October 28, 2010
Archery Adventures With A Woman's Touch.
Eddie and Peggie Claypool enjoy a moment of marital bliss alongside the bruiser buck Peggie arrowed during a November 2007 hunt in Kansas. Despite the trials and tribulations they experience along the way, sharing success in the field is a major reward for this bowhunting couple.
When Peggie and I married a little over six years ago, little did I know I was about to gain a new bowhunting partner. Having always fancied myself a fiercely independent, hardcore and effective outdoorsman, I had no idea what kinds of changes were about to take place in "my" time afield. In theory, having a wife as a bowhunting partner struck me as a good idea -- there were a lot of fringe benefits! But when it came time to put this idea into practice, I came up against one of the greatest challenges I've tackled in all my years afield.
The first few years Peg and I spent hunting together were very bittersweet times for both of us. We experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows, both fun and frustration.
From my point of view, you had "Captain Claypool" to the rescue -- nothing like a man with a mission (ladies, do you detect a hint of danger?). The way I saw it, this was my chance to rescue this poor, hapless bowhunter who didn't have a clue what "real" bowhunting was all about. In my mind, she needed to be shown how to be serious, focused and effective. Oh yes, I was just the guy to git 'r done!
Meanwhile, Peggie had her own ideas about bowhunting and the whole outdoor experience. To her, it was all about fun and enjoyment. The problem was, her idea of fun and enjoyment didn't exactly match up with mine -- actually, not even close. At first, this led to some real head butting between us, but slowly, over time, we both moved toward common ground. It hasn't been a cakewalk, but I don't think either of us first-class hardheads would have had it any other way.
One of Eddie Claypool's funniest memories of hunting with his wife Peggie is the time she emptied an entire quiver full of arrows while trying -- unsuccessfully -- to hit a large buck that was chasing a doe below the stands she and Eddie were in. Unfortunately, Eddie said, Peggie didn't find much humor in it at the time.
Please allow me to share some of the trials and tribulations involved in the making of a bowhunting team that will hopefully endure for a long and certainly hilarious lifetime.
Believe me, bowhunting with "Blondie" has given me a whole new appreciation for the old saying, "never a dull moment."
When I slipped that ring on Peggie's finger, I inherited a couple of rings of my own -- a gold ring and a circus ring! My little Blondie is a show worth attending. Whether to an audience or solo, Peg is a real comedy show and a tough act to follow. Although she made me promise not to reveal some of her most embarrassing moments afield, believe me when I say there's still plenty of great material even if I leave the worst ones out.
The Painful Break-In Period
I looked like Fred Sanford in camouflage -- loaded to the hilt with junk, moving slowly along. As I trudged through the woods with Peg strolling merrily beside me, I couldn't help but wonder at my predicament. It was the peak of the whitetail rut, I still had a buck tag in my pocket, and here I was...guiding a dame! The pack on my back was stuffed to capacity with a few necessities for the hunt, along with a whole lot more crap my new bride wanted to bring. A treestand was strapped to my backpack, another treestand rode in my left hand and my bow swung in my right hand. Carrying nothing but her bow, Blondie bounced gleefully along, excited about her carefree day afield.
Riding mules for remote pack-in hunts is just one of many new experiences Peggie Claypool has enjoyed as part of her marriage to the author. Eddie Claypool says watching his wife do many hunting-related things for the first time takes him back to his early hunts.
By the time we arrived at our hunting location, sweat was rolling down the crack of my butt. Free as the breeze, Blondie quickly began darting happily about, examining every nearby tree and rock. Shedding my massive burden of gear, I quickly urged her to "calm down and be quiet." Beginning the arduous task of erecting two treestands, I worked as quietly and quickly as possible while my babe sat below, smiling beautifully. After about an hour of hard labor, I'd placed 17 tree steps, hung two stands and trimmed a few limbs.
Climbing down, I informed Peg it was time to get into her hunting clothes so we could climb up and start our evening hunt.
In a very matter-of-fact way, my darling quickly informed me, "Those treestands are too high for me, and those tree steps are too far apart for me."
Staring into her eyes, I stood there speechless -- a rare condition for me. Not knowing whether to laugh, cry or simply strip off my clothes and run naked through the woods screaming, I finally found the composure to politely persuade my bride to, "Please try and get up there so we can make this hunt work." Very unsettled, she finally agreed.
Having placed one treestand directly above the other, I quickly climbed to the upper stand to show my babe there was nothing to this stuff. Watching with that deer-in-the-headlights look, Blondie's look of pleasure had vanished. Deciding she was up to the task, however, up she came. At about the twelfth step, progress ground to a halt. Frozen to the side of the tree, Peg was locked up. No amount of coaxing, pleading or instructing could elicit a response. We had a problem!
Finding myself panicked now, I tried my best to talk my girl through her perilous situation. Nothing worked. She wouldn't talk or try to go up or down. Finally, realizing this was a drastic situation that was going to require drastic measures, I set about the task at hand. Climbing to the stand below, I quickly started down the steps, headed to my damsel in distress.
Peggie Claypool heads h
ome, bow in hand, after an afternoon hunt. One of the advantages of hunting with her husband Eddie is that Peggie doesn't have to lug all her heavy gear into and out of the field!
When I reached her, I was able to climb around and over her using nearby tree limbs. Finding myself directly below her, I told her I was going to begin moving her feet to steps below, one at a time. Slowly but surely, we made our way to the ground.
A little while later -- after Peg had settled down a bit -- I spent most of the next hour undoing my previous treestand erection work. Stuffing my pack full, strapping two treestands on my back this time, I carried a bow in each hand as my shaken companion followed quietly along. Arriving back at the truck right at the prime evening hunting period, I marveled at the freak show I'd just participated in. This "hunting with a girl" stuff was going to take some getting used to.
Pass The Ammunition
I'd scouted the spot in late October. Understanding the area's potential, I erected two treestands in hopes of bringing my Blondie to this location during November. Now, the time was upon us.
It was the peak of the rut, and as we climbed into our stands, everything was right for a good hunt. I'd already filled my tag, so I'd simply sit back and enjoy the show while recording the action on film. From the get-go, this was a hunt to remember -- or maybe forget, depending which side of the fence you were on.
Peggie's first buck, November 2004, Kansas.
In our stands less than 15 minutes, a buck-after-doe chase quickly came upon us. As I rolled the camera, Peg prepared to do battle. At her first shot -- yes, I said "first" shot -- I glimpsed her arrow glance off a large limb slightly below us. I peered around the viewfinder of the camera, stealing a peek at my partner. With a look of sheer confusion, my girl quickly asked, "Did I get him?"
In total amazement, I quickly whispered back, "No, you didn't even scare him."Grabbing another arrow, then another, then another, etc., Blondie proceeded to empty her quiver into the action playing out beneath us. Now I had a genuine three-ring circus to enjoy -- the buck, the doe and Peggie! Unable to decide which of the three I wanted to film most, I simply sat back and shook my head in disbelief.
By the time the proverbial smoke had cleared, Blondie had that familiar, glassy-eyed look I'd come to expect of her recently.
Laughing so hard I had tears running from my eyes, I asked, "Do you want me to go down there and get some of your arrows so you can giv'er another go?"
Not finding any humor in my remark -- and shaking so hard I feared she might test her safety belt at any moment -- Peg found her way back into her seat. Giving me a look only a woman can issue, I thanked God our treestands were 10 feet apart.
A little while later, after we had both composed ourselves, we climbed down and started hunting for arrows, recovering three of five. Taking my girl back to the truck to replace dull broadhead blades, I couldn't help busting out in gut-splitting bouts of laughter every once in a while. It took a while, but soon my honey began to see some humor in the situation. Soon we were both laughing uncontrollably, acting like little kids. Hey guys, aren't girls great?
We've Come A Long Way
Despite the many growing pains and in-the-field hilarity Peggie and I have experienced, it would be wrong -- very wrong -- to underestimate my Blondie. In fact, looking back, it's amazing to realize how far and fast she's come.
When Peggie and I first got together, she'd been hunting deer with both gun and bow for many years. Sadly, no one had ever given her any help, and she was stuck in some unproductive ruts. Her archery equipment was ill fitted, her clothing inadequate and she hunted poor areas.
As I helped iron out some of these problems, I was thrilled to watch her take to the sport like a duck to water. As I watched her develop a love of bowhunting, I began to taste a newfound passion of my own -- helping others.
And since I'd spent most of the past 20 years selfishly soaking up the out-of-doors by myself, everything became new to me again.
To say my babe has been a quick learner would be an understatement. In the past six years, she's taken three does and four mature bucks with her bow. And though it's injurious to my pride to admit it, Blondie actually outdid "Captain Ed" (and all of his male hunting buddies) a couple seasons ago. Her 140-class bruiser topped all the "guys" in our whitetail hunting crew!
I'm blessed to have a best friend, wife and hunting partner like Peggie to share life with.
And there's no doubt the lessons she teaches me are far more valuable than any woods savvy I can offer her. She lightens my days, keeps things in perspective and always does it with a smile.
Now that's a hunting partner!