The Deer Huntress: Archery Practice At The Park

A Park of Ill Preparation

By The Deer Huntress

In total, I have moved more than 2,400 miles in four years. From my hometown of Greece, N.Y., to a squalid studio above a garage in Lockport, N.Y., then to Charlotte, N.C., the then-home of my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and, for a finale, here, to Bismarck, N.D., the domicile of strict libraries and sportsmen parks.

Each time I arrive in a new place I am destined to spend at least a year two, things must be done: procure a library card and check out the local park.

The former is generally tougher to tackle than one would think. Many libraries will not allow prospective cardholders to hail from a PO box, while others require photo identification, a birth certificate and blood samples to borrow their safely guarded volumes.

But there are ways to cheat this literary system, especially for a hardened bibliophile such as myself.

Bismarck is home to an edifice of books that requires patrons to dwell in a permanent address in order to get a library card. Given that we lived in a camper for the first three months of our tenure here, we were forced to open a PO box, much to the disappointment of the stern library lady who wagged her finger in a shameful manner until I retreated, backing out of the automatic doors.

I went across the river to Mandan where a hippie library chick was all too happy to supply a groovy card to anyone with any psychedelic, bead-doored address. This card, the little rectangle of plastic hung ‘round my keychain, could be used in every library in the county.

No finger wagging or disappointment followed in my wake this time; I left head held high for I, bibliophile wunderkind, had beaten the system.

While it can be easy, especially for a pro such as my humble self, to skirt library laws to enable my partially manic book obsession, the same can’t be said for large patches of greenery amid a concrete metropolis, especially with dogs in tow.

Titus, Avery, and Dixie are, admittedly, spoiled rotten. After their respective rocky pasts as dogs abandoned, beaten, or left for dead, they are living the post-rescue life of soft beds, bacon-flavored toys, and parks, lots of parks.

In my future, I wish to own 100 acres of fenced property so as to adopt more rescues and allow them to run free, away from their wretched pasts. This dream is a mirage, far, far, in the distance so now, I settle for three crack-addled, park-loving, squirrel-hating bundles of irritation.

Parks, I’ve come to find, are as different as the dogs who run them, the people who bike them. Some have expansive dog areas, pristine tennis courts and skate parks. Others are host to derelict, disease-infested bathrooms, ice rinks without ice, and even hunter-friendly archery ranges.

We came across the latter months ago when we overshot the parking lot of a restaurant on the river, forcing a turn-around in a parking lot with a large sign of a man shooting a bow.

Figuring this an ominous sign, we briefly abandoned our dinner plans to look around. Bismarck’s stellar Parks and Recreation District holds claim to this landscape of bow and arrow consisting of a shooting range, two outdoor field courses, and an indoor range.  Dedication to the sport oozed from each stick and string-wielding patron dotting the cracked parking lot.

Days later, bows in hand, we returned. We shot the outdoor course with ranges from 10-80 yards. We walked; we talked of hunting season in a far-off way, the distant future.

Months later, we returned with a sense of dread, of ill preparation.

Deer season is a measly five days away. Five days to hold our draw as long possible, break in new arrows, sight in broadheads, and, of course, scout for deer on a landscape that we’ve never trod, never seen, never hunted.

Luckily, we have this park, this Mecca of archery.

Our arrows had the toughest time as they were slung, lost, broken, twisted, plunged into wood, extracted from faux-antelope that refused to die, and were thrust again and again into targets of various compositions.

Poundages were increased, our arms screamed, backs ached, eyes strained. We turned, in a matter of shots, into archery automatons, working to perfect each shot with machine-like accuracy.

Hours later, the spell broke, droid-armor dissolved, when our arms refused to steady. We looked out over the destruction, the angry bear left standing, a frozen muley laughing in our faces, the bag targets still intact, swaying with the wind. We looked at one another, beaten, bedraggled, sweaty, dusty, unable to lift our arms.

We now look to the horizon, the four days we have to prepare. The archery park of ill preparation may have been just what we needed to fuel our tanks, to ready us for what is to come; to make us frustrated enough to continue.

Now, I lay in bed, staring at the fan as it completes another hundred cyclical revolutions.  My fingers travel over the keys sans assistance from forearms and biceps. They’re resting now for they know, once the rain passes, we’ll be back at the range and maybe, just maybe, this time the bear will fall, the muley will stop laughing, and that antelope will finally die.

The Writing Huntress writes, hunts, and wears a lot — a whole lot — of camouflage face paint. She has a soft spot for adopted pets, which makes it no surprise that her home is run by three rescues, Dixie, Titus, and Avery. TWH is married to an admitted huntaholic who is refusing treatment and oftentimes is lost for days only to be discovered wearing a ghillie suit. She can be found, with him in tow, surely, at the nearest blind, tree stand or whiskey emporium.

Feel free to follow TWH on Twitter, @WritingHuntress, on Instagram @WritingHuntress, at her blog,, or contact by email,