October 28, 2010
The Easy Way Isn't Always The Right Way (Or The Smart Way).
As a youngster, I soon came to the realization that this adventure that we call life was going to be a very interesting experience indeed. It seemed that I'd been blessed with a couple of friends that never saw eye-to-eye on things. One of my little buddies, a reddish fellow, with pointed tail and pitchfork, could always be found sitting on my right shoulder, constantly prodding me forward toward experiences that I knew I'd regret. The other fellow was of light complexion, adorned in white robe, wings and halo, and resided on my left shoulder, constantly warning me about the advice I was getting from the other side of my head.
As I grew up and began to become engrossed in my pursuit of bowhunting, my two little buddies constantly vied for my attention. Even though I'd long-since learned that I was better off to ignore the prodding of "Red," there was inexplicable allure in his ravings--he was a man of adventure, challenge and trouble. While "Whitey" patiently held on for dear life, Red took me on many outdoor adventures that I would never forget.
Over the years, Red has certainly taught me the reality of the old saying, "you've gotta be tough, if you're gonna be stupid!" Follow along with me as I take a light-hearted look at the dilemma all archery hunters face on a regular basis--making decisions, both good and bad.
Listen To Red, End Up Dead
I'd been backpacking for a long time. Evening was fast approaching, and I was still a long ways from my desired destination. All around me loomed rugged, alpine mountains as I plodded up the trail beside the creek drainage. I was hoping to get to the remote cul-de-sac where I wanted to camp early enough in the day that I would be able to set up a quick camp, then make an evening hunt. Realizing that my plans were going to come up short, I pulled my topo map out and began to look for a shorter route to my destination. My map hinted of a possibility of getting through a notch in the high ridge to my right. As I looked up the steep mountain, I quietly wondered if the route was truly negotiable. On my right shoulder, Red was in a vigorous rave about the fact that I needed to "give it a go," squealing loudly to me that I was a sissy if I didn't try it. At the same time, quietly attempting to impart sound judgment into my bombarded brain, my other soft-spoken friend sat on my left shoulder firmly shaking his head "no." As usual, I went with Red.
An hour later, and nearly two thousand vertical feet higher, I was starting to realize the error of my ways. The mountainside had turned into a series of narrow chutes between nearly vertical cliffs. I was only a short distance from reaching the top of the ridge, yet things were starting to get hairy. Not wanting to lose all the time and effort that I'd invested in my shortcut, I pushed upward.
With the summit of the ridge within sight, the chute that I had chosen became nearly vertical. Inside, I knew that attempting to make it over the top was going to turn into a life and death matter yet Red was cheering me on. Red had a lot of reasons why it was best to go on, while my other friend only had one reason why I shouldn't, but it was a good one. Throwing better judgment to the wind, I pushed upward.
Soon, I was no longer hiking, I was instead, rock climbing. Strapping my bow onto the back of my pack, I continued upward. Now, my heart was beating wildly not from the physical exertion, but from the sheer terror of my surroundings. I was going from one hand and foot hold, slowly to the next. One slip and I was dead. Sliding around the hill slowly around the mountain, I neared the top. With the top within sight, I dead-ended myself at a sheer rock face. I was not going to be able to get over the top, period. Slowly, and very precariously, I attempted to make my way back around the mountainside in the direction I'd come. I was still above the timberline, and now, the sun had set and darkness was at hand.
Red had become strangely quiet of late, so I glanced over at my right shoulder only to find him smiling smugly, clearly proud of the situation that he'd coerced me into. Quickly glancing to my left, I found Whitey much more pale than usual, and speechless. His "I told you so" look carried more than enough meaning. Gathering himself, Whitey suggested that I quickly attempt to find a flat spot upon which to sleep, before darkness completely engulfed us. Not even giving Red a chance for rebuttal, I eagerly followed Whitey's advice.
Spending that night on a four- by eight-foot piece of sloping, rough ground, with a 45-degree slope below you, certainly turned out to be an experience I'll never forget. Sleeping very little, I harangued Red all night, while at the same time, vowing to give Whitey much more credence in the future. And I did just that until time smoothed-over the pain and fear of that night. Soon I was entertaining Red again.
It was late-January, time to do next years scouting and tree trimming around perennial tree stand sites. Red, Whitey and I were on a mission to accomplish some much needed trimming of shooting lanes around one of my best stand locations. I didn't have anyone helping me with the physical work at hand, though I had plenty of mental help from my little buddies.
Whitey had been rather quiet on this particular day, lending to the fact that I hadn't been doing much of anything that was dangerous, dumb and/or illegal. Red, of course, was up to his usual no-good antics, trying to get me involved in something that might cover all of the above. He'd mentioned to me that I knew that a huge buck was living on the adjoining property (one I didn't have permission to hunt on), and he'd pointed out how I really needed to scout that area because there was surely a place over there where I could bow kill that huge buck. He also pointed out that no one else was hunting over there, and that the old farmer never went out into the woods on that section of his property anyway. Red was certain that hunting over there was okay. With my recent mountain experience still fresh in my mind, I decided to ignore Red even though one side of me found great appeal in his notions.
Unable to get me across the fence, Red embarked on another mission. He pointed out the fact that a particular limb, on a particular tree, was directly in the way of one of the shooting lanes around my nearby tree stand. He pointed out that I could climb the tree, slither out on a big limb directly above the target limb, and reach down and remove the limb. In a flash, I was up the tree.
As I pulled into town, I noticed a large group of people huddling around an old pickup truck. Glimpsing antlers as I drove by, I whipped into a parking spot and hurried to the gathering. There in the back of "Bubba's" truck was my trophy buck! Yes, sure enough, right here, right now, deader than a hammer, was my buck.
It seemed that the farmer's nephew had decided to go bowhunting for a morning. Heading down behind the barn, the weekend warrior climbed a tree. Shortly after daylight, a certain big buck came waltzing by, and Bubba killed it--with his third shot! Not wanting to "come-off" wrong to my fellow sportsmen, I quickly ran back to my truck and threw a temper tantrum in the privacy of my camper. Red and Whitey seemed to really enjoy the show.
Getting A Clue
Now, firmly entrenched in mid-life, I'm not nearly as tough as I used to be. The main reason for this is because I listen to Red very little nowadays. Now, for very good reason, every time that Red starts harping on me, a warning light goes off in my head. Boy am I ever glad that the old saying, "with age, comes wisdom" is proving to be true in my life. Maybe I'll make it after all!