The door creaked as I stepped into the bunkhouse. The noise interrupted a story being told by other hunters in camp. I found an empty seat as quietly as I could while the two hunters continued their recollection of the hunt.
“Yea, that pig was trying to get away, trying to get away and trying to get away and then all of a sudden she was just squared up and ready to fight! I’m glad you got that last real good one in her.” Thom said, picking up where he had left off.
“Yea, you remember that last arrow? As soon as it hit you could hear the whoooooooooosh. As all the air came outta her.” Donovan responded, taking his queue from Thom.
“What’s scary is we were close enough to hear all the air come our of her.” Thom replied in a calm and matter of fact tone.
The room erupted in laughter with even Thom, not one for wasting a laugh, chiming into the chorus.
As the laughter died down, Thom is in deep thought for a minute and then continues. “Yea, that was that one where there was one tree in the middle of that field. We tried to use that as a blind.” he said.
Donovan and Thom exchange a few details about the approach and then Thom continued. “You were to line up behind the tree with it between you and her and I would be lined up right behind you. Once we get to the tree we will sneak around it and then with our bodies lined up and the tree now behind us for back cover we were going to go STRAIGHT AT HERE!”
Chuckles break out but Thom continued, “SHE IS IN THE MIDDLE OF AN 11 ACRE FIELD!!!!” Laughter breaks out again and now Derek chimed in “Walking like Steven Segal!’ Another eruption of laughter almost drowning out Thom as he responded with, “EXACTLY!”
The tale continues:
“As soon as she knows the gig is up……” Thom said
“yea she started to move and we started running at the thing!” Donovan interrupted
“Then we start shooting! We are still at 40 yards. She whips her head up and she is zoned in, her eyes are on, the ears are up. She knows something is not right. I was like good! Donovan shoot!…..and Donovan freezes. I don’t know what you were thinking. Like maybe she will put her head back down or what. I am not sure what you were thinking but I was like its time to GUN!” Thom said.
“She was facing right at me! I was waiting for you to shoot!” Donovan retorted.
“I did! That one went right into the dirt’ I knew then it was a long shot.” Then we were gunning. Arrows are flying. I ended up pulling my arrow out of the dirt…………….” Thom exclaimed. Followed by another eruption of laughter.
About this time the duo remembered that this story was started based on something Sean had said while telling a completely different tale. Thom apologized and the floor returned to Sean and he resumed his story.
These stories continued with a room full of longbow hunters, the majority of them also being MLA members. This was one of several camps I have shared with bowhunters and fellow MLA members over the past 5 or 6 years. I listened but my mind and my eyes wandered around the bunkhouse.
Many of the memories flooded back to me all linked to my location. The memories were bittersweet for you see we were all seated in Andrew Harper’s bunkhouse at Wild Things in South Carolina. Andrew had been taken from us all in 2017 and I knew many of these stories had been told and retold in camp over the years. Andrew would listen to them intently every time they were told. Sometimes playing the part of having never heard the story before. Other times he might chime in with a southern quip or humorous remark that would just enrich the story even more.
My eyes, a bit blurry, looked around the room for a distraction from where my mind had wandered. The bow racks around the community room brought a welcome mental diversion. The pegs on these racks held bows of all manner of shapes and sizes. Arrows fletched in bright colors clashed with the earth tones of the wooden bows. I remember thinking that if most of those bows could talk they could all probably tell even better stories than the ones being told back and forth among the group of hunters. I felt a slight smile return to my face. But my mind did not drift far from thoughts of a good friend that will no longer share this camp with us.
The conversation in the room had now turned to “The Great Broadhead Debate” of 2 blades vs 3. Unlike the discussions we have all seen on the internet or social media, this discussion was lively and there was fun being poked back and forth. There were a lot of laughs to be heard, a few hunting results shared regarding the performance of each type and as the conversation began to die out many made a trip to the cooler to retreive their next beverage.
My gaze drifted to the back of the room, to a piece of framed art that had hung over the fireplace as long as I have been hunting at Wild Things. To this day I have never been able to figure out exactly what the art depicts. I have always assumed it was supposed to be something like the handle of a gate on an old wooden fence.
But this evening when I looked at it, it was like when you glance and an ink blot and a completely different image forms in your mind. The image my mind saw that night was the image of a cross. In an instant I felt a calmness, I can’t explain it but it was like Andrew was telling me he knew what I was thinking and that he was glad I am remembering him. Soon after I hear a voice in my head reminding me that I need to return my attention to the events around me and to embrace time with the friends that surrounded me. I looked around the room and I saw men who have become good friends. All men that I admired and cherished their company. I glance back to the artwork and I see the same old confusing imagery as I am used to. The cross is gone. To the right I saw a photo I framed and sent to Andrew a few years before. It was a photo of myself, Thom, Andrew and a couple other hunters that had shared camp for a week. Andrew was holding his dog, Harry, and has that smile on his face that was rarely missing. It was just one of his traits that I will never forget.
I turned around in my seat on the couch and did my best to revive what remained of the dying broadhead debate. I had some good lines to throw into the conversation. The first one that came to mind was that I would gladly shoot 3 blade broadheads again, as soon as I draw a tag to hunt Jellyfish!!! The laughter and groans of close friends washed over me, as warm as a South Carolina summer breeze.