As the sun poked through the oak limbs, I couldn’t help but smile as the first deer of the morning made her way towards me. The frost glistened on her back from a long, cold night of laying in her bed and the leaves crunched with each cautious step she took. It was more than enough to already call this a successful morning. She slowly made her way down the frosty path, and as I sat there watching her crunch acorns I couldn’t help but be grateful for yet another memorable day with a bow in hand.
There are lots of hunters that happily swap their bow for a rifle as the season progresses into the colder months. But not me. I only bowhunt. I have felt this way as long as I can remember, but it took some time to understand how deep these roots run. It was a decision I made without any outside influence, long before bowhunting was “cool”, and one that I feel brings me closer to our ancestral roots as hunter-gatherers. Yes, today’s archery equipment is a far cry from the tools of the past, but I still feel more connected to our primal hunting roots with a bow in hand than with a rifle.
The Struggle Is Real
Bowhunting is downright miserable at times. I embrace the frustration that comes with it because that’s part of the journey. I’ve been told countless times, “If you’d brought a gun, you would have come home with a bull/buck/whatever.” These statements may have been correct, but for me, it’s not about how often I kill an animal. A journey is a winding road of ups and downs. In my journey to become the best bowhunter I can be, I’ve learned that struggle, failure, and unrealized dreams are simply part of the game. But is that so different from life outside of hunting?
For three years now, I have made an annual journey to Colorado and Utah to bowhunt mule deer, only to come up short each and every time. It drives me nuts to think about how close I have been and the caliber of bucks I’ve had the chances to stalk. If I’d been hunting with a rifle, these bucks would likely be hanging on my wall. But I chose the bow and it didn’t work out.
Some may question my sanity, as I want a mature mule deer buck as bad as any dyed in the wool deer hunter, yet I won’t turn to the boomstick to get it done. I embrace defeat and frustration now to earn the overwhelming sense of accomplishment when it finally comes together. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve visualized watching my arrow zip through the chest of a big bodied old mountain buck. Those velvet antlers and summer coats captivate me and consume my everyday thoughts. I cannot wait to finally achieve this goal. But it will be with a bow in my hand.
I’ve always been a man of adventure. I love experiencing new places and landscapes and the excitement of an uncertain outcome. Bowhunting has allowed me to hunt nearly every month of the year in many different states and often in places where I never would have hunted if not for a bow season.
I love chasing whitetails in my home state of Ohio, and with a bow I get to follow along as the seasons change and the days grow shorter. From my elevated position high up in an oak tree, I’ll watch as the leaves turn to their beautiful colors and then fall to the forest floor. I get to see winter approach as the snow blows in from a cold, northern wind. I get to watch bucks in friendly bachelor groups break off and go from friend to foe, almost overnight. As the seasons come and go, so do the adventures and for this, I am thankful to be a bowhunter. Whether it’s elk, antelope or mountain lions in the west, or toms and bucks here at home, there is never a year when I lack for adventure with my bow in hand.
A Better Man
For as long as I can remember, I’ve walked a fairly unique path when it comes to bowhunting. The passion I have for it is hard to articulate. Over the years I’ve learned to cope with solitude, discipline, heartache, pain, accomplishment and defeat to name just a few. Bowhunting has helped to shape the man that I am today, even in many aspects of life that have nothing to do with hunting. I’m a more patient father. I possess confidence in myself and my capabilities because of the tough circumstances I’ve endured. I’ve learned to embrace life for what it is, a journey of ups and downs. I’ve grown closer to God, and can accept myself for who I am. Discipline and dedication are two hard-pressed qualities to find in today’s world, but through bowhunting, I’ve learned to possess both.
My Quiet Place
In a world of hustle and bustle, and constant connectivity, it is often hard to find a place where one can be at peace with his mind, his body and his soul. Throughout life we all deal with good days and bad, many of us turning to our quiet places on the bad days.
Perhaps it’s to think or cry, or relive a moment in time, but nonetheless we go to a place where we can search for and hopefully find some element of peace. Bowhunting has been my quiet place for as long as I can remember. I always feel at peace with myself and the world when I grab my bow, toss my pack on my back and walk away from my truck. This is where I go to think and to heal. Many times during my life I’ve had to deal with pain, sorrow, death and failure. These are always unwelcome events, but through bowhunting, I have learned to understand and deal with these feelings. I often “lose time” while my bow is in my hand, and in those moments I feel as if nothing is wrong. Happiness, even if just a sliver, can be felt through the cracks of the worst days when I’m in my quiet place.
Find Your True North
If you’re reading this, I sincerely hope that you have the same burning passion and desire for something in your life as I do for bowhunting. Life is short. Too short to not chase our dreams, regardless of the obstacles that may block our path. Is bowhunting superior to other forms of hunting? I’m not qualified to answer that. Does bowhunting make me a superior version of my former self? Without a doubt. Find your True North. It will take you down a similar path.