With autumn’s first chill, we heed the call.

Our early archery deer hunting season is in full swing. With this comes a passion that will lead us on a journey lasting all of fall and part of the winter season. For some, this trip will be fruitful, resulting in venison for the table. But for the majority the only success will be eyeing the carrot on the stick. But is that a bad thing?

Since the age of 15, Kokomo resident Jarred Hughes has taken to the woods in search of his first deer. Archery seasons would come and go and success continued to elude him. There were times he was close, but the brass ring was just out of reach.

“Be patient,” we would tell him. “You’re time will come as long as you stay with it.”

What this young bow hunter may not realize, in reality, he has seen success. In today’s world, the great tradition of hunting is about the entire ride — not the final destination. I agree the outcome of a whole season can hinge on a few precious seconds but as modern sportsmen we should never lose sight of the real reason we are out there to begin with. It’s not all about antlers.

Hunting with archery equipment is supposed to be hard. Some take it to the extreme and use traditional recurves or longbows. It tests our ability and commitment to sit motionless for long periods or stalk stealthily and silent. By its very nature, bow hunting allows the hunter to step back in time, relying more on skill, and maybe a little luck. It is also a type of hunting that captures our greatest emotions.

There were several times Hughes had deer within ethical bow range.

“I just couldn’t get a clear shot because of limbs or brush,” he said dejectedly.

Acceptance 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 birds of prey, bobcats and even mountain lions succeed on a limited basis.

Randall Eaton Ph.D. has written extensively on why we hunt. He points out that hunting success has been defined through tens of thousands of years of man’s existence. Our earliest ancestors fed and clothed their families with their hunting skills. The amount and size of game taken was the standard for measuring one’s prowess. Historically, there was no concept of sportsmanship. Anything went. You either made a kill any way possible or you starved to death.

For the most part, this remained a valid measure of success and failure until roughly the last century. In today’s world, virtually no one hunts solely for survival. Never-the-less, in some remote way, the old concept of failure as a measure of a hunter’s worth remains.

Maybe in some ways, this attitude is a reflection of our highly competitive society in which the final outcome is the tape measure to which everything is measured.

More than ever before, bow hunting 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, and then when success does come, it’s much sweeter.

Thankfully, we no longer have to take to the woods to satisfy an empty belly, so new motivations and standards provide the drive to hunt with archery equipment.

Like sportswriter Grantland Rice once said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

Today, many hunters venture into remote areas 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 really important. These connections are what link us to our hunting roots which are the most important now that our lives continually move farther from our 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 the occasional taking of game is important also. A bow hunter works hard to become successful. Without harvesting game, at least occasionally, 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 of game – if only once in a while.

It was just last week, through years of patience and persistence Hughes, now 20, did succeed in taking his first deer with archery equipment, a nice seven-point buck. It was one of the highlights of his entire life.

“It finally happened,” he said over the phone when he called explaining his success.

There’s no denying that our competitive juices kept man fed for many years and is why we exist today. Those same urges are still a small part of why we hunt. But success is much sweeter once we realize that failure, by its old definition, is just fine too.

TOURNAMENT RESULTS

Paul Crow and Wayne Eads reeled in first place at Tuesday evening’s Delphi-Delco bass tourney, held on Mississinewa Reservoir, with three fish weighing 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Jerry Pickett and Terry Roe snagged second with two bass totaling 4 pounds, 1 ounce. Third place and the tourney’s honor for big bass went to Larrell Norris with one largemouth tipping the scales at 3 pounds, 1 ounce.

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at martinooutdoors@att.net.

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