There is nothing like the excitement that grows in a bowhunter as the opening day of deer season approaches. Countless hours of preparation during the off season are in the books. The days spent scouting areas old and new have passed. investments in equipment maintenance, repair or perhaps something new have been made. Hours upon hours of shooting, whether foam targets, hay bales, or random leaves and stumps honed the archer’s skills for the time when he will transform into the bowhunter. The dawn of opening day arrives. Now, clad in camouflage and surrounded by the colors of fall, the archer has become the predator awaiting his prey and the seasons change.
Weeks pass and the vivid colors of fall yield to the browns and grays of winter. The bowhunter now sits in the cold, thinking of a warm fire and hot coffee back at camp. His senses, now polished from hours immersed in nature, are attuned to all the sights and sounds the forest has to offer. The forest noises are subtle now, as if stolen by the fading of autumn colors. Even the rustle of leaves is but a memory. Now the wind speaks with a faint and muffled voice: its only conduit being the bare and barren limbs. The deer’s movements is less as well, but on the rare occasion when they do move, the hunter is able to detect them easier than the early season. The rush of adrenaline the sighting of game brings is all the more welcome as well. It masks numb fingers and frigid toes and brings the hunter’s blood to a simmer. Soon, the last day will come when the bowhunter will be forced back his normal, mundane existence. The deer will focus on a different threat — the search for food. The seasons change once again.
Yellow daffodils appear, poking their heads through the snow like tiny bursts of sunlight, refusing to be dominated by Father Winter any longer. Tree buds show the first hints of green and soon pink crabapple blossoms will appear Warblers, Sparrows, and Yellowthroats begin to make their appearance — their chirps and songs a familiar reminder spring is on the way. The archer, stir crazy and longing to feel the tension of the bowstring, looks forward to the social season of archery. Rendezvous, exhibitions, banquets and 3D tournaments are on the agenda. Tossed into the mix for some is the pursuit of turkeys, carp and feral hog. What can be viewed in many ways as a solo sport now takes on aspects of a group activity. The chill of winter will soon be forgotten and the cycle continues as the seasons change.
Wool and flannel become t-shirts and shorts. Archers don Crocs, flip flops and sneakers, instead of clunky, insulated boots. The summer sun beats down. Shooting gloves and bow grips become darker with perspiration. The archer practices his art, sending arrow after arrow downrange. The mechanics that make his “form” repeated over-and-over until the shot is second nature. Focusing intently upon a target, the archer’s mind imagines a single hair just behind the shoulder of a monster buck. The ultimate goal is to split the hair with a razor sharp broadhead and provide sustenance for the year to come. Meanwhile, the intended quarry is living the good life. Browse is plentiful, along with planted row crops and family gardens rich with the delectable treats a summer whitetail craves. Mothers are welcoming new fawns into the world throughout the herd. For some it is their first experience at motherhood, for others it is a practiced routine. The fawns, with their spotted coat, will spend much of their day hidden in plain sight. They curl up, temporarily abandoned by a cautious mother who must feed in order to provide nourishment for her young. An intruder disrupts the whitetails’ solitude now and then. The bucks and wise old does monitor their activities from a distance. They seem to know, at least for the time being, the intruder poses no immediate threat. Still, experience and instinct reminds them they have seen this cycle before. Soon, the fight for survival will be renewed. The intruder will become a predator, the whitetail will again become the prey. With comfortable predictability the seasons change.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Stick Talk. The publication of the Michigan Longbow Association.