Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What I Have Learned Living With a Bow Hunter

I grew up in a household that enjoyed hunting.  Every year my father made the annual pheasant pilgrimage back home to Kansas.  He also spent time hunting javelina and an occasional deer, but he was a rifle hunter.  The only kind of bow and arrow that we ever encountered was the colorful plastic variety one could find at the local dime store counter.  Yes, remember those. They had that great little rubber dealy that if you spit in it before you shot it, it would stick to any hard plastic item for days.  That was the sum total of my experience with bows and arrows.

Once I embarked upon married life, I discovered there was a hunting world that did not involve rifles, shotguns, cartridges, shells, or any kind of powder.  This world involved compound bows, arrows with razor sharp blades, skunk scent, deer scent, camouflage everything, unscented soap, and intricate devices to help the archer sight in on game.  The list of items a bow hunter requires for his or her craft is probably longer than any six-year-old’s Christmas list.  And, it is more fascinating to read.

In fact, like most young, poor newlyweds, we did not have all many belongings--or so I thought.  I had not seen my new husband’s hunting supplies.  It did not take long for me to realize he needed the whole spare bedroom in our cozy little house (read--very small house) for his hunting “stuff.”  And the whole back porch.  And the shed out back.  Bow hunters have a lot of “stuff.”

In time, I became familiar with his bow-hunter jargon, but the one thing I could never understand is why someone would be so picky about the laundry soap and bath soap he used when all he was going to do was sprinkle a little skunk scent on himself anyway.  In short time, I learned to check his pockets before I washed his clothes.  It only took one teensy leak from one of those little squirt bottles of stinky stuff before I knew I did not want that stuff leaking in my wash machine or anywhere else every again.

Over the years, my hunter has sworn off the skunk scent--thank goodness.   It got to be hard to greet him enthusiastically when he returned home from his deer stand.  However, he still has some of the oddest items lying about his “spare room.”  I’ll find a pair of antlers joined by a leather strap.  He uses these to rattle in a deer during the rut.  In addition, he has some really strange little item attached to his bowstring that looks like a mutant spider.  According to him, it is suppose to quiet the twang when he shoots. 

Now that we live in the country, he has spread out his stuff into the countryside. Last spring he began building what he called the mother of all targets.  And it is!  Not only does he mow our yard.  Now he mows a clear pathway to the target so there is no interference with his sighting process. He can shoot straight on from the ground, or he can climb into his strategically placed tree stand (read attached to a utility pole) to practice shooting from heights.

In the beginning, I thought he was going to a lot of work for a deer, but over the years, I have learned he gets to see more, hear more, know more than most rifle hunters. Many years, he doesn’t even get a deer, but he comes home with the best stories.

 One year, he watched two large bucks battle until their antlers locked, and one flipped the other over its back Ninja fashion.  As he told this story, I envisioned Outdoor Life buying roles of film of this event. Of course, he didn’t have a camera with him in the tree.  He has skunk stories and coyote stories as well as deer stories from his tree-top vantage.

Over the years, I have learned the point of his hunt is that it is more than bringing game home.  For him and other hunters like him, time in the woods, observing animals in their habitat is the best part of the hunt.  

     Even though I still rifle hunt when I do hunt, I take advantage of his experience, (No, not the skunk scent) and I sit under his tree stand as I wait for my deer to come by.  Does this mean I do a lot of sitting and shivering? Yep, it does. Do I get just a little insight of why he loves to get up in the dark, frozen hours of the morning to climb into his tree stand?  Do I understand why he never complains about not bringing home a deer? 

You bet.

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