I’m currently agonizing over when to start pulling my bow this year. Last year, I started pulling it in July– about normal for me. After a few arrows, I noticed a twinge in my shoulder and put the bow down. I was just shy of 49, and I’m entering that phase where being careful with your body becomes a really good idea. I was glad I did. The shoulder got worse, and I had to put off bow hunting. I was still feeling the shoulder clear into Christmas. As late as Thanksgiving, I was in considerable pain and had limited mobility. Now, in June, I’m thinking when I want to start the conditioning for this bow season. In Kentucky, the start of season is September. I don’t usually hunt until October– it’s just too hot. After last season, I’m seriously contemplating hanging up the bow for good.
Bow hunting takes on various roles in one’s life at various times. For me, it started out as a break from my Bohemian college days. It then became a good way to unwind from the pressure cookers I faced at work. Early in my first marriage, it was a sport I could share with my wife. After the kids arrived, it became the one and only activity that was just for me, and let me get out and get re-centered. After the divorce, it was the sport that got me back out on my own and got me out of the habit of being a work-sleep-repeat drone I’d become waiting for the divorce to be final. Nowadays, it has become the first challenge I’m facing as a result of age.
I’ve been doing archery on and off since I was 8. I know I can drop back down to a light target bow and go back to hitting spots until I’m 90. As far as deer hunting is concerned, if there really is a “Method Stage” to the evolution of the hunter, I realize I’m out of it. I’ve killed deer with a stick and string, and I get no greater thrill anymore doing that versus a rifle versus whatever. To me, deer hunting has evolved into a total year-round thing, and I was kind of happy last year I could take out a rifle, run a few rounds through it to test function and zero and then go back to scouting.
This is going to sound strange, but last November I bagged the Big One. The buck was easily the biggest buck of my career so far. Frankly, he was a bit anti-climactic. In that confused state I was in, coming to grips with what I was done, I was peeved with myself that I’d filled the freezer so quickly (0700 on Opening Day). I was also glad I’d not faced him with a bow. He would have been an easy chip shot with a bow, but it felt so much better putting the crosshairs on his boiler room and putting him down with one of my handloaded 308 rounds. As it was, I just sat kind of stunned in my stand for about a half hour and got treated to a wonderful show as four sub-dominant bucks came out of the woods and started displaying under me– what a way to finish off a year I COULDN’T hunt with a bow!
By the way, I don’t buy into this whole Evolution of a Hunter thing. There is no Method Stage in my mind. I don’t buy that I’m any more “evolved” because I don’t care how I kill ’em, or that you are more evolved because you hunt with a bow or that one guy is more evolved for using a bent stick versus a fancy compound. I believe we are all just naked apes with a thin veneer of civilization, and that when we walk out of the woods facing tag soup we tell ourselves we are “Sportsmen.”