Sharing bowhunting adventures with friends such as Bob Danenhower Sr. (left) and Matt Bednar are a big part of what makes our sport so special.
Like many hunters, I've often longed for the ability to be in two places at once. That sure would eliminate a lot of agony when deciding which stand to hunt each day!
I doubt science will ever figure out how to split me in two. However, I recently got a taste of what it would be like, thanks to a couple bowhunting buddies who joined me for my October elk hunt in Kentucky.
Technically speaking, Bob and Matt came along to hunt deer and turkeys while I tried to fill my cow tag. But much to my good fortune, it seemed they couldn't go very far in any direction without bumping into elk. One morning, they located a bedded cow, which I promptly missed. That afternoon, they steered me to an area that resulted in several heart-pounding stalks. And the following day, they located yet another hotspot that paid off big time when I still-hunted the area and took down a 350-pound cow.
That alone would have been more than enough to have me singing their praises. But Bob and Matt really proved their worth after the shot by using several hundred yards of rope, a pair of walkie-talkies and a Ford F-250 pick-up to pull off one of the most amazing elk extractions you'll ever see. Just imagine a field dressed elk carcass on a rope tow ski lift and you'll get the idea. That slick move saved us at least half a day of backbreaking labor!
You'll read all about my elk hunt in a future issue of BOWHUNTING, but my point is this: you can have all the high-tech hunting gear you want, but the best thing you can take into the woods is a good friend or two. Always has been, and always will be. My experience with Bob and Matt was a great reminder of that, and with Christmas just around the corner, it seems like a good time to remind you, too.
As you reflect on your own bowhunting experience, there are no doubt countless friends and relatives who have played critical roles in your success. Maybe you were lucky enough to find a veteran archer who served as a mentor when you were just getting started and didn't have a clue. Maybe you know a couple generous peers always willing to share one of their "hot" stands. Maybe you're not as young as you used to be, and you rely on some young hotshots with strong backs to make sure you still get out on opening day.
Regardless of the circumstances, sharing the hunt with friends vastly enhances our outdoor experience. These are the folks who celebrate when we succeed, keep us humble when we fail and share the load when the going gets tough. Truth be told, their companionship is invaluable. Short of doing the same for them -- plus sharing the occasional elk steak -- there really is no way we can repay them.
If you have a new bow, a dozen arrows or some fancy camo duds on your wish list this year, I sure hope Santa was listening. But when the excitement of those new toys wears off, take a moment to be thankful for bowhunting's greatest gift -- the relationships formed around our common love of the chase.
Merry Christmas to all my bowhunting brothers!