Updated: Feb 14
If you’ve bow hunted long enough you’ve likely faced a weighted decision – to shoot or let down. When I was introduced to hunting and shown the ways by my father, there were two major considerations I would learn to ponder: (1) safety; (2) ethics.
I was also taught that success is meaningful because it doesn’t come easy. That sometimes one must push the limits to achieve what otherwise may not have been achievable. In the world of hunting, pushing limits boils down to split-decisions, ownership and responsibility of the outcome. Whether it’s success or failure in the end, learn from your experience to repeat what worked and avoid what didn’t.
As a bow hunter I’ve killed deer by threading the needle, throwing Hail Mary’s and even lucked out with a bank shot or two, but I’ve also fumbled and failed. I’ve been dismayed, humbled and rejoiced all in the same hunt. The greatest lessons in life are those learned through experience, but greatness is not defined by success. Sometimes the greatest of lessons can be the hardest to learn. Wounding an animal without recovery and missing are two real case scenarios of cause and effect. Do not dismiss them but dissect them to learn and re-adjust for next time.
There is a heavy shadow looming over hunters and the heritage that unites us. In a time when living off the land and the animals that roam it has become choice, not survival, misinterpretations of why we hunt in the first-place casts dark clouds over what defines so many of us. What’s compelling about the anti’s emotion evoked assumption that hunters kill for sport is that in many ways we as hunters appreciate and respect the animals hunted more so than do those shouting disgrace and pointing fingers. It’s this very notion that we as hunters are reminded to take no lesson gained from experience in the woods for granted. We owe it to the animals we hunt.
Bow hunting is emotional because time is irreversible. As a bow hunter we watch the sun rise and we watch it fall. Hours become days and days become weeks. We think about life, family and hopeful scenarios of how the hunt will play out. When the chance encounter comes to life we’re faced with decisions. We must control the emotion of thrill created by a scenario we’ve waited so long for as it comes to life. It is in these critical minutes, seconds even, we’re faced with a final decision that may gift us with joy or haunt us with sorrow – shoot or let down. No matter the outcome, if you learn from success and failure equally then you will become a better bow hunter.
The next time you find yourself seventeen feet high in that old sycamore the generation before you planted, let instinct guide your hand and emotion draw your bow, but be aware of your better judgement.