The True Meaning of Bow Hunting

I remember the day as if it was yesterday, November the 17th, 2000. The stars in the sky, the moon full and bright, and a big smile on my face. But what I remember the best is the 730 days leading up to this moment! It all started at my friend, Michael's house after school in August of 1998.

I had never been hunting a day before in my life, well real hunting that is. I went squirrel hunting in my back yard with pellet gun many times when I was younger. Like every kid in the USA I imagine. But I had never REALLY been hunting before. Michael and his friends were all talking about the up coming deer season and how they can't wait till opening day. I was very curious about deer hunting, though I new nothing about it! So I started to ask questions, and the one that got me hooked was "When does the season open" They said the 3rd weekend in Nov. I asked why so late in the year, and then that's when the words BOW HUNTING first hit my ears. Bow season? When does it start? They said that it would start the 4th weekend in Sept. I was like, GREAT lets do that!

That gives me another 2 months to get one I thought to myself. Everyone else was not as thrilled about it, for some reason. They were like, "Nathan have you ever even shot a bow before?" I replied "No!" but how hard could it be! My famous last words.

They all just looked at each other and smiled and then Micheal told me to go with him outside to his backyard. So I did, not knowing that his backyard was setup with several targets and a 3-D deer target. I was then handed a bow and an arrow and a weired looking black thing with a metal trigger on it. What was all of this? It was suppose to be a stick with string and a wooden arrow! Now I have some sort of contraption in my hand that looks like it should be something used by an Army Ranger!

I asked what to do with all this stuff and they said simply" Hit the target Nathan, How hard can it be?" Like I said my famous last words. So I grabbed the bow with my left hand put the arrow on the rest with some help, then i went to trying to pull the bow back! "Holy Crap!!!" I said, "this is impossible!, it must be to tight for me." I said. Everyone started rolling on the ground laughing! That's as easy as it gets Tidwell they said while laughing hysterically at me. I said this is to hard to pull back. And again I hear my famous last words, it's only 40 lbs, how hard can it be Nathan? Man I was really wishing I had never said that.

Well I was getting no where with the bow, so Micheal came over and helped me pull it back. He explained to me how to use the peep sight to line up the pin on the target, that was only 10 yards away! There I had it, I was right on it, now I was going to show them how easy it is! I slowly released my fingers from the string, that's right I said fingers! Next thing I remember is WHAPPP WHAPPP WHAPPPP! My head started hurting really bad for some reason something had hit me in the head repeatedly! Everyone was laugh so hard now I thought I was going to wither away to nothing!

Did I hit the target? I asked hoping to at least have that to show for all my pain and humiliation? They told me it depended? I said it depends on what? They said on if your target was the deer or the next door neighbors shed? I had somehow shot my arrow Thur the next door neighbors shed! Wonderful!!!! I couldn't believe it, how did I not hit the target?

I started yelling and shouting I had it right on the deer, how could I have missed? Then one more time here came those terrible last words of mine! How hard can it be Nathan? I said well it would be easier if you didn't hit me in the head when I was trying to shoot! They said that I hit myself in the head as they started to bust up laughing again! I said how could I hit myself in the head? That's when Micheal reached down and picked up that black thing with the metal trigger I was telling you about earlier and said you left the release around the bow string when you shot, and it came spinning off, and hit you in the head like 3 times! And at that everyone starting laughing out of control again!!

I said firmly, well what do I do with it then? They said for me to put it around my wrist and use it to pull back the bow and shoot the arrow! Now they tell me! That's friends for you, well now after all of this I was getting ticked off, I hate looking dumb in front of people and worst of all, I'm a perfectionist! So they turned around ready to go in! I said where are you going? They said in where it's safe! I said I'm not done! Now let's do it again. I admit it's really hard OK guys, so please show me the right way to do it! So they agreed I had been through enough, so they showed me how to grip the bow right and use the release, correctly!

I shot and I shot and I shot! EVERY SINGLE DAY! I even started shooting at night in Micheal's backyard with the security light on, to simulate low light conditions! When I wasn't practicing shooting, I was reading everything I could get my hands on and watching every movie I could on bow hunting! I had quickly become hooked on bow hunting and I had still never even stepped a foot into the woods yet.

Within a month I had gotten pretty darn good! I started to even have fun with the guys by playing tag with their arrows, but soon they didn't like it and neither did my wallet, that got expensive! It was now almost the 4th weekend in Sept, and I was ready to go! I thought I was anyway! Then I found out about having to tune your bow to broad heads and setting stands! Man, this is alot of hard work! I thought to myself. I better get one opening day! But opening day came and went and I didn't see any deer and the next day and the next! Nothing!

I hunted every day after school and still no deer! It had been almost 2 weeks, and I had still seen no deer! Today I decided, that if I didn't see any in the first hour, that I was getting down and moving to a different stand! Of course I didn't see any deer! So I got down and slowly started making my way to the corner of a bean field, surely I'd at least see one here, I thought. There was an old ladder stand near the south west corner of the field, it was wooden and half way rotted out, but I unsteadily climbed up it and sat down, being sure to hook up my safetybelt as fast as I could!

Then I sat and I sat and I sat! It had been almost an hour and a half and still no deer! I was now thinking I must have scared them off coming in to my stand! Just about then, I caught some movement out of my left eye, and over a little ridge to my left I thought I saw an ear moving around like a satellite. My heart started pumping and my arms started shaking! I was experiencing my first case of deer fever, and over an ear at that!

Then the ear started coming my way, and slowly the ear became an wide fork horned buck, probably a 2 yr old, just bad genetics, his body was pretty good size, I didn't care anyway, at this point anything without spots was considered dead! I had waited for this so long and practiced so hard and now it was time to make it happen, the buck came in then turn broadside at 15 yards! Oh yeah baby, I started thinking to myself! I was attempted to pull my bow back! That's right, I attempted too! I couldn't, I guess my nerves, were messing me up now.

No NO NO, I was going to kill this deer, on the third try, I finally, barely got the bow to full draw! I set up my peep sight with the pin and released! Whack, I smacked the deer good! Right in the left antler! That was when I learned about judging distance and the difference between a deer and a target! Deer move and they are never the same distance away! I was so upset! All of this I thought to myself! I went through all that practice and pain in my shoulder, and time sitting on the stand, to shoot a deer in the antler!? Great, just great!

Well I got down to get my arrow at about dark, hoping that I had seen it all wrong and that I had actually double lunged him! But I was right, I got all antler! Well I went home that night and I couldn't sleep, I was so upset! The next day at school, my story spread, about how I had shot a deer in the antlers! Thanks to some good ole friends of mine! Now not only was I upset that I missed, I was also getting teased pretty bad about it!

At the lunch table, Micheal asked me if I was coming over after school! I told him I was going back out hunting! He said why put yourself through that again? I said, cause that deer still had an right antler, and I was going to finish the job off! I laughed and and went to class! I hunted the rest of the year and had some blown chances, I missed, I missed, and missed some more!

The next spring and summer, I spent shooting my bow, hanging my stands really early like in may, and learning all I could about deer! I even started taking my bow and target to my stands in May and June and learned distance that way!

Well opening day came and I got a great 15 yd broadside shot on a doe, and I nailed her right behind her leg, but for some reason, the arrow did not pass through! So I gave her till dark which was almost 2 hrs and then I got Micheal and we went to search for blood! I thought for sure I got both lungs, so I wasn't worried till we found my arrow 75 yds away from my stand and still no blood, I look till 12 that night and the next morning! No blood NO deer!

What had happened I didn't understand, I had hit her good, I had to have, they only thing that I can come up with is that she might have be quartering away just alittle and my arrow caught one lung and hit her shoulder on the other side, but still I should have found something! But nothing ever came from it! I was so upset now! Not only had I not gotten a deer, but I had hurt her and I felt bad about wasting the meat! I knew that she had to have died somewhere, I just couldn't find her!

Well the rest of the season came and went! I never fully got over what had happened on opening day! The next spring I started my ritual again, hanging stands early, practicing my shooting and judging distance, and learning all I could about deer! When the season came this time, I was ready! I was going to get it done this year! I just knew it!

Well on opening day, I had a doe coming in and just when I got ready to draw back my bow, a stray dog came out of no where! But it figures, I mean after all it was me, if it can happen it will! And off my doe ran with the stray dog behind her! I hunted till the muzzle loadereason opened! I took a break that week, and took time to collect my thoughts and see if bow hunting was even for me!

I shot my bow a little the Sunday before archery season opened back up! Still not decided if I should give up or not, I decided to go at least one more time on Monday, so I went out Monday afternoon on the corner of a corn field with my climbing stand, I found what I felt was the perfect stand, and set my stand up! I had gotten about 6ft up when I remembered that if it can happen it will, and my tree somehow was crooked and I couldn't go up any higher without my stand slipping!

It was already late by the time this happened and I couldn't risk changing trees! Just great I thought, I'm a whole 6ft up! This is rridiculous I might as well go home! About the time I was thinking this something happened. No it wasn't a deer. I saw a squirrel sitting on a limb eating a hickory nut, then I saw a blue bird fly down on a limb 5 ft in front of me, then a raccoon even came out in the field and started eating corn! It was amazing, It was so beautiful and just amazing!

Then it hit me, bow hunting isn't all about killing deer, it's about being out in mother natures big back yard! It's about watching squirrels, birds and raccoons, forgetting the hassles of life for a minute. It's about enjoying life and seeing it for what it really is! Beautiful! I was so caught up in the moment that I almost forgot about the fact that I was there to kill a deer, I caught movement to my right. Thinking maybe it was a fox squirrel or something, I turned to see a little buck coming to check a scrape 15 yards in front of me! I got my bow ready, he came in broadside, I drew my bow and released! All was silent, the buck looked at me turned around and walked off, flicking his tail side to side! I couldn't believe it I had missed a deer at close range and I wasn't mad, I wish I had got him yes, but I had the best hunt of my life, the best day of my life and I didn't even kill a deer!

I got down and went to get my arrow and put it back in the quiver with all my other arrows I had missed deer with! When I got to my arrow, I found it stuck in a tree about 2inches deep! I still was just as happy as I could be! I put my arrow in the quiver and went back to get my stand! When I reached up to undo my climbing stand! I saw blood on my hand! Great now I've cut myself! I thought, I wiped my hand off on my shirt and looked for the cut, but I couldn't find where I was bleeding from anywhere! I could smell the blood on my shirt and It smelled funny!

I started to think! No I couldn't have hit the deer. I watched it walk off as if nothing had happened! I remember so vividly it flicking it's tail back and forth! But just for laughs I looked at my arrow and on the fletching was bright red blood! I couldn't believe it! I'd hit the deer, but how? It just walked off so carefree!

But judging by the blood on the arrow, it was a really good hit! So I went back over to about were the deer was standing and looked for blood! But nothing was there, nothing but leaves! I was about ready to give up when I happened to look down, and I saw the 2nd most beautiful thing I had ever seen! I saw the beginning of a blood trail that looked like a paint sprayer had made! Blood was every where! I mean 2ft wide! I couldn't believe it, there's no way he could have went far now! I remember thinking to myself! I followed the trail almost 80 yds and still no deer, he had went into a cane patch that was 8ft tall and then I came to a fork in the cane! Then the blood stopped, just like that! Again I was thinking to myself! If it can happen it will happen!

Thanks for the tease I said to the deer outloud. I decided to follow both of the trails out, but no blood and no deer! I went back to the truck upset, but happy at the same time! I went back and called Micheal and told him about what happened. He told me to go back out there and look one more time for him, and if I couldn't find him that he would come over and help me! So I reluctantly went back out to the field.

I found the blood trail and followed it out! It was dark now so I had my flashlight leading my way thru Through the cane! I came to the end of the blood and decided to go straight, the cane opened up into a bottom with old trees and water holes, I had walked about 30 yds past the cane when I shined my light to the right of the trail. I shined it back on the trail , then I shined it back to the right again! Did I see what I thought I had seen? There he WAS!

I was so happy, I was running an screaming all the way to him! He was a weird looking 4 point! I didn't care, he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! He was my first deer, and I was so happy and so proud! I grabbed his leg and started dragging him back to the field. I never noticed all of the thorns or the ditch with water till I got home that night and saw the cuts on my arms and my wet pruned up feet!

I got him to the field, and sat down beside my beautiful trophy. That's when it all really came together! I noticed the full moon, the stars twinkling, the owls hooting! I took a moment to say thanks to the man above for allowing me to take this animal. I also thanked him for making my journey into bow hunting such a difficult one, if I had not went through what I had, I would have never appappreciated this deer near as much or my love for bow hunting!

I have killed many more deer since that November Night, and all my bucks have been much bigger. But there is not a deer or a moment that I'm more proud of than my little 4 point buck and the day I finally not only killed a deer, but learned what bow hunting was all about.

Next time you go into the woods look around and enjoy it. I now enjoy everyday I'm blessed enough to get to go into the woods with mother nature and have a one on one with her, whetherI kill one or not! And last of all, I'm here to tell you bow hunting is challenging, fun, and is well worth the time, effort, and money, but it IS NOT EASY!

Written by: Nathan Tidwell

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