June 29, 2017
By Fred Eichler
Last year was a pretty normal one for me until the end of September, when my shoulder just quit working. I had banged it up in the past, but in September something just happened. Simple things like putting on my shirt, or reaching for anything, suddenly became super painful. I struggled with it for a while, hoping it would heal. Other old injuries I had in the past had healed quickly, so I just assumed this one would, too.
Drawing my recurve was out of the question. For almost two months I waited, hoping it would heal. During that time I had to cancel hunts, including a whitetail hunt in Kansas with friends I had been looking forward to all year. That was almost as painful as my shoulder!
As if things weren't bad enough, I had also been working on a new signature recurve with Hoyt, and I had a second-version prototype I wanted to shoot badly. After trying unsuccessfully multiple times to draw my bow, I decided it was time to see a doctor.
After an MRI and X-rays, the verdict was that old scar tissue was impinging my rotator cuff. I could wait and see if it slowly healed itself with physical therapy, or have surgery. I elected self-healing. I skipped physical therapy, as I figured just doing stuff every day on the ranch was therapy enough. Since I had gone through two knee operations in the past, I wasn't a big fan of surgery. In fact, both operations were on the same dang knee. One was my fault, and the other was the result of an alligator grabbing my knee (long story).
After another four weeks, I got to where I could barely pull the 35-pound legal minimum weight for hunting in Colorado. Don't misunderstand me, I know people who bowhunt with serious handicaps, illnesses, and injuries far worse than what I was dealing with. It was just a terrible feeling not being able to draw my bow at all with my right or left hand. Shooting wasn't fun — it was a struggle. I also felt bad because I realized I had always taken my health for granted.
Despite my frustration with my shoulder, I decided to head out and try hunting anyway. I had an Ameristep blind set up on the edge of one of our fields the whitetails had been using on a regular basis, so I decided to hop in it and see what happened.
The very first afternoon in the blind, a whitetail doe walked by at 23 yards. Normally, that's a shot I would be totally confident in making. But I wasn't exactly feeling normal, so I let the doe pass. The next time I went out nothing came by, but it sure beat sitting at home making my wife mad by complaining about my shoulder.
A big snowstorm hit us a few days later, so I decided to head back out. The blind had collapsed under the snow, and I tried to pop the hubs back up as quietly as possible. That evening, a buck came out on the far side of the field and started feeding. He disappeared for a while, and then popped back out right next to me. When he came by at about 10 yards, I drew back.
Anchoring was a struggle, even with my bow's light draw weight. But when I released, I watched my pink-fletched Easton Axis arrow hit the buck in the chest. I was more than a little excited, but that's normal for me. The Colorado whitetail didn't make it far before dropping dead in the snow. My Muzzy head had cut a rib going in and was just poking out the other side of the buck when I rolled him over.
It was the lightest bow I had ever used to kill an animal, but I was proud of the shot and the performance of my setup. My hope is that I will continue to heal, and I will soon be back to my normal 54 pounds. I can say if I do make it back to that weight, I will never take drawing without pain for granted again. I hope you won't either.