Friday, August 14, 2009

Knowing Why I Bow-Hunt

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It’s only about six weeks away. That’s when bow season opens, and waiting for Oct. 1 is becoming more difficult as the years go by. I look ahead to the opener with great anticipation and many fond memories.

I savor the cooler air of the autumn woods, and knowing that soon the fall colored leaves will cover the entire woods like a paintbrush, and then they will cover the ground like a blanket. Bow season means different things to different people, and there are many blessings in each season and each day afield.

For me, bow hunting means sitting in a tree stand waiting for a buck. Shoot or don’t shoot—that’s always a decision that only each of us as individuals can make. Chances are I won’t shoot in hopes of making my time in the woods last just that much longer. Over more years than I can remember I’ve hunted an average of 86 days each year for whitetail deer in Michigan and many other states.

So, one asks, what does the upcoming bow season mean to me? It’s a bonanza of fall colors, ranging from gold through orange, purple, red and a brilliant yellow.

It also means the musty smell of the earth getting ready for winter, and the pungent odor of a passing skunk on a foggy night where visibility is minimal. It means sorting out the soft rustle of falling leaves, and identifying that distinctive sound of a deer moving slowly through dried leaves that crunch like old corn flakes underfoot.

It means continuous daily practice shooting at different angles and elevations with my bow, and taking test shots from elevated stands and at ground level. It’s hard to count the hours spent shooting from a cramped, sitting position to simulate an actual hunting situation. This is a big part of bow hunting, too.

It means fine tuning my bow and arrows for peak efficiency long before the season opener, unpacking, checking and repacking my backpack to make certain everything I may need is there, such as my compass, drag rope, knife, walkie-talkie or a cell phone, flashlight, extra broadheads and a spare spool of Game Tracker line.

It’s said that hunting is 90 percent anticipation and 10 percent participation, and getting ready for the hunt is a major part of our anticipatory sport.

Bow season means more opportunities to watch deer and to judge their reactions to foreign odors, movement and sounds. It means watching bucks, does and fawns at various distances while they eat and travel. It means learning what movements or sounds should not be made while drawing a bow to avoid scaring deer.

October is a month of ecstasy, and obviously something I look forward to with a great deal of fondness. My senses are heightened by being outside after one of the world’s most wary game animals, and I live for this month and worship at the altar of bow hunting.

You see, I bow hunt for many reasons, and killing a deer isn’t the big one. I love venison and shoot deer every year, but the thoughts of tender venison chops and steaks isn’t the only reason I hunt. It’s just one part, albeit a big part, of the overall package. I pass up numerous small bucks each year, and would rather the little guys grow. I can always shoot a doe for meat while hoping and waiting for a big buck to show. Some years a good buck will show, and other years I see them but can’t get a shot. It happens!

I hunt October whitetails to avoid the people pressure of other fishing and hunting seasons, and I hunt because it makes me feel good. October is the loveliest of all months, and the chance to hunt deer during the year’s most perfect month, is a major reason why deer hunting is so important to me.

The hunt and the month just feels perfect to me. It’s a shame we must wade through August and September to get there, and doing so only heightens our anticipation level. You’ll have to forgive me, but just thinking about the archery season has me so geeked up it’s probably a good thing I’m in my office chair rather than a tree stand.

I dread the day when deeply felt anticipation is no longer there. That’s the day I’ll know my race has been run, and it’s time to cash in my chips. That is indeed a sad and sobering thought, but like it or not, it is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons.

Which is why it is so important to live and love every day for what the outdoors blesses us with, and for the wisdom to know what bountiful treasures we have and to use them wisely.

Possessing that bit of knowledge is a gift: share it with a loved one, especially a child.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/14 at 04:58 PM
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