Thursday, August 16, 2012

Practice Makes Peace

I started late on setting up the hunting land this season.  Between bowfishing, writing, and work, I just haven’t had the time I can normally dedicate to prepping.  So this last weekend, I put together a couple of gravity feeders and set them up in a couple of locations that in the past has been productive.  I also set the trail cameras and did some brief scouting around the perimeters.
Even though I have been hunting recently for feral hogs, I have not practiced shooting as much as I usually do.  In fact, I only took 3 shots with the bow prior to the hog hunt to make sure my sights were still where they needed to be.  So I also made time to take a few practice shots after work one afternoon.
I put out the target and placed a small piece of paper near the center to represent the bullseye.  I paced off 20 yards.  Then I shot twice, laid down the bow and retrieved the arrows.  While I was cycling between reps of shooting twice and retrieving, I thought about the locations I selected for the feeders.  I thought about the monsters that were on the trail cams last year just prior to the opening of bow season.
I shot some more and retrieved some more.
I visually ran through the coming opening day on how I would hunt it.  Early in the season, especially if I have both nocturnal deer and ones that are hitting the feeders just after sunrise, I like to get out in the stand early.  By early, I mean I have been know to be walking to the stand at 3:30am.  Some say it is overkill.  I believe if I head out and scare off a few deer, once I have settled down in the stand the deer will be back out before day break.  I’m not getting the opportunity to skirt a field and get a shot at 200 yards.  My targets have to be within 40 yards.  20 yards preferably.
Hence the next 2 shots at the target from 20 yards.  I retrieved the arrows once again.
I thought back to some of the misses I have had.  Yes, I have missed before.  Unless we are face to face, then I have NEVER missed!  But I am human, and I do miss.  Just not often.
I focused on where I would need to be looking and where the deer usually would enter the field in the morning and evening.
I shot a couple of more arrows at the target.  I retrieved them.
Throughout all the thoughts and planning, I was completely at peace.  No distractions, no thoughts of work, no stress.  I was just pulling back the string and releasing it.  Two times each time.  Then I would retrieve the arrows.  I would often re-start a thought as I walked to the target.  I found myself thinking about the hunt while pulling back the bow and centering the bullseye.
After a little while my target paper resembled the stars on the bb gun targets at the state fair.  More holes than paper.  I reached down and grabbed a green leaf and put it up where the paper had been.  A fresh new bullseye.
I went back to my 20 yard mark and began the cycle again.  I noticed the green from the leaf blended in with the black and blue target backdrop.  It reminded me of how a deer blends in with the ground and soil just before shooting light escapes the horizon at the end of the day.  A few years ago I landed a shot on a deer some 40 yards away at the last possible legal moment to shoot.  I could not tell where the shot landed but I did see the deer disappear some hundred yards away in the field.
After coming down from the climber I went and searched for blood.  I could not find any.  After a few minutes of searching I did spot my intact arrow.  It was covered in red.  I had to postpone the search that evening.  The next morning I again could not find any blood near the impact zone.  But I did spot a rather large pool of blood 125 yards away from where the deer was hit.  It took less than 10 minutes to find the deer about 20 yards in the tree line after that.
I shot at the leaf; I retrieved the arrows.
I thought about the killing involved with hunting.  It seems heinous for someone to want to take a life.  That is before we dig into the matter a little more.  I wanted to focus more on this thought as I shot, trying to think in an anti-hunter’s point of view.  But as I tried, I pulled a couple of more arrows out of the leaf.
My thoughts moved to the premise that an animal is just as important as a human.  I do not believe this.  I believe God granted humans stewardship over this earth and its creatures.  Animals kill other animals.  We do not chastise them for this activity.  It is what they are and how they survive.  The same can be reasoned for us.  We were hunters long before we were contractors, technicians, doctors, lawyers, and accountants.  It is who we are and how we survive.
And if one can reason animals are as valuable as humans, then why are plants not of an equal basis as well?  They are living creatures.  Their life scale is just on a much different pace.
After retrieving the two arrows once again I pulled back and realized it was just too dark to keep shooting.  I then realized I had shot a LOT more than I have shot in any practice or competition.  The best I could count I had released the arrow over 60 times.  Maybe much more, but it was hard to count many of the holes.  I also noticed that I had very few misses.  In fact, I only saw 3 shots outside of a 2 inch radius.  I was relaxed and at ease.  I was lost in the hunt, and the thoughts of the hunt.  I had a hard time recalling individual shots, yet I turned in one of the best practices I have ever had.
I was at peace with myself.


  1. I'm happy for blogs like this to give a better understanding of hunters. I'm speaking from my own point of view. Coming from CA and not knowing anyone truly from the south until I moved here. My impression of hunters in the south were guys in trucker hats and flannels with a cigarrette half hanging out of their mouth and budweiser in one hand. They'd shoot a deer as easily as shooting a street sign from the back of a pick up truck. Then I actually met what I call "true" hunters and read blogs such as yours. I have gained a new respect for these people and found they cherish nature and animal life as much as any conservationalist. Yes there is fatality in what hunters do and I think it is tarnished by people labeling it sport. It really down plays what hunting actually is. There is a lot more too it. Fortunately there are people out there writing about how they interprit the act of hunting and explaining why they do it. It's not just to kill things. It's a different kind of bond with nature and just being a human being that can be linked back as far as civlization has existed. I hope I don't sound too hokey.

    1. You don't sound hokey at all Kevin. Thanks for he comment. A lot of people see hunting by the caracatures of 'the hunter'. Same can be said of an angler. If you fish, you are just as much of a liar as lawyers and used car salesman, only you are not hurting anyone in the process. But that is entirely not true. Perception always becomes reality though. Unfortunately.

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