Monday, January 30, 2012

Road Trip!

     Why would a somewhat reasonable guy rent a car, load up his 14 year old son, drive 6 hours to Michigan in the dead of winter and take their lives in his hands speeding along I-69? To see some sports hero, a famous actor, a once in a lifetime concert, one of our country's leaders??? Nope, none of the above...

     Now I'm not exactly what you'd describe as spontaneous...Quite the opposite, especially if cash is in the mix. It takes me forever to make a decision on anything involving money. Some people have even accused me of being a tight wad! The nerve...So, what was it that caused me to break open my wallet, blow the cob webs off at the spur of the moment and drive to the great white North? The Traditional Bowhunters Expo, of course!  What? You've never heard of the Traditional Bowhunters Expo! Don't feel bad, neither had I until this year and I fancy myself as a traditional bowhunter.
And the Tee Shirt to prove it!

     Imagine the hunting "world" as a basketball. There's big game hunting, waterfowl hunting, small game, upland birds, dangerous game, houndsman, blackpowder, compound bows, etc...Then there's a teeny, tiny little spot on the ball about the size of a marble and that's traditional bowhunting. It's definitely a niche group of people. To give you an idea what traditional bowhunting is about, picture most of the popular hunting television shows today... traditional bowhunting is the exact opposite and the Expo caters to this small group.

     Drew and I rolled into the Kalamazoo Expo Saturday morning and I was the proverbial kid in a candy store! Several thousand square feet of everything traditional archery! If you couldn't find it here, you didn't need it! We were struck with the smell of leather and the din of of the crowd as we made our way into the building. Unbelievable artwork masquerading as longbows and recurves made by some of the finest bowyers in the country. Beautiful arrows crafted from cedar, hickory and sitka spruce. Hand made knives, leather work of all sorts...A combination of flannel, plaid, wool and camouflage. Stormy kromers and Ivy caps... The constant "whump" of arrows striking targets as prospective buyers tried out the bows. Everywhere I looked, bows and arrows. Conversations about archery, hunting, campfires...not the woods, but a close runner up. I even saw some skinny jeans and gauged ears, but everyone here was connected by old style bows and the unique challenges they bring to hunting. I felt comfortable here, relaxed and we fit like a glove. New friends, people recognized, faces put to names and introductions made...I could've stayed for hours longer and soaked it in, but there is a limit to a 14 year old's attention span, so it was time to gather our goodies and make our way to the parking lot. Besides, snow was falling and more was in the forecast so it was time to head South.

    Cruise control set, radio on... Every now and then I'd glance at the boy sitting in the seat next to me and in between Angry Birds and munching on McDonald's cheeseburgers and slurping down root beer, he'd chime in with a word or two about what he'd seen or what he heard or what he bought and it dawned on me why I did had nothing to do with the Expo, hunting, bows, arrows or money. It was about time and me trying to hold on to as much of it as possible before he slips away from me...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


     I've mentioned before that I didn't grow up in a hunting family...Mom, Dad and two older sisters. I was the baby and being the only boy, doted over by my folks. Not spoiled, but didn't want for anything, but then again, neither did my sisters. I did and still do have a different relationship with my parents than my sisters do. In particular with my dad...Being the only son, being the youngest came with it's own unique perks as well as problems.

    From an early age, Dad saw that I needed to be outdoors. That "it" was part of me and he did what he could to feed that desire. Dad was far from a hunter...He was a product of the post-depression era and his hunting experience consisted of him acting as a rabbit hound, jumping on brush piles and climbing through fence rows, thorns and briars in hopes of pushing a bunny out of cover towards his shotgun toting dad and older brother. Dad never got to be the shooter and hunting for them wasn't about recreation or "fun" was additional sustenance and it left a bad taste in my dad's mouth...Now fishing on the other hand, that was Dad's game...

     Crappie, bluegill, bass, catfish, it didn't matter. If they were biting, Dad would always take time to get me on the water. Ponds, local creeks, the Ohio...we wet lines nearly every summer day in between little league baseball, 4H and his shift work. I can't count the number of times he would get home at 8am after working a 12 hour shift, tell me to hook up the boat and then we'd hit the river for a morning of catching channels and blues from some deep hole...Bass fishing was the same way. We'd hike to some farm pond in the middle of a weedy pasture in hopes of catching a big one...most of the time we brought home more chigger and mosquito bites than fish...but, he always found time and energy to get me out there...out in the sun, out in the wind...outdoors.

     12 years old and the fire to hunt burned in me...and Dad fed the coals. He didn't know the first thing about deer hunting, but that didn't stop him from getting me in the woods. Back then, permission was easy and Dad seemed to know everyone around, so access to hunting ground was a given. The actual idea of seeing a deer, let alone shooting one was something altogether different! I often wonder what would've happened if either of us had shot a deer and who would've attempted to field dress it...Dad and I spent several cold mornings huddled up against the cedars over looking what we thought was deer country. It's amazing that neither of us suffered frost bite...we had almost no "hunting" gear and a guy can only keep his feet so warm with 3 pairs of tube socks under rubber boots! But Dad plugged along and endured the cold in his Rising Sun Volunteer Fire Department coveralls and helmet liner that we always referred to as a "Snoopy" hat...I still grin when I think of him in that hat.

     The fire had been stoked into a full blown blaze and I out paced Dad when it came to our time in the deer woods, but he was fine with that. Every now and then, he'd still take to the trees with me when the weather was fair. But, he was content to get his fill of the "outdoors" along side a pond yanking a few bluegill and crappie. Even though he no longer hunts with me, he's always interested in my adventures about the woods and would listen intently as I'd recount a hunt and I could and still can see the excitement in his eyes...To this day, dad has no idea what impact those early trips to the ponds, or to the creeks seining minnows, or our failed attempts at deer meant to me as a young outdoorsman or as a son. It helped shape the man I am today and grateful doesn't even come close to explain how I feel...Thanks Dad for taking me fishing! I hope when I'm 75 years old, Drew feels the same about our time shared out there...

     Happy Birthday Dad...I'm proud to be your son.

Monday, January 23, 2012


       ACCURACY-The quality or state of being accurate, correct or precise.

     "Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything"...Wyatt Earp 

     "What ever's wrong ain't the bow" unknown

Me showing the exact location for a heart shot on sapling!
     Quiet...move softly. There it is! ...Take a deep breath, relax. You find your opening, right there, perfect...Pick a spot, focus! You exhale...The draw is smooth, the release flawless, the flight of the arrow graceful, effortless...Smack!!! @#$%! along with some other choice words! Laughter erupts from the peanut gallery you call your friends and cohorts...Such is the life of a traditional bowhunter pretending to be an archer at a 3D shoot...The sapling and the arrow have little damage, my ego and status as a man's man on the other hand...Oh, and I thoroughly despise baboons and reasonable facsimiles of!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wood Butchery, Blisters and a Bloody Nose...

     In the right hands, a piece of wood can be turned into a thing of beauty. Then, you have me...     I'm not much of a craftsman or a wood worker and working with my hands isn't my strong suit...I spent plenty of time as a young man helping local contractors with this and that, but my main focus was demolition, not finish work! Give me a sledge hammer or sawzall and I'm your man! A tape measure, coping saw and miters...not so much. Sort of a bull in a china shop when it comes to working with tools. Anyone that has seen my skill as a fixer upper or handy man on my own homes can attest to the quality or lack thereof my detail work!  So, with almost no skill or knowledge, I thought it would be a good idea to build my own bow. During a minor mid-life crisis, I decided that I wanted to whittle a bow and take a deer with it...seemed simple in theory.

     A red oak furniture board was a good place to start. I traced out what I thought resembled a longbow on the board and went to work...Sand paper, a couple of knifes, a hacksaw blade and an antique draw knife. Now, for those of you that know me, I'm not the most patient person and I tend to throw myself into things 110%...this endeavor was no different. To make a bow the "right" way is a slow process that involves several hours, many measurements and working slowly and with detail...Not so for me! Hack away here, sand some there, whittle a little. Flex, bend, saw dust flying...yep, looks good to me. String it up and let's go! Unbelievably, I had crafted what looked like a longbow. It even bent fairly smooth and both limbs worked in conjunction with each other! You could almost see me beating my chest with pride! "Me make bow! Uggg!!!" I was tickled to death...I pulled the bow on the scales and it hit 48 pounds, perfect for hunting! Out of the garage to fling a few arrows. To my surprise, the bow actually cast a pretty good arrow! 10 yards...good. Almost putting the arrows into a group! Watch out deer, here I come with primitive death! Back up to 15 yards...Draw and take aim, thump into the target. Arrow number 2...draw...what's that noise went through my an instant, the bow's upper limb turned into a hinge with a pop rather than a graceful arch. Immediately, the bow exploded into toothpicks and my right hand flew back, struck like a round house from Tyson and splattered my nose across my face. When I shook off the pain, I was covered in blood and my forearm had more than a few oak splinters sticking out...back to the drawing board.

     The next couple of weeks found me surfing the internet for bow making instructions. I found a kindred soul on one of my favorite hunting sites and my new found buddy invited me to his place for an afternoon lesson in selfbow making...My new project was a mulberry stave. Looked more like a piece of firewood to me, but my friend told me it would make a fine bow. Just let the wood "speak" to me as we go. Slowly, I shaved it into a rough "D" shape and followed the growth lines in the wood. Sanding when needed, remove just a hair of wood here and there, flex the limbs against the floor, check for tiller...After several hours, a few blisters and a considerable amount of foul language, I had the bow into somewhat shooting condition. My buddy told me to take 'er home and finish it up on my own...So, a little more tweaking at the house and I strung 'ol mulberry up. To say I was a little nervous to draw the bow was an understatement as the thought of punching myself in the face went through my mind after my previous experience. I shook off the fear and gradually pulled her explosion and no cracks! It worked!!! Several dozen arrows went through the yellow piece of wood and across the top of my knuckle. I fashioned an arrow rest out of a piece of deer antler and I was in business. After striking the target over and over, I felt confident that I could take a deer. The bow looked more like a broom handle,but it threw a hard arrow.

     October finally rolled around and found me once again perched high up a tree. I was stationed in the crotch of an old walnut along a creek bottom over looking a well used crossing. The plowed up trail under my spot told of the number of deer using the path. It was just a matter of time...Witching hour crept in. That magical last hour of daylight when the deer are on the move heading to their feeding grounds. Not long and I caught movement on the far hillside and her she came...a sleek, silver doe still wearing her early season coat was making her way my direction. Her pace was quick and she was broadside within a matter of minutes. The mulberry stacked up hard as I hit full draw and my cedar arrow pulled across the rest...exhale as time seems to stand still and the heavy shaft struck pay dirt as the white feathers buried behind her motion kicks in as the old gal bucked like a bronco and made her last dash up the hill and collapsed with a crash! That familiar dump of adrenalin and excitement hit as my knees shook and my breath became ragged.  I looked at the ugly bow in my hand and noticed a large splinter had lifted from the upper limb and grinned to myself as I glanced up towards the doe...One more shot and the bow would probably become nothing more than kindling for a bonfire. I decided then and there that 'ol mulberry's hunting career was over and she'd be retired to a place of comfort in the house where we could reminisce...

     'Ol mulberry has made an appearance once or twice as part of a Halloween costume, but for the most part enjoys her golden years parked in the corner of the Man Cave...Every now and then, the thought of making another bow crosses my mind, then I rub my nose, remember I'm a bleeder and think not...


Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Day in the Life of...

      The alarm on my cell phone buzzes as it vibrates across the night stand. My feet hit the cold floor and my back arches and cracks as I stretch life back into my sore bones. Into the bathroom, wash my teeth and brush my face or vice versa, still half asleep...I hop into the clothes of the day and make my way into the kitchen. Clear the counters from last night's supper and feed the dishwasher and the dog...Good byes and have a good days and I'm out the door and on the road...

     Pit stop into the local convenience store for a jolt of caffeine and first real decision of the day, brown sugar and cinnamon or frosted strawberry poptarts. My brain and logic tell me to go with a Special K breakfast bar, but my gut says brown sugar and cinnamon. I take the back roads to town and wash it down with a diet coke as I prepare for the unknown of the day ahead...

     I walk into the office and get the info for the day...My office manager tells me where I need to go, who I need to call and where I need to be...all the while catching me up on last night's events, what was watched on TV or what was for dinner. The picture of efficiency. I go through the reports and logs, then open my email to a full inbox and once again find that I could be a millionaire if I'd help a Nigerian royal launder some money through my account...I really need a better spam filter as I press delete...

     The morning wears on and the phone rings, the first fire of the day is put out and crisis averted. Blood pressure rises...A couple more personnel issues, a budget question, then lunch...a quick check of the internet, choke down a bite to eat, blood pressure drops a tick or two...Afternoon meetings, decisions made, people happy, people unhappy, phone calls returned, hands shook...blood pressure up again...3pm and the afternoon is almost done, but my mind is far from work...

     The drive home is quick...I peel out of dockers and button ups and jump into wool and camo...15 minutes and I rush into my hunting grounds. I take a moment to slow down, catch my breath for the day. I make my hike across the field towards the tree line...I stand at the edge of the trees, brief, then step inside. Up the ladder and settle back into my seat and disappear. A heavy sigh and my shoulders roll forward...My heart rate slows as the sounds and smells and sights of the woods take over. I can feel the work day leaving as stress melts from my mind and body...seconds into my ritual, a twig snaps...full shoulder unconsciously tenses as the bowstring tightens. My  left hand grips the bow tight...I'm a million miles from the office, from mediating, from solving problems...I'm transported to another place and time...this is why I do this...This is where I need to be...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Northward Ho!

     The over-sized tires of the twin otter bounced along the make shift airstrip as the pilot nose dived the plane to a stop before running out of room. Finally, back on somewhat solid ground. As we unloaded our gear and made the half mile hike toward the quonset huts of our camp, I was glad that I had swallowed two dramamine. Air travel is not my thing...

     Seven days of caribou hunting lie ahead on the tundra of Nunavut in northern Quebec. For this dedicated mid-western whitetail hunter, this was going to be a hunt of a life time, a real adventure and completely different than anything I'd ever known. The hour had gotten late and by the time we shook hands with our camp manager and guides, we barely had time to grab a bite to eat and get settled in. Night comes quick this time of year at this latitude and it was lights out in the camp by 10pm when the generator shuts down. Short of being in a cave, I had never seen darkness like stillness, pitch black except for the stars in the sky. Absolutely priceless...We were in true wilderness, just shy of the arctic circle and hundreds of miles from the nearest road.

     The next two mornings broke cold, mid 20's with heavy frost. Our days started with a hearty breakfast, packing our lunches and then a 20 minute boat ride across an unnamed, mile wide lake. The boats were boats in name only. More like pieces of weather worn plywood, screwed together in the shape of a boat with a 15 horse outboard hanging off the back. As the guide tilled us across the lake in a cloud of blue smoke, it was the job of the hunters to constantly bail water and pray that we made it across the white caps!

     Once we landed on the far shore, it was up to a ridge top for glassing and more glassing, looking for any distant caribou...from daylight 'til dusk, glassing, hiking and again glassing. No caribou and the satellite phone reports from other camps didn't bode well for my group. I did see three wolves hunting the tundra. One jet black and the other two gray. Hunting as a team, hop scotching one another as they paced along looking for a meal. As we sat atop the wind swept ridges waiting, my lack of patience got the best of me and I struck out on my own to fling a few arrows at something...anything! Those "anythings" were found in the form of ptarmigan, a chicken sized bird with an annoying laugh! Just when you thought you were close enough to get a shot, they'd flush and fly another 200 yards. Before I knew it, I was over a mile away from my group after chasing the fool birds! I did manage to thump one for our pot though! Not a caribou, but I was hunting...

     The third day of our hunt started the caribou to be seen. Our outfitter agreed to fly us into another camp later that day in hopes that the caribou would come through. A handful in my party agreed to stay behind and break camp and pack up our gear for the flight out. After we packed up, one of the guides thought it'd be a good idea to cross the lake one last time...So, I dawned a life jacket, said a prayer and hopped in the "boat"...Just before motoring away, my buddy suggested that someone ought to grab a rifle "just in case." His optimism wasn't shared by the rest of us, but he brought along a left handed Browning .308 for good measure...We peaked the ridge top and our guide's jaw dropped! "Boys" he said, "Get your glasses up"...As we peered through our binoculars, every direction you looked on the far hills and ridges were covered in migrating caribou...thousands of animals. They were still miles away and literally looked like ants to the naked eye...Our guide quickly hatched a plan and we sprinted a couple hundred yards to a narrow crossing in yet another unknown lake. The guide was sure the caribou would head that direction. As we doubled over, hidden behind dwarf spruce and boulders catching our breath, we could hear splashing just over the next hill...the caribou were in the water. The guide whispered "Look up there"...there they were, lined up across the top of a ridge 75 yards away, looking down at us. There must have been 200 was surreal! Steam rolling off their backs from the water, breath coming from their nostrils, bleating and grunting, antlers everywhere...I couldn't help but think that this was how it was for primitive hunters from another time. A real National Geographic moment! Our guide asked me if I would be willing to use a rifle to take an animal and I agreed. I was there to bowhunt, but since my bow was packed up two miles away at camp, a rifle would work...As the animals started to slide down the hill on their haunches, the noise became deafening...the four of us would have to share the same gun...the guide would point out a good bull and the shot was taken. I was the last shooter in the group and my intended bull was 30 yards away. I managed to rack in a round in the left handed rifle and took aim. The bull was so close that I could see individual hairs behind his shoulder...Steady, exhale...the shot was made and the bull immediately hit the ground. The rest of the animals weren't phased by the gun's report and continued through for the next five minutes. Imagine a stampede scene from a western movie, but with caribou rather than longhorns... 

Caribou on the hill
Note the "Lucky Hat!"
     When it was all said and done, the four of us all had animals on the ground and the real work of getting them back to the lake began. We spent the remainder of the day packing meat and antlers and put several miles on our boots. The ride across the lake was interesting to say the least as we ran out of daylight and no flashlights with about 2 inches of the "boat" showing above the water line, but there was no place that I'd rather have been at that moment...As we pulled into camp in the blackness, the Northern Lights started their show and I breathed in all that I could...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Case for Flannel...

     I like camouflage...I admit it. Like most of today's hunters, I've fallen prey to the allure of all things camo and besides, it looks cool...It's become the defacto uniform of hunters, outdoor types and self proclaimed rednecks from all points rural and country. It's evolved from military usage, to duck hunters, to deer hunters, to fashion statement...You can buy everything from clothing, carpet, wallpaper, furniture, beer coozees and even underwear in some sort of camo pattern. It comes in every muted shade and hue of green, brown, black, and gray! It's a huge business, but is it really needed? Do the deer or turkeys care if you're wearing MossyOak, Realtree or Natgear or decked out like a member of Delta Force or SEAL Team 6? For eons, native and aboriginal people got the job done in the fields and woods without wearing the latest version of concealment technology. Look at any outfitter or hunting guide out West and nine times out of ten, he's wearing a big ol' cowboy hat and blue jeans with a Carhart jacket and it doesn't seem to phase the game...

     A few years ago, I decided that I'd rail against the camouflage establishment! Well, that's an overstatement, but I did decide to do my own form of protest/experiment and go an entire archery season "sans" camo. I wanted to see if I really needed to wear my gear to trick the deer's vision and to see if I felt less confident in the woods without it. Would I feel naked? Less of a "He Man" or the "Great White Hunter"? My new hunting get up consisted of a second hand pair of Swiss Army surplus wool trousers and an old flannel shirt of unknown origin. I looked like my grandpa in the 1950's!..the challenge was set.

     The season had rolled along like most do...several deer had been seen, but none taken. A couple of close encounters with some good bucks, but I hadn't been able to seal the deal. I couldn't help but think that maybe my lack of "camouflaginess" had something to do with no venison being in the freezer. Maybe it was the fact that after wearing wool pants several days in a row, they develop an aroma all their own! I had played the wind and my set up was perfect...15' up a hickory tree surrounded by oaks dropping acorns every time the breeze blew. I should have a buck within range...if only I was camo'ed...hmmm.

     Late October found me in my spot once again...a warm evening with a gentle wind. Acorns covered the ground, but still no action. I had scouted the area and knew the farm well. If I put my time in, sooner or later a buck would show. Evening was passing by and that gray of dusk settled in. I was deep in the woods, so the darkness seemed more harsh than in the field edges. Finally, movement far down the dry creek bed...Bits and pieces at first, but then he appeared. A nice buck headed my way. He was fast tracking to my acorn spot, but coming in above me...we were going to be close to eye level. My heart was pounding and I whispered to myself to hold still, don't move...I could hear my pulse beating in my ears! 20 yards and coming...don't make eye contact...15 yards, 12 yards...he lowers his head to grab and acorn or two. I can hear the crunching as he peels the outer shell off the nut...less than 10 yards and I'm still invisible. Frame by frame, the string comes back, anchor, release and all hell breaks loose and the arrow connects and he tears down the creek...silence...then the crash that all bowhunters pray to hear...I sit back as the adrenalin rush leaves me. I grin to myself as I look at my "hand me down" flannel shirt...guess I didn't need my camo after all...but I still think it looks pretty, darn cool!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday afternoon...

     Scarcely two weeks since the end of archery season and I'm craving outdoors...I've rooted myself to the couch and no matter how many times I surf through the channels, nothing of interest. I managed to sit through a couple of B horror flicks, but I have to get out.

     Why can't I be like other people? Sunday's winter, it's cold, it's January...why can't I be content huddled up on the couch or in the recliner watching a movie under a warm blanket with hot chocolate? Why can't I sit and watch an entire NFL game or some college basketball? Maybe even have an adult beverage or two...Why? I don't have anything against television. I watch too much as it is. College basketball is the greatest sport on TV and I enjoy watching some football. I like my little house. It's comfortable and warm and the fridge is full. Why is it I'm pulled outside? Maybe if I didn't have windows or maybe if I didn't know what was out there...I don't know. Imagine cabin fever times ten. Maybe I have A D D...After several passes by the living room window and looking towards the stand of woods behind the house, it's too much. Boots on and I'm out the door.

     It's crisp and clear. No bow or rifle, just me and the woods...Mid 20's, but almost comfortable compared to the last couple of days in the teens. I step over the hill and into the trees. The old snow crunches under my boots and there is just enough of it still on the ground to give contrast to all the other colors...Some greens that are left behind almost glow neon against the white background and the red of the cardinals is like fire. Even the ordinary blah of the browns and grays of the winter woods take on new life against the snow.

     As I make my way down into the creek bed, the temperature drops...I shake off a shiver as my breath blows like smoke, the frigid air burns my throat. My side of the hill has been hidden from the sun and is still locked in the cold. The creek flows hard from recent rains and I take a minute to stand and just listen as it passes over the blood pressure drops a few points. I find some dry stones and make my way over the water to the opposite bank. This side of the creek is sun drenched. The snow is left in patches and the freeze dried dirt has thawed into soupiness. Deer tracks are everywhere as the trail weaves through the cedars. I walk up on two obvious deer beds...Smart or just instinctive, the deer picked a perfect place for a siesta. I kneel and feel the ground and it's almost warm...the sun is streaming in between the trees and the cedars make a perfect wind break...I decide smart.

     I follow the game trail into a thicket, hoping to find a shed antler or two, but no luck. Some more evidence that the deer had been here, but have long since left. The woods are winter quiet now.  I make my away across the 40 acre piece and walk full circle back to my hillside. I check the time and barely an hour has passed...I step into my backyard and head towards the house as the sun starts its drop. One last glance over my shoulder towards the trees until my next fix...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Truths learned from Mr. Murphy...

     I've always been a firm believer in Murphy's Law. Maybe I'm just cynical due to my job as a cop for the last 20 years or maybe it's the fact that I get it honest as a Hewitt...For those of you that know my Dad or knew my grandpa, you know what exactly I mean. I've seen more than my fair share of Murph and my time in the woods hasn't been immune. If it can go wrong, it will, at least when it comes to me and hunting and fishing. Sometimes my stupidity in the outdoors is only challenged by my ignorance or lack of preparation! The upside, I usually only do something extremely stupid once and I tend to be a quick learner from all my mishaps. The mistakes have been a good teacher and their lessons have been taken to heart! (and other body parts as well!)

     NEVER wear wool pants without long underwear unless you enjoy itching and 
     chaffing of the "region"...
     ALWAYS carry a that works is preferred. Darkness is 
      NEVER lay your knife down in the leaves unless you want to buy a new one!
     ALWAYS carry a second knife...SEE ABOVE!
     NEVER drive to your hunting spot and leave you bow or gun at home!
     ALWAYS take your bow or gun with you when you go hunting! Embarrassed to
     admit how many times I've made it into my treestand and my bow was back in
     the truck...
     ALWAYS have your ammo or arrows with you...bows are much more effective
     when you have something to shoot out of them and guns do better with bullets!
     NEVER drop your bow from your treestand while you are napping...
     NEVER drop your arrows from your treestand while you are napping...
     ALWAYS wear boots that fit unless you enjoy your heels looking like raw bacon
     ALWAYS keep your knife blade pointed away from you. 
     ALWAYS hold your lacerated hand above your heart to slow the loss of blood
     from not pointing your knife blade away from you.
     ALWAYS have some sort of clothing that you don't care to cut into shreds of
     make shift bandages to stop arterial bleeding! SEE ABOVE...
     NEVER pass out after stabbing yourself while field dressing a deer!
     ALWAYS understand that you will cut yourself sooner or later...
     ALWAYS make sure that you get your hip waders completely removed when
     nature calls during a duck hunt...
     ALWAYS know that the mud will suck your boots or hip waders off your feet!
     ALWAYS assume you will fall, trip, roll and flounce around on the ground in
     the mud.
     ALWAYS assume you will fall, trip, roll and flounce around on the ground in
     the snow.
     ALWAYS assume you will fall, trip, roll and flounce around on perfectly dry,
     level ground for no apparent reason.
     ALWAYS jump to your feet after falling, tripping, rolling, and flouncing 
     around to see if anyone else saw you!
     ALWAYS unplug the mud out of your gun barrel after falling, tripping,
     rolling and flouncing around!
     NEVER turkey hunt during a tornado warning...(Even more stupid than normal)
     ALWAYS assume you are still allergic to poison ivy.
     ALWAYS assume that everything with leaves and vines is poison ivy!
     ALWAYS be able to identify poison ivy leaves when nature calls! 
     NEVER rub your eyes after touching what appears to be poison ivy! 
     NEVER rub any other body part after touching poison ivy!!!
     ALWAYS take your allergy meds before tromping through fields of wild 
     mustard and ragweed.
     NEVER drink NyQuil as a substitute for allergy meds before tromping through
     a field full of ragweed.
     ALWAYS check the batteries in your camera if you plan to take a photo.
     ALWAYS take a camera if you plan on taking a photo!
     ALWAYS come to full draw on your bow if you'd like the arrow to reach its
     intended target!
     ALWAYS assume that there are rogue tree limbs in your arrow's path!
     ALWAYS assume your broadheads are sharp and will slice you open.
     NEVER assume your cell phone won't ring at the moment of truth!
     ALWAYS wear socks with enough life left in the elastic to hold them up while
     ALWAYS wear underwear with enough life left in the elastic to hold them up
     while walking!!! (Goes double for long johns!)
     NEVER assume that you won't spill Doe In Heat, Buck Urine, or Fox Cover
     Scent inside your truck...
     NEVER assume that a dome light left on inside your truck all day won't drain
     the truck's battery dead.
     NEVER assume that just because you are a Conservation Law major in college
     and a perceived outdoors type, you'll never get lost in the woods!
     NEVER assume that rail road tracks in Sullivan County, Indiana will take you
     where you think they will...
     ALWAYS assume that the guy in front of you on the trail is a jerk and will
     put tension on a baseball bat sized limb so that it flies back and hits you in
     the junk!
     ALWAYS assume that writhing around in pain after a shot to the boys  
     while lying in the middle of a log jam choked with briars will result in cuts
     and bruises...
     ALWAYS assume that the 'coon dog you are listening too is at least two
     ridges and two miles away.
     ALWAYS assume that being home by midnight during a 'coon hunt means 3am.
     ALWAYS assume all 'coon dogs and beagles chase deer!
     ALWAYS realize that sliding down a shagbark hickory will result in injury!
     NEVER assume that a 3" diameter cedar tree can carry the weight of an
     averaged size adult male...
     NEVER assume that there aren't chiggers in high grass!

     ALWAYS assume chiggers will congregate around your crotch!
     NEVER assume that leaving a tick's head behind won't result in some weird
     illness with a high fever!
     NEVER remove your contact lens in your treestand!
     ALWAYS carry a small bottle of saline solution...
     NEVER assume that placing your soft lens in your mouth for cleaning is a good
     NEVER leave your catfish pole unattended on the riverbank!
     NEVER assume a bluegill can't pull a fishing rod into the water!
     ALWAYS assume that the water is deeper than it looks.
     ALWAYS understand that no boots are waterproof!!!
     ALWAYS assume that rain gear is "water repellent".
     ALWAYS assume that burrs and "stick tights" will be your constant hunting
     season companion.
     ALWAYS pick burrs off clothes before coming into house.
     ALWAYS assume you will never pick all burrs and stick tights off...
     ALWAYS assume that locust thorns hurt like hell!
     ALWAYS assume that the weird boil on your skin is from a locust tree thorn.
     ALWAYS assume that the weird boil on your skin is from a spider bite.
     NEVER wait a week before seeing a Doc about the weird boil on your arm...

     The list could go on and on...Yep, Mr. Murphy and I are well acquainted. If I were less of a man, I might let him beat me. But, there are those few days when I get one up on Mr. Murphy and everything falls in my favor and that's when being out there and experiencing it all is worth the price...and it might even leave me with a story to tell.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The making of a traditional bowhunter...

     Autumn of '91, a perfect evening for hunting as I gathered up all my gear and headed out the door to my truck. I fumbled around trying to carry everything at once instead of making two trips...big mistake! My bow slipped out of my grip and bounced across the sidewalk with a crash! An explosion of fiberglass and cable...My sight pins were smashed and the peep shot off the string. In an instant, my archery season was over and after a few choice words, I felt sick...I worked six days a week at the local sporting goods store just to make ends meet as a young man, and extra cash to replace my bow was completely out of the question...It was either eat and pay rent or buy another bow...tough choice, but my desire for food outweighed my burn for the hunt and the thought of moving back home was even less appetizing to me or my parents...

     The next morning at work, all I could do was look at the rack of new bows and drool...One of our regular customers came in to swap stories and basically loaf. He was a personable sort of guy and always had a story to tell. He was big in primitive weapons; self bows, recurves, longbows, flintlocks...He was experienced in them all. I told him my sob story about breaking my bow into pieces and he asked me if I had ever considered a recurve. The thought never crossed my mind, but it made no difference because I had no cash. I might as well pick up tiddly winks or checkers at this point... Our conversation went on and he piqued my interest as he talked about bow making, cedar arrows and instinctive shooting, but after he left the store, I didn't think much more about it and I went on my daily routine.

     That afternoon, my old customer came back, but this time he was carrying something...He reached out his arm and said "Here ya go"...he was holding an old green recurve. Not the prettiest piece of wood and fiberglass, but certainly usable. I looked at him with disbelief and asked him what he meant. He told me the bow was mine and then gave me a half dozen feathered, wooden arrows to go with it. I was shocked and thanked him for the bow, but had no idea how to shoot it. I had been a dedicated compound shooter since I was 13 years old and without sights and wheels on a bow, I wasn't sure I could hit anything, let alone a deer. My friend told me to just "shoot" the bow. Don't over think it. Just like throwing a baseball from short to first or shooting a free throw, it'll come naturally.

     For the next week or so, I shot during every free moment I had. It wasn't pretty...I had arrows skipping all over the back parking lot at the store. I shot so much that I wore blisters on my string fingers. Eventually, I was able to keep the arrows in the target butt. Slowly, the arrows formed groups and the circle became tighter. A few more days of shooting and the recurve seemed to become an extension of me and I could keep 5 of the 6 arrows in a pie plate at 10 or 12 yards. My buddy stopped by one afternoon to check on my progress and after watching me shoot a handful of arrows, he thought I was ready to hunt...I wasn't so sure, but I thought "what other choice do I have?" I was seriously "jones'ing" to get back in my the recurve was my tool out of necessity.

     Finally, Sunday morning rolled around. My day off...yes, I should have had my butt planted in a pew rather than up in a tree, but at 22 years old, a man's priorities aren't always what they should be...I sat up there surveying everything around me and thought how much different the old, static recurve felt in my hand compared to my compound. The maple bow's handle was wrapped in leather and it felt warm and soft in stark contrast to the cold graphite, fiberglass and aluminum that I had been used too...Maneuvering the longer bow in my stand took some getting used to, but I found a comfortable spot to rest it across my lap. It was good to be back...

     The first couple of hours passed and not much action. The typical squirrel circus act and the chattering of songbirds, but the deer were slow. Finally, some movement down the trail. A small deer was working it's way through the brush and if all went right, it would pass almost under my tree! My heart jumped into my throat and beat like a drum! My pulse pounded into the side of my temple. I could feel myself shaking and watched the single-beveled broadhead on the end of my arrow dance as the deer inched my way...I closed my eyes and begged to calm down. Breathe deep...inhale, exhale...When I opened my eyes, the little button buck was less than 5 yards from the base of my tree...Now or never...The string came back with ease. The nerves were gone and predator mode kicked in. My index finger touched the corner of my nose and in an instant, the arrow passed through the deer and buried into the ground beneath him...I stood in shock as he jumped and ran less than 50 yards before piling up. My knees gave out and I had to sit and catch my breath. Did that just really happen, I thought almost out loud. I closed my eyes again and replayed it over and over just to make sure it was real...

     I recovered my soaked arrow and followed a trail that even a blind man could see to my deer. A fine, fat little button buck, but he was a trophy to me! I could barely contain myself! I knew from that point forward, there was no turning addiction had started!

    It's been almost 22 years since then and I've shed a lot of hair and gained some girth along with some aches and pains, but I'm even more hooked on traditional archery now. That fat little deer and an old yard sale recurve and a friend named Bob Blair planted a seed with deep roots and helped my love of hunting and the outdoors flourish, almost to the point of obsession...Just this last fall, I passed the old recurve on to another aspiring traditionalist and I hope they create many of their own memories out in the trees...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fish out of Water

     I wind my way through the tight quarters of the underground parking garage like some sort of mole and squeeze my mid-size sedan into a compact spot and hope no one sees. Check into my room and get settled in. I unpack bags and throw open the curtains and look down on the street 5 stories below and all of downtown Indianapolis...I am not a city guy...lots of concrete and asphalt. Construction non-stop...Everything looks gray and square to my eyes. No natural curves.

     The next couple days will be filled with everything municipal. Public safety, finance, human resources, ethics, etc...If it involves local government, there will be a seminar or break out session. The evenings will be filled with semi formal and business attire, everyone trying to look better and more important than the next...quite the show. Networking and catching up with old contacts. Dinners and night caps with vendors all vying for your business...

      Two days in, my mind and body have reached their limit of urban civilization. I dressed the part and can fit in well, I know my audience. But on the inside, my mind is like a wild animal locked in a cage. Pacing back and forth waiting for a chance to escape...Finally, the last class of the day and a semblance of freedom as I step on the treadmill. But it's a poor substitute for outdoors and grass...The air is stale, the thumping gym music is too loud and it smells like a combination of a locker room and a potpourri explosion!  I look down the row of fitness buffs and can't help but think that we are hamsters in a wheel...

     Night time at last...I peer out my view. The city does have a certain beauty that I can appreciate at night, the way the lights dance. But with all it's hurry up and rush, it's noise and it's smell, it can't compete with the natural beauty of the woods and ruralness that is such a part of me. 

     My head hits the pillow hard with a sigh...As I close my eyes and replay the days events and think about what lies in store for tomorrow, my mind slowly winds down. My heart rate relaxes and I find myself saddled up next to a huge oak stump over looking a well worn trail in the holler below me. The wind is cool on my face and my longbow is in hand...I can almost feel my shoulders tighten as the bowstring becomes taut. I can hear the distant foot fall of a deer as it makes its way to me and I drift off with a smile...I am home again, at least in my dreams...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A typical morning hunt...(Warning Sarcasm!)

     Let me just pull my rig in here by the gate and get 'er unlocked. There we go..."Hey Joe, can you drop the tailgate on the trailer and unload the Bad Boy Buggy?" They'll never here us coming...Good thing we brought it with us. A quarter mile hike into the stand is a looooong walk! Shew...Better get my gear out of the carbon infused storage container. Now where did I put it??? Nope, that's my Yeti cooler, best $300 I ever spent on a cooler. If we ever have to drive cross country and keep our drinks frozen or transport organs for a transplant surgery, I'll be 'da man! Here it is! Man, this new scent eliminating NASA approved camo is the bomb! Forget the wind, just hunt! Yeah! Now where did I put my new synthetic rattling antlers???

     Let's everything. Better hop in, it's almost daylight! Wonder if I ought to get a new bow...hmmm? Mine's only two years old, but this year's model claims to be 10 feet per second faster and it's made out of moon rocks or carbon fiber or something like that anyway! Say it only weighs ounces and it looks sooooo cool. All the guys on TV use it and they kill lots of deer, so it must work! Maybe next year. I'm maxed out on my loans and don't think I could find an extra grand laying around to buy it. Boy, this groomed path to the stand is great! Like driving through a golf course...awesome!

      Here we are...our elevated, fiberglass, carpeted blind. Looks comfy and warm! Make sure I have all my gear, yup. Camoed head to toe. They will NEVER see me...wait, if I'm in an enclosed, elevated hut, do I really need the camoflauge??? Oh well, I look bad ass in this get up! Besides, I got a smokin' deal on it at Cabela's...

     Man, it sure was nice of the ranch owner to pre-scout this spot. He has tons of trail camera photos of mega bucks coming into the feeder. Sure are lots of big antlers on this place. Must be the super, duper, antler in a bag food plot seed he put out...Just for good measure, let me dump out 5 gallons of C'mere deer. Yeah, that's it. They will come runnin' in!

     Ohhhh, it is cozy up here. Better take a range to the feeder. Yup, the laser range finder says 17 yards, perfect! It even compensates for angle...whatever that means. Yep, any big, 'ol shooter buck comes in to eat and he's toast. These arrows are lethal! My mechanical broadheads are the latest and greatest! The commercial says it's like throwing an ax through an that's so cool...hehe.

     I just love this hunting stuff!!! (Tongue planted firmly in cheek)

     I bet old Fred Bear is doing somersaults in his grave...

Growing up Rural...

     Maybe it's the middle age thing or maybe it's that I'm watching my kids grow up right before my eyes. Maybe it's the fact that my parents seemed to have grown old overnight...Whatever the reason, when I'm on up here on my post, my mind always seems to float back to old memories and they invariably take me back to my teens as a young hunter. Boy, we were something then, me and my buddies. We really thought we were some sort of Grizzly Adams! In actuality, I don't think any of us grew up in hunting families. Sure, a few of us had a brace of beagles for an occasional rabbit hunt or an old black and tan that would tree a coon every now and then. But for the most part, we found our own way through the pages of outdoor magazines and a lot of trial and error! Man, where things different "back in the day."

     Funny how much has changed in the past 25 years...Growing up rural, we all knew where we could hunt and fish. Long gone are the days of gaining access to hunting ground on a handshake or through a door knock and leasing wasn't even in our vocabulary. Most farmers and land owners were happy to let you on their place, just respect the fences and leave everything better than you found it. Sometimes it might cost you an afternoon of throwing hay or straw or housing tobacco, but that was a bargain for unlimited hunting, fishing and trapping! Places familiar to my Turner's, Elliott's,and Barbour's. Spots with names like the Gravel Pit, the Bottoms, Buck's Run, the Palmer Place, G.I. Place, Fletcher's, the Douglas Farm. Then there was Williams', Siekman's,Dibble's, Hartford and Conways Ford. A short drive down the river to Swiss Lakes, Hutcherson's and North Bend Farm. I don't think there was an "outdoor" kid that didn't leave his mark on the beech trees in Wessler's woods. Those were the days...

     If you drove by the high school parking lot, it was full of 4x4's and I don't mean the nowaday's lifted, rollin' black smoke, turbo charged diesels! No sir, I mean real pieces of Detroit steel! Rusted, tie wired, loud, with leaky exhaust mud machines! The more mud you could sling all over town and the parking lot after tearing through the "Bottoms", "Lost 40's" or "Dam Lane" the better! A real badge of honor. What's more, most of the time, a shotgun or muzzleloader could be found hanging in the gun rack of pick ups and no one at the school batted an eye...Same went for a knife...From 6th grade on, I felt naked if I didn't have a pocket knife with me and I'd bet most of the guys and a fair share of the girls from my generation carried a knife to school. Not for protection or as a threat, but a good knife comes in handy for lots of things...I'm sure in some lost storage area at the school, an old study hall desk with the initials D.H. carved into it bears witness to my artistic skill with a blade! Bring a knife to school today and the Department of Defense is called in! Okay, that's an exaggeration, but you get my point... Yep, those days are gone...

     A teenage boy could be out all night, catfishing in the river at Fryman's or up Grant's Creek or frog gigging some obscure pond in the middle of an overgrown pasture and his parents weren't calling out the calvary to find him. I can't count the number of times I've seen the sunrise along a creek bank after a night of fishing or from the woods after chasing a hound all over God's creation or during an impromptu camping trip! Sad...

     I don't know why I always go back to those days...Maybe because I enjoyed them so much and am grateful for the memories they gave me. Maybe it's because I'm afraid my own kids, and certainly my future grand kids won't get to experience "the good old days"...but for whatever reason, I'm glad I grew up "rural"...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Boy...

Deer should fear him!
     "Daddy, can I go with you?"...Those words were like music to my ears as I'd head out the door to hit the woods. Those simple words from a four year old planted the seeds to lifelong memories. I often wonder what would have happened if I told him no...Sometimes, I think that I pushed my love of the outdoors and wild places on him. Maybe I should've let him find his own way...But, when I think back over the last ten years and watched him grow, it's obvious that "it's" in him too. The outdoors are part of my son, maybe even more so than "it's" in me. He was bitten by the bug at an early age and his need for wilderness is obvious.

     He's changed so much over the years. From a curious little, pudgy pre-schooler to a lanky, sinewy young man. His drive for the woods and all things natural is uncanny. He just seems to get  "it" when it comes to the wilderness. Sometimes I wish his passion for the outdoors would bleed over into Algebra or Language Arts! I've watched him go from stumbling through the fields and woods and having to be carried over the brush piles and logs, to going almost undetected as he slinks through the trees like a cat. He is becoming self made...He's quiet and soft spoken and has a gentle heart that's easily hurt with harsh words or a stearn look from his Dad. But he beams with pride and excitement when talking about hunting, fishing, survival or being outdoors. At his age, I could only have wished to be the outdoorsman he has become.

2010 Buck
     He's paid his dues and put his time in among the trees. He's frozen and he's sweat over hunting. He's been mosquito bitten and bled for the chase. He can make fire and he knows where his meat comes from, whether it's a backstrap of a deer or a burger from McDonald's. He's never shyed away from butchering and has bloodied his hands. He can read the wind and the trails. He knows when to move and when to stay in the shadows. He's learned how to swing an ax and sight in a gun. He's developed hand eye coordination through hours of shooting a recurve bow and his shoulders have grown strong from  repetition.

     He has miles to go, but he's well on his way to being more of a woodsman than his Dad will ever be. He no longer needs me next to him in a blind or treestand and as a young man, he likes it that way. I wish I could say the same thing... Occasionally, I still get a step up on him, but my time is shorter now and his is long. I know the day is coming where I will be following him into the woods and he'll be helping me over the logs and through the trees and I wouldn't want it any other way. I couldn't be more proud of my son and the man he is becoming...Yeah, we've had some times out here, haven't we!

2011 Recurve Doe
     Happy Birthday Drew! Being your Dad is one of the greatest achievements in my life and I am forever grateful for our time shared in the woods and the memories we've made.


Love, Dad...


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Second Chances

      I weaved myself through a maze of thorns to get to my spot. The roost was 15' up a twisted wild cherry tree over looking some of the most briar choked scrub in Switzerland County. The entire hillside was covered in locust, hedge apple, walnuts, cedars, grapevines and just about every other species of tree and bush that like cut over woods and secondary growth. It was flat out nasty in there, but the deer absolutely love it. The holler forms a natural funnel and the trails are forever rutted into the earth. 

     Late October and the weather was perfect. The pre-rut was on and the bucks were up on their feet. The action was non-stop all evening and I knew it would just be a matter of time before a "good 'un" showed up...I was right. The crunching of leaves gave the big boy up. I could hear him long before seeing him through the tangle. Then he emerged on a trail that would take him 20 yards behind my stand. I weaseled myself between the forearm sized grapevine and the trunk of the cherry tree and contorted into shooting position. I glanced up the trail and found a shooting lane. The buck was on a mission and as he came closer, I got a better look at him. A short tined 10 pointer, lots of mass and long main beams. His face was scarred up and he no doubt was a bruiser. He slowly entered my shooting lane and auto pilot kicked in...focus behind the shoulder as the buck stepped forward, exposing his vitals...exhale, smooth release and the shaft was on its way. Slow motion and I can see the brightly colored orange and yellow feathers hurling towards the buck...Disaster! Just before striking home, the arrow turned 90 degrees and sunk into the buck's flank. The penetration looked marginal at best. In one move, the old boy wheeled about, tearing up the soft dirt and peeled down the hill and across the holler. I tried to watch him as far as I could, but the thickness of undergrowth made it nearly impossible. As I looked back at the shot location, the culprit revealed itself. A small limb of a bush was bouncing wildly back and forth and its fresh, white flesh cut away from the bark instantly told me that the arrow had made contact throwing off the shot. Dammit! How did I not see that??? 

     I was disgusted with myself and my lack of not cleaning out all my shooting lanes. I had hunted this same farm and this hillside for years. I knew better...We gave the old deer several hours before taking up the track. At first, you're optimistic. You tell yourself over and over, "maybe you nicked an artery and he'll be right over the ridge"...But, the longer the track goes on and the complete lack of spoor and you know it's not good. The only sign we located were the over turned leaves on the forest floor where he tore out of the area. One of my partners did manage to find my intact arrow about 200 yards from the shot. As I examined it like CSI, it was obvious there was little to no penetration and the blood left behind was minimal...The silver lining to the blown shot was that it didn't appear to be lethal and other than the buck being sore and more educated, he should make a complete recovery. For good measure, I went back the next morning and scoured the entire valley and a huge creek bottom...nothing. I was convinced that the big boy was safe and sound and lived to see another day. The arrow was cleaned up, the old Bear razorhead honed and placed back in the quiver...

     I took off from hunting the next couple of days and replayed the wounded buck over and over in my head. It started to get to me, that nagging feeling...No hunter likes the thought of wounding an animal or not recovering it, but it happens. I'm completely convinced he's still walking, but there is always that tinge of doubt...To make matters worse, he was a big buck by anyone's standards. The kind other guys come up and look at in the back of your truck and ask how it happened. The kind that puts envy in the eyes of other bowhunters...

     After having my little pity party, I decided to get back in the trees, hoping for a chance to redeem myself. Three days later found me in my "home" woods, sitting high up in the buddy stand. It was a beautiful, calm morning, not a breath of wind. As the sun was rising and light was just entering the woods...crunch, shuffle, pop...Like rice crispies...I could hear a deer walking and popping acorns as he snacked along. I strained my eyes in the grayness of the morning light and there were a set of antlers attached to a buck 50 yards away and leisurely walking along parallel to my set up. I recognized him in an instant. He was a big 6 pointer that I had seen 3 other times, but never given an opportunity to shoot. He wasn't the biggest buck in the woods, but he and I had some history together, we were familiar and I knew I'd make a go of him if given the chance. Unlike the cherry tree woods, this spot was wide open hardwoods, full of white and red oaks and hickories. I slowly stood to my feet, scanned the trail for the shooting lane. It looks long, but it feels right...Mrrrp, mrrrp, I grunted him to a stop. The draw and release were fluid. I lost sight of the arrow in flight, but the hollow thud assured me of a hit. The buck spun and made three bounds into the cedars. All was quiet. I listened and watched for any signs of him...nothing. A few seconds later and a faint sound. Did he lie down? Did he sneak out??? Now the second guessing begins.

     I managed to sit for a half hour before climbing down and gather myself. I hit auto rewind a dozen times and played it over in my head. I walked to the exact spot where he was standing and no blood, no arrow, no sign...Not again! I retraced my steps back to the treestand and took another look just to be certain. 35 paces...longer than I thought. Back to the spot and I found a slight scuff in the dead leaves that pointed me the right direction into the cedars. I didn't go far and there was the first smattering of crimson. A few more steps and it was obvious I wouldn't be trailing for long. His path was lit up with sign. I looked ahead and there he was! I rushed up and put my hands on him. A beautiful deer! Excitement, gratitude, remorse, all the emotions that go along with a kill hit me. I whispered my thank yous and set about getting some photos of the buck. 

     As I looked him over and did my post mortem, it struck me that the arrow that had done its lethal job was the very same one that wounded the buck a few days prior. The broken shaft will have a place on the wall right next to the buck's headgear, but the broadhead will be cleaned up, razor sharp and hopefully be part of many more hunts and many more memories...


Monday, January 2, 2012


     It's not too often that you'll see me in the woods without an old friend of mine. He's just about as constant as the sunrise.We've known each other for 20 some odd years by now. Like me, he's a little rough around the edges, some frays here and there and nowhere near what he was in his younger days.His color has faded somewhat and a few permanent wrinkles show evidence of his time in the field. We've aged right along side each other and I have to admit, he has held his looks better than I have. He pops and his spine cracks when stretched or bent the wrong way, much like mine does when I hop out of bed on a cold morning...He's sort of a short, squatty, fire plug type and when I stop and think about it, so am I. Maybe we have grown to resemble each other over time. Regardless, neither one of us are going to win any awards for beauty or be seen on the catwalk anytime soon...

     He's right at home in the deer woods in October or late August hunting squirrels. He has an uncanny ability for blending in and on more than one hunt, I thought I had lost him in the undergrowth. The cold weather of rabbit season or an occasional duck hunt in January doesn't seem to phase him at all.  He's a warm and fuzzy sort of fella and never complains about the weather and he's always willing to try his best to help me stay warm.

     We've had lots of adventures together over the years. Chasing whitetails here at home and in Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri. He's accompanied me to Tennessee to hunt wild hogs. He was a constant fixture during my caribou hunt in Northern Quebec near Hudson Bay and he fit right in with the locals there. He even traveled to South Texas this past spring to stalk javalinas although the heat can get the best of him. He's shared a goose blind with me in North Dakota as we watched thousands of snow geese pile into a cut corn field. Yep, we've seen more than our fair share of action out there in the woods.

     A few years ago, my buddy and I became separated. Try as I might, I couldn't make contact with him. I checked all the spots we used to hang out. I looked in all the usual hiding places, but nothing. I was crushed and couldn't understand what had happened. Through a stroke of luck, we were reunited during a move I made a few years ago! What a relief! I had found my old friend and knew we had many more hunts in our future! We fit together like an old shoe or a well worn glove... 

     My old buddy has one more trait that I haven't found in anyone or anything else...he is a constant source of good luck in the woods. I'm normally not a superstitious type, but when he's with me, things seem to go well. When he's not, things tend to head South. Missed shots, blown opportunities, winded by name it. If it's bad and can happen in the woods, it will. Connect me with my old pal and something good is gonna take place. He has been with me on nearly every successful hunt that I've had and has seen me take my two largest deer, a beautiful caribou bull and two large hogs.Coincidence? Possibly...

"Radar" and fallen red oak.
     Maybe your good luck charm or old buddy is an old silver coin worn smooth by years of riding in your pocket. Maybe it's a favorite pair of socks or a tee shirt from 1987 that should've been pitched years ago. Maybe it's the old standby rabbit's foot. For me, it's the most awful looking, unattractive "radar" hat in the woods, but you'll never see me up here without him!

The end and the beginning...

     Where does the time go? 2012 has wrestled '11 to the mat and it's over. Like everyone else, I can't believe how quickly this past year came and went and don't even get me started on how fast the holidays passed! I had just gotten used to writing 2011 on my checks! It's probably no surprise, but I decided to ring in part of my New Year's Day from my spot in the woods and since it just happened to coincide with the end of the 2011 late archery season, it seemed fitting.

     I had watched the gale force blow all day and the hopes of sitting in my evening stand were seeming slim to none. I ran some errands, killed some time,dozed off a bit and watched some television, hoping the wind would give me a break. Finally, about 3:30, the wind slowed just enough to convince me all was clear! I was wrong...

     I sneaked into my spot, the wind and damp woods covering any noise I made. Truth be told, the wind was blowing so hard and loud that I could've been wearing bells and nothing would have heard me coming! I tied myself in and leaned back for one last time this season. I could have picked a better stand for the evening watch. The steady wind was all but ruining any chances at seeing a deer. But, tonight's sit was more about being in the woods rather than bringing home venison. Like I knew it would, it was a time for lower blood pressure, for slumped shoulders, for relaxation and for reflection...I knew that tonight's hunt was more about catching up with myself.

     I started to think about the year past and all that came with it. The goods and the bads, the ups and downs and sometimes sideways...Mistakes made and lessons learned. The changes in my life and the direction I seem to be heading. The memories made and the opportunities missed. I started to think about the future...positive changes, resolutions! About the same time, a tufted titmouse was jumping from limb to limb just under my stand. I leaned forward to get a better look at the bird...and there it was, 5 yards away and closing fast! No, not a trophy buck or a fine doe, but a fat, orange and gray fox squirrel with my name written all over him. Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by the little tree rats and I never pass up an opportunity to take one for the pot. Par-boiled, chicken fried with biscuits and gravy, please! To take one with a recurve or longbow is quite the feat in my book. Mr. Busytail climbed a sassafras sapling just a few yards away and commenced to eating some sort of seed. He presented a prefect target. The draw was smooth and the release crisp. The broadhead hit it's mark and the squirrel was instantly and permanently silenced and would be heading to my freezer. 

     I leaned back once again and wiggled myself into the seat against the constant hurricane force. I put my feet out in front of me and pulled my hat down low over my eyes to block the low hanging January sun. Minus the wind, I couldn't have been more comfortable in my easy chair at home. After rewinding the squirrel episode over in my head a few times, my mind floated back into sentimental mode and this past deer season's memories. To opening day when Drew and I saw 15 different deer and had action all morning long. To the coyotes we both missed at an un-missable range! I mean how can I zip and arrow through a squirrel sized target and miss a 'yote at the same distance!?!? To a beautiful 9 point buck that gave me the worst case of buck fever, ever and the subsequent missed shot. To the phone call I received while in another treestand from Drew, excitedly telling me how he had just shot a mature doe with his recurve and watched her fall within site of his stand! To my own deer that I took this year and all the emotions that went along with those hunts. To the privilege of seeing a bobcat sneak through my woods. To sharing this very treestand with Olivia and her making the mature decision to pass shots on a couple of yearling deer in order to let them grow and mature themselves. To the dozens of other memories that have been made out here among the trees. Yeah, I'll miss 2011.

     The sun has fallen from it's spot and shooting light is gone. I collect my squirrel and walk out for one last time. As I fight the wind and make my way across the cornfield and look at the oranges and pinks left in the sky behind the fast moving clouds, I know my deer woods will soon be locked in the cold, icy grip of deep winter. I brush off a shiver and quicken my step to the truck and mentally whisper a goodbye and an "I'll be back" all at the same time...