same.  The hunter feels that if he doesn’t grasp this opportunity, at this very second, the hunt, and possibly the season, is ruined.
What would have happened if I just held the shot?  Fully drawn, I can hold my position for a nice length of time. Certainly long enough to play out the situation and ensure a better shot could be made, or to possibly watch the deer realize the situation was dangerous enough to evacuate the area altogether.  And what if that happened?  What if the buck left, not certain of the danger upon him, but certain that something was not right?
You know what would have happened, and so do I.  It might have kept him out of the area for a short time, but he would not have left for good.  I would have had time to investigate the noise my bow made while mid draw. I would have corrected it and I would have gotten another shot at him…or maybe I wouldn’t have, but I would have gotten a shot.  Another shot of adrenaline on a future hunt, another shot to get it right, another shot at feeling wild!

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