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 head...in 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 back...no 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 shoulder...fast 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...