It Would Be Robin Hood’s Finest Hour
The bow I carried on the hunt was decidedly superior to the one I wrote about in my book, Horizons East. It was, in fact, a Browning of good quality, but hunting with it had not led to any noticeable increase in the amount of venison I brought home. The problem with my bow hunting lay in the sad fact that I possessed few if any of the skills so well demonstrated by the legendary Robin Hood. Had I, like that famed archer lived in the 13th century, the King’s deer would have been perfectly safe from me and I would never have gone to jail for poaching. Come to think of it, there was little if any danger of my being imprisoned for the same crime in the 20th century either. Indeed most of my bow hunts ended with my missing deer by a distance measured not by inches, but by feet. My first shot at a doe with my first bow (A recurve) resulted in my hitting an iron wood tree a good two yards, possibly even three, in front of the deer. The broad head is still there as far as I know more than forty years later, buried too deep to be removed. Amazingly, I did take a couple of squirrels with the bow.
Yet, even my frequent practice sessions had a decided tendency for disaster. Mr. James Jewell, a member of my church and one of the finest old gentlemen I have ever known, invariably showed up at the parsonage shortly after I began shooting. He was not a hunter, much less an archer, but his many questions about the sport often resulted in my becoming so distracted I ended up scattering arrows all over the back yard. So, not surprisingly I spent a good amount of time looking for lost arrows or at the archery shop getting my aluminum shafts bent back into shape.
Now that my credentials in the field of archery have been firmly established, I will press on to that moment I consider my finest hour as a bow hunter. The time and place could not have been more perfect. The time was a day in the late October of an exceptionally lovely autumn. The woods were beautiful to the point of taking one’s breath away. The place was Buck Scrape Ridge on the old home place. The ridge overlooked Black Jack Hollow where I had had, and was yet to have many of the best experiences of my hunting career. Years after that, I would take one of my first deer with my new 45.70 rifle at the same spot. Still later, I would shoot my first deer ever with the 7x57 Mauser in the hollow below the ridge. As the name of the ridge implies, it was covered with deer scrapes every fall and winter. That season was no exception.
Much earlier in the year, I’d anchored the stand from which I was hunting to a tree that stood on the top of the ridge. The stand was designed and built by Ted Dahlem, one of the deacons of my church and a very close friend. I decided to begin my hunt that day around two in the afternoon, aware that there was the possibility in those deep woods of seeing deer at any time. I was fortunate in going to my stand early since I had only been there a short time when an eight point buck came from a pine thicket nearby and fed slowly through the hardwoods. The animal was in bow range almost at once, and I had to fight down the urge to shoot too quickly. However, I waited since the deer gave every indication of eventually coming closer. Then too, I was painfully aware of the limitations imposed by my poor shooting, and wanted to take my shot from the closest range possible. As the minutes went by, the buck slowly fed up the ridge and stopped within fifteen yards of my stand.
Meanwhile, quite unknown to me, my wife had arrived at my parents and finding no one at home had started down the trail that led to my stand. (Oh no!) Fortunately for me and my hunt, Patsy took the wrong branch of the trail and followed it to another part of the property. On such choices rests the success or failure of a hunt! (I might also add and the likelihood of a divorce as well. Actually, I’m kidding about the last.)
Blissfully unaware of my wife’s presence in the woods, I realized the time to shoot had come. The deer’s position was almost perfect. I drew my bow, released the arrow, and heard it strike with the unmistakable sound of a solid hit. The buck didn’t move out of its tracks, but instead stood looking around as though completely puzzled as to what had happened. I could clearly see my arrow protruding from the opposite side of the deer’s body. The entire length of arrow with the exception of that section from where the fletching begins to the nock had passed through the animal. I had hit a little high and a little far back, but the hit was more than sufficient. After a minute or so, the animal began walking away only to stop again when it reached the ATV trail in the bottom of the hollow. Seconds later the buck collapsed and lay still.
I quickly left the stand and hurried to inspect my venison. When I turned the buck over, blood gushed from the wound left by my four bladed broad head. Without question my arrow had severed a major artery and the deer had quickly bled out. Leaving the eight point buck where it lay, I hurried out to get my ATV and was able to ride to within inches of it. I loaded the buck and was soon at my parents (they had returned home) showing off the best hunk of venison I had ever taken or ever would take with the bow.
Thankfully, Patsy had also found her way out of the woods and back to the house. It was my finest hour as a would be Robin Hood!