Thanks to Randy Swope of Sikeston, MO for contributing this content.
The life of a bow hunter is lonely. We crave for the solitude and secrecy. When the subject of hunting arises, we listen more than we speak careful not to give away locations or specific deer sightings. If I may, I will share a snapshot of an average evening hunt that all bow hunters have encountered.
As the sun was still high in the sky, I pack my gear and trek into the woods to find that special tree. I locate a tree, then quickly check for shooting lanes, enter and exit routes, then began to climb as quietly as possible.
Once I reach the desired height and locked in, I pull my bow up and ready it for an afternoon stay. I sit motionless for what seems like hours only to have my supportive wife text me asking if I’ve seen the massive, elusive buck and let me know that we only have one package of deer meat left in the freezer, as if she didn’t tell me the same thing on my morning hunt. Nevertheless, the hours pass with an unfamiliar lull of zero deer movement.
As I watch a leaf end its lifecycle and slowly begin the descent back to Earth to start the decompose process and give back nutrients to the very tree that sprouted it only months earlier, my eyes squint scanning for anything, a twitch of an ear, a flick of a tail but nothing. At the same time, my ears constantly listening for a simple crunch of a leaf, snap of a twig but again dead silence. In the distance I hear an owl hoot, warning me that darkness is soon upon me. I glance over to the horizon as if to plead with the sun just to give me a few more minutes, but to no avail. The long shadows quickly turn into complete darkness just as the wise old owl had predicted.
With much disgust, I lower my bow and begin to maneuver my stand down to the ground and prepare for the long walk back. As I saddle my gear and turn toward the truck, I hear a pack of coyotes behind me howl letting the world know that these are their woods and it’s their time to hunt. I hold my hand up in acknowledgment and say to myself “it’s all yours, I’m out.” I walk back without a flashlight, catching the small invisible twigs with my face as my legs burn learning to walk again after the long stay in my climber. I ask myself what could I have I’ve done different or where else could I have gone to positioned myself in a better ambush location. This conversation to myself continues all the way back to the truck.
Once back to my trusty ride, I quickly change clothes and load my gear. Gear loaded, I start the truck and turn it around to head back to Missouri still second guessing my choice of location and then I just shake my head, grin and turn up the stereo as Miranda Lambert sings Gunpowder and Lead. With a shower, food in my belly and a little sleep, I will immediately start looking at maps, moon phases and the weather forecasts to start planning my next hunt. For as true bow hunters know, the majority of the time ends in defeat.
These defeats are what makes us, the failures are what drives us forward. I wouldn’t give those experiences up for anything. I drive home alone, no buck in the truck and one last package of meat in the freezer anticipating my next chance to try it all again. I hope this gives you some insight why bow hunting is a passion…way of life…my life.
Randy Swope – near Blodgett, MO, November 8, 2014