A while back, I came across an editorial piece by hunter and comedian Jeff Foxworthy titled, “The Moment of Truth: You Either Have What it Takes, or You Don’t.” Honestly, the second part of the title irritated me and personally, I think it comes across a little arrogant. While not everyone has what it takes to be a hunter, every hunter has what it takes to seal the deal when that infamous moment of truth presents itself. Despite my distaste for the heading, I read on only to find that I agreed completely with Foxworthy’s bottom line — we all screw up!
By Keri Butt, D&DH Contributor
Anyone who reads my columns or has talked hunting with me for any amount of time knows full well I’ve always been quite outspoken in admitting the many blunders I’ve made as a deer hunter, past, present and those I’m sure I’ll make in the future. When I began bowhunting, the first three lessons I learned were (1) Nothing could prepare me for bowhunting like bowhunting, (2) No hunt is ever the same, and ( 3) Patience is hard. It doesn’t come naturally and is difficult to acquire. In fact, I’m still working on that one!
“If it were me …”
Through my writing I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to chat with a large number of hunters; men, women, and kids. They’ve ranged from beginner to veteran to everything in between, and I’ve learned plenty from each. I’ve also come across hunters who have, somewhere along the line, developed a severe case of selective memory while spouting bits of unwanted advice about a shot they never would have taken, tactics that should or shouldn’t have been utilized, or the list of things they’d do differently if they were you.
I’m sure they mean well but this kind of hunter always fails to mention one thing; they’ve screwed up too.
There are bloopers, and then there’s colossal
I can assure you, I’ve produced more than my fair share of both. Am I proud of them? Absolutely not. Have I learned from them? Absolutely.
A couple years ago I was sitting at home one afternoon. The combines were rumbling and my camo was calling. For a reason I can’t recall, I’d told my two younger kids that I’d pick them up from school that day which meant I couldn’t go hunting. At some point, a brilliant idea struck me. I called the high school office and had them page my 17-year old daughter, and asked if she could bring the younger two home so I could go hunting. She said yes, but not before telling me I needed serious help.
I didn’t waste time and before long, I was attempting to sneak into a treestand at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. (Not one of my brighter moments!) Cresting the top a small hill, I noticed three deer bedded on the edge of the woods 30 yards from my stand. They hadn’t seen me. I instinctively dropped to the ground and laid on the edge of a chisel plowed field until my back side was numb and my head hurt from being pegged with a falling walnut square between the eyes.
Getting to my feet, I couldn’t see the deer anymore, so on toward my stand I trudged until I saw three flashes of white leaping straight away from me. A smarter hunter would have called it quits. Not me. I climbed in my stand and sat. Not surprisingly, I didn’t see a thing. When I got back to my car and went to put my bow back in the case, there hung my release. Not only had I forgotten it, but I’d sat in a stand for hours and not realized I’d forgotten a vital piece of equipment.
That afternoon was a blooper in which I can laughingly call myself a moron and move on. It’s the colossal ones that sting indefinitely and every hunter makes them.
Pride crushers …
The first deer I shot with my bow was seven years ago. It was the opening day of archery season as well as my inaugural bow hunt. It was also the first time I felt an adrenaline rush give way to sheer nausea when I’d learned that I’d made a bad shot on a big doe. The most embarrassing part of it, though, was that I didn’t realize it until I watched the faces of my husband and brother as they studied the arrow. I was utterly devastated.
If that first go-around wasn’t enough, a couple weeks later, I got the opportunity to redeem myself. It was another doe, but once again I rushed the shot. As soon as I saw fur through my sight, I launched an arrow. The arrow hit the doe high in the back on her right side. As she ran off, I could tell the shaft hadn’t penetrated very far. I decided then and there to give up bow hunting. I couldn’t make a clean shot, and I couldn’t get a grip on my nerves. The night got worse when a neighbor saw the deer about a mile from where I shot her with the arrow still in her back. The next morning, my dad saw her heading into our woods. I took my bow and headed that way. I ended up bumping her. As I watched her run off with the arrow that I had placed there stuck in her back, everything in me sank. I never saw her again.
That night, sleep was impossible. There was a huge part of me that felt I should give up. I’d never be a “good hunter.” But, an even greater part of me knew that there quitting was not an option. I couldn’t, because when I wasn’t looking, bowhunting had encompassed my entire being where it’s remained ever since.
Hunting is a lot like life …
It rarely goes as planned. You can have top of the line gear, plant the greenest food plots, and litter the woods with foul smelling real and simulated animal secretions, but if it’s not meant to be, then it won’t.
Deer hunting can have us on our feet with fists pumping thin air. Other times, it can bring us straight to our knees, literally and figuratively. Every once in a while, it does both.
One thing is for certain though; deer hunting hands out some pretty epic lessons in humility, teaching us to be better, but never perfect hunters.
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