Bow hunting is a game I have loved for more than 10+ years. Like most hunters do, I started my hunting career by harvesting deer with a rifle. After years of fruitful hunting and watching my friends and family kill many deer with a bow, I decided I wanted to give bow hunting a try. Now, with years of bow hunting experience under my belt, I want to touch on a few things I have learned along the way: true patience, persistence and genuine love for the process.
My first hunt with a rifle lasted only 5 minutes and from there on I developed unrealistic expectations on how this “hunting” this was going to go. When hunting with a rifle, muzzleloader, or shotgun, animals wandering out of range don’t plague a hunter’s mind. Those sorts of weapons allow for longer yardage shots, therefore alleviating some pressure that the animal will vanish out of range. On the contrary, bowhunting has everything to do with distance. Ask any experienced bow hunter and he or she will tell you a 20-yard shot is ideal. It isn’t uncommon to see archers harvesting animals past 50 yards, but it doesn’t happen often. Bow hunting establishes a sense of intimacy with the game you are chasing. There is an indescribable rush when sitting mere yards away from any wild game. You can see the air coming out of their nostrils on a cold morning, their diaphragm contract as they inhale air, and you can hear every approaching footstep flawlessly. Every bow hunter knows game animals don’t operate on our schedule and things hardly ever go according to plan. Yes, in an idealistic world the deer, hog, turkey, etc. would walk past you broad side and stop in the open to present you with the perfect shot opportunity. I can recall countless times young into my archery hunting career where I watched deer cruise 5 yards out of my comfortable shooting range. I realize my max yardage of 20 yards was not a lot of real estate to work with, but this occurrence is relative and continues to happen today even though I have expanded my range considerably. Rather than risk wounding an animal, often time you will watch an animal walk harmlessly out of your life. Don’t consider this a failure, every hunting trip adds skills and experience to your resume. If call yourself a bow hunter, you will quickly learn that patience is a virtue. Patience is a character trait that will benefit you greatly when chasing wild game with a stick and string. I can recall countless times where a harvest seemed inevitable, but situation factors like the wind, other hunters, and even other deer can scare off your hard-earned shot opportunity. Do not be discouraged by this. Employ patience during these tough times and I promise that when you harvest an animal the ethical way, within your abilities it will mean exponentially more.
Piggybacking off the quality of patience brings me to topic of persistence. There will be days where nothing goes your way. Whether you forget your release in the truck, completely miss a deer, or your brother dry fires your bow while trying to pull it back, frustration and failure will happen. You will miss shots, you will spook animals away, and sometimes things will not go your way despite your countless hours of preparation. It is how you respond to this failure that will determine the longevity of your archery career. The amount of persistence and hard work that you implement will directly correlate with your success in the long run. There is no better feeling then harvesting an animal you have worked tirelessly for. Sometimes you may sit hundreds of hours in the blind or tree stand without a single opportunity at an animal. This happens to the best of hunters and remember there is a reason that most people don’t bow hunt. It took me three years of bow hunting to harvest my first buck. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw a nice 8 pointer walking directly into my corn pile. My first shot sunk my spirits instantly as my arrow struck a limb conveniently placed near the buck’s vitals. I could have let my frustration get the best of me, but instead I nocked another arrow and squeezed the release watching my arrow hit its mark perfectly at 43 yards. The deer was down in seconds and I couldn’t be more proud. I can’t stress enough the power of persistence. If you want it bad enough, you will put the work in to get it and it will happen as a result.
If you have ever bow hunted for a complete season, you will soon realize that you can’t survive by drinking insane amounts of coffee, looking at 100’s of trail cam pics for motivation, or whatever it is you do to stay motivated. Sometimes you must do it out of pure love for the sport. The process is the most fulfilling part of the journey even though the harvest is always the most highlighted. Regardless of the outcome, would you continue to hunt? Would you still head to the woods on that cold rainy morning if no one else in the world would congratulate you on your bountiful harvest? These are the things that I think about when I am lacking the motivation to stay in my stand or get out there some mornings. This season I hunted over 100+ hours before I had a single opportunity to arrow a whitetail doe. It was frustrating, but I enjoyed God’s creation and was able to experience some amazing moments in nature along the way. The moment I shot a doe with my new Mathews Triax, it made every hour I had spent in a tree worth it. It brought back so many emotions I had felt many times before and I soon remembered why I love the game so much. Mother nature and fate have given me many opportunities and reasons to quit bowhunting, but for some reason I always come back. The excitement, the process, and genuine love for the sport will always keep me coming back for more.
Anytime spent in the outdoors is a blessing. Even if I wasn’t guaranteed to harvest another animal again, I would keep bowhunting. For you all that have just started this journey, it is going to be frustrating at times, but I promise the process is incredibly fun. Remember my friends it is always a good day to be a bowhunter.