August 25, 2022
A passionate bowhunter’s favorite time of the year is coming. In only a few short months, we’ll be climbing into our stands, hoping for that big chance to come to full draw.
With no choice but to wait until then, it’s during these summer months that we find ourselves “prepping” for success in the fall.
I don’t know about you, but right now I’m antsy, and I find every excuse I can to prepare for the best hunts I can have down the road. In the mornings, I drive back roads with a spotting scope in my lap, hoping to catch a glimpse of a buck. Come midday, I check trail cams to see if anyone familiar shows up in my regular stomping grounds. And, in the evenings I hang with the family and shoot bows.
Kelsy and I have two girls, ages 4 and 8, and they love shooting. Honestly, for me, they make archery fresh again. I’ve always loved the sport, but after 30 years of shooting, I don't get an adrenaline rush before, during or after flinging an arrow. It just is what it is. It’s a pastime that’s part of who I am, and I’ll always be an archer.
Now that I’m teaching my kids to shoot, I find my childhood butterflies coming back. When you’re crouched down on your knees, helping a 4-year-old girl come to full draw and patiently waiting for her to let it fly, in that moment your heart is pounding with anticipation. You know that if she hits the target 8 feet away, dead center, she’s going to scream with joy. And, if she misses, she might throw her bow in the dirt and collapse with a broken heart. That’s when you know archery is real again, and I love it!
I just painted the picture of how colorful life can be when you take time to include a child. Now, let’s take it one step further. The whole point of this piece was to help bowhunters better prepare for the fall. So, let’s home in on my original direction: scout all summer, find big bucks, practice shooting often — then take out a youngster or newcomer who wants to go hunting.
Guaranteed, there are hardcore guys out there shaking their heads in disbelief about what I just wrote. To some, this notion would shatter the peace and solitude that come with bowhunting. And I get that, but I promise you there will come a day when you'll consider this to be the best move you ever made as a sportsman.
In my experience, just like shooting a bow, the act of hunting has become decades of repetitiveness. I’ve found myself much more “comfortable” in the exciting moments — that is until I started taking newcomers with me. One day, I was sitting in a blind with a friend who was after her first buck. A spike appeared and she started breathing like she just ran a marathon. Her voice cracked as she whispered, “Can I take my safety off?”
I instantly snapped out of my relaxed daze. To me, this was just another small whitetail and I'd taken her to this spot to hunt for big bucks. I inconsiderately whispered back, “No, he’s not big enough.” Her body language reminded me of an untied balloon being let go. Over the next few minutes, my mind started racing. I watched her out of the corner of my eye, and I could tell that deer meant the world to her!
That moment made me realize so many great things about hunting — moments and things to which I had become immune. Or had I? It also made me realize that there were so many more moments that I could be living, that could be great again, as long as I had the right hunting partner.
It was then that I whispered to her to take the safety off. Within seconds, my heart was pounding harder than hers. The footage I was recording was too shaky to use, and I was using a tripod. Why was I losing control? Because my partner was! Her appreciation for things was brand new and in hunting, that excitement is contagious.
From that time on, I’ve done everything I can to interrupt my own hunting schedule to take others. It’s the best favor I’ve ever done for myself.
Last fall, one of the rookies I took hunting was Mason Moen. Mason wanted to be a bowhunter, and we made it happen as a team. The moment he arrowed his buck took me back to the day I arrowed my very first deer. My heart was pounding, just like his, and I had tears in my eyes like he did. There’s no way I ever would’ve had that much fun if I was alone that day.
This fall, do yourself a favor and take a kid hunting!