November 04, 2010
Archery adventure is where you find it.
In reading this issue of Bowhunter, you might wonder: Where are the big adventures? Where are the big bucks? This magazine is all about small stuff, close to home.
Well, big adventures and big bucks have their place. Rest assured, nobody loves taking big adventures or shooting big bucks more than I do. I live for such stuff.
But I'm not sure they're the stuff bowhunting is made of. Some media focus entirely on giant animals -- where to hunt them, how to measure them, how to display them. That's all well and good, and I have no problems with any of that. Certainly, Bowhunter publishes its share of stories about record-book animals.
At the same time, I think we must remember the other end of the spectrum -- the small stuff. In his feature, "Bargain Hunting" (page 32), Bob Humphrey demonstrates that you don't need big lands to enjoy big results. By applying your head and a little sweat, you can turn minimal acreage into productive hunting. Thinking small can produce big. And the satisfaction from backyard successes might exceed that from high-priced hunts across the Globe.
In "Bright and Early" (page 42), Cindy Osting relates the thoughts and feelings born during her first turkey hunt. No doubt, Cindy will go on to bigger and more astounding feats in her bowhunting career. But I would guess that a single morning spent with her husband, Jay, in a turkey blind, will remain at the top of her list of coveted hunting memories.
I love the story "Big City Bowfishing" (page 40), by Bruce Garahan, not because I've ever shot carp in New Jersey, or ever will. It's just that Garahan's story highlights a fundamental appeal of archery and bowhunting -- small, simple, seemingly insignificant activities can produce fond and lasting memories. You can shoot a bow almost anywhere, even in the middle of a city, and watching one well-placed arrow hit the mark -- even if that mark is a carp -- can produce a miraculous sense of accomplishment. Regardless of circumstances, the flight of the arrow has a huge "Wow!" factor.
One reality of bowhunting is that the cost of a hunt and distance traveled have little bearing on the depth of the experience. During recent years I've hunted from Alaska to Africa, and I will keep doing so as long as possible. I love it.
However, some of my best bowhunting memories come from my early years, when I didn't have enough money to hunt out of country, let alone out of state. So I found adventure where I could, mostly in the fields and pastures near my home in southern Oregon. While learning to shoot my recurve bow, I spent countless hours creeping across pastures at the pace of a great blue heron, flinging arrows at ground squirrels until my arms ached. I spent equal time stalking rockchucks -- the western version of the woodchuck -- as if they were trophy mule deer.
In particular, I remember excursions with my friend Dr. Bill Bechen. Given his office practice, hospital calls, and baby deliveries, Bill lived a hectic life, which left him little time for major excursions. So he grabbed hunts where he could. He always kept his bow in his truck, and often, after delivering babies all night, he would head straight to a field near the hospital at sunrise to hunt rockchucks for an hour or two.
He could sit for hours, patiently waiting for a chuck to poke its head out of a hole. Bill probably bagged more rockchucks than any other bowhunter in the history of Oregon. He had a great passion for all things bowhunting, large and small.
I cherish those days. As the bedrock of my bowhunting career, they developed my hunting skills, fueled my passion for flying arrows, and spawned some of my most cherished bowhunting memories.
Sure it's good to think big. Everyone should have dreams and strive to realize them. But in bowhunting, adventure is where you find it, and to reap that full adventure, never forget to think small.