“I started bowh-unting four years ago, but have only taken one doe,” a friend mentioned with an air of discour-agement, while a group of us discussed this year’s archery deer season.
“Do you enjoy it?” I asked.
“I sure do,” he responded, “but one of these years, I’m hoping to take a good buck.”
What this bowhunter may not have realized, in reality, he already has had good luck. First off, taking any big-game animal with bow is a notable outdoor accomplishment, regardless of what it may weigh or the number of points that sprout from his head. In today’s world, the great tradition of hunting is about the entire ride — not the final destination. We should not let the outcome of an entire season hinge on a few precious seconds. As modern sportsmen, we should not lose sight of the real reason for which we are out there.
Hunting with archery equipment is supposed to be harder. It tests our ability and commitment to sit motionless for long periods of time or stalk stealthily and silent. By its very nature, bowhunting allows the hunter to step back in time, relying more on skill. It’s also a type of hunting that captures our greatest emotions.
Acceptances of the difficulty (and the failures that go along with it) indicate the growing maturity of a hunter. After all, on nature’s scoreboard, even top-level predators like coyotes, birds of prey and even mountain lions only succeed on a limited basis.
Ann Causey, a respected professor of philosophy at Auburn University has written extensively on why we hunt. She has pointed out that hunting success has been defined through tens of thousands of years of our existence. Our earliest ancestors fed and clothed their families through their hunting skills, and the amount and size of game taken were the standards for measuring one’s prowess. Historically, there was no concept of sportsmanship or bag limits. Anything went. You either made a kill or starved to death.
For the most part, this remained a valid measure of success until roughly the last century. In today’s world, virtually no one hunts solely for survival. Nevertheless, in some small, remote way, that old concept of success, as a measure of a hunter’s worth, remains.
Maybe this lingering attitude has now become a pale reflection of our highly competitive society, in which the final outcome is the yardstick to which everything is measured.
More than ever before, change is on the wind. Bowhunting success has come to mean much more than taking an animal. The underlying attraction to hunting with archery equipment is that it places the hunter and game on a more equal footing. We want to be challenged, then when success does come, it is much sweeter.
We no longer have to hunt to satisfy a growling belly, so new motivations and standards provide the drive to bowhunt. Like the famous phrase, “It’s not whether we win or lose, but how we play the game.”
Today, many hunters venture into the woods for the total outdoor experience. Learning about the game we seek, enjoying beautiful surroundings and a communion around a crackling campfire with family and friends is what’s important. These connections are what link us to our hunting roots, which are more important now that our lives are so far removed from the natural world. After all, why would we even want to hunt if we didn’t enjoy everything that went along with it? As long as a hunting trip is uplifting and fun, we have not failed!
But, don’t get me wrong. Occasionally taking game is important. A bowhunter works hard to become successful. Without harvesting game every so often, we lose intensity and direction unique to hunting with archery equipment. A connection to our past can be consecrated in no other way than by seeking and ultimately taking game — if only once in a while.
There’s no denying that our competitive juices kept man fed for many years and is part of the reason why we exist today. Those same urges are still a small part of why we hunt. But, seeing success is much sweeter once we realize that failure, by its old definition, is just fine too!
DEER HUNTING RESULTS
Several area hunters collected deer over the past week, including Quinton Young, who took a beautiful 10-point buck sporting a field dressed weight of 205 pounds. Here are the rest of sportsmen and women who appreciated sitting in a treestand, then found it necessary to visit one of our local deer check-in stations. This information, including weights after field dressing, is provided by Bryant’s Outdoor Store and Simpson’s Deer Processing.
Katie Trobaugh — 65-pound doe; Madison Rinehart — 115-pound doe; Missy Kirkman — 115-pound doe; Austin Ford — 150-pound, nine-point buck; Kole Kirkman — 110-pound doe; Mike Esslinger — 120-pound doe; John Koontz — 165-pound, nine-point buck; Herschel Conyers — 65-pound button buck.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.