I WAS STANDING in the sporting goods section of an eastern Colorado Wal-Mart, buying my 1998 nonresident deer license buying spotting scope and read spotting scope reviews of customer before, when the inevitable happened. The efficient clerk behind the counter already had rattled off a familiar litany of questions – you know the ones, questions dealing with everything from an applicant’s name and address to date of birth, height, and weight. Eye color, too. Finally, after dutifully inking each of my answers in the appropriate blanks she finally asked the big question.
“Color of hair?”
“I’ve always said it’s brown,” I said, smiling as I doffed my Bowbunter cap, “but you tell me what you think.”
She barely glanced up. “Gray!”
My smile froze. Time stood still. Gray! She’d actually said it. Aloud. And that single spoken word somehow made official what I already knew. Because, despite the outdated physical information printed on my Montana driver’s license, despite the annual descriptive fiction I write when filling out my own nonresident application forms, and despite my ignoring what apparently is patently obvious to the entire Western world, that sales clerk’s utterance forced me to face one undeniable truth: What little hair remaining of my once-brown mane is now the color of a late winter’s day. Which isn’t surprising. Come to think of it, most of the well-worn camo hanging in my closet is older than most of the bowbunters I meet these days at trade shows, award banquets, and hunting camps.
Fortunately, my initial shock was short lived. After so publicly and abruptly being thrust into the realm of Old Codgerdom, I have come to recognize and welcome other unmistakable truths. For example, I realize that there are some people who actually respect their elders, who occasionally seek their sage advice and wise counsel. So to these special individuals – and to all other mildly curious readers – I gladly take this occasion at the dawning of a new century to share a handful of bowhunting verities. Each was learned firsthand during time spent afield over the past four decades. Take it from someone who knows, the following statements are absolutely true:
- Despite some folks’ efforts to reinvent the gun, bowhunting always has been, is now, and always will be a comparatively short-range proposition where the ultimate challenge – and thrill – lies in getting close to wary game, remaining undetected, and delivering a well-placed arrow.
- Good bowbunters regularly take their game regardless of the type or design of hunting tackle they personally choose to use – or are paid to endorse; conversely, using the same superhunter’s identical gear won’t necessarily make a poor bowhunter any better.
- Bowhunting trophies always should be measured in more important ways than the total inches of horn, antler, or skull; remember, any adult animal of either sex, legally taken under the rules of fair chase, is truly a trophy to the bowhunter fortunate enough to tag it.
- One day in the deer woods is better than any one week spent at work.
- Fishing is a pretty fair way to pass the time between hunts.
- “Hunters” who publicly wear sexually suggestive, obnoxious, or otherwise patently offensive t-shirts have IQs that total less than the draw weight of their favorite bows. Ditto for the clods who wear dirty, smelly, or bloody camo in public.
- There’s a special place set aside in hell for the idiots who do their “hunting” from the bed of a 4WD pickup or while sitting astride a noisy ATV or trail bike. This corner of hell resembles the bug-infested country of Canada or Alaska where all offenders must spend eternity wandering endless bogs, woodlands, and open tundras. Without insect repellent. Naked.
- Speed matters more at Daytona or Talladega than on the shooting line or in some treestand; no deer ever arrowed cared a whit whether a hunting bow was shooting 190, 240, or 310 fps. There’s simply no substitute for a well-placed, shavin’ sharp broadhead.
- The most outspoken critics of too much technology in bowhunting never complain about living in modern houses, driving motor vehicles, or climbing aboard a jet to reach some favorite far-way huntin’ area. Some even own computers.
- The most outspoken critics of traditionalists and their “primitive” hunting tackle conveniently fail to recall just how effective longbows and recurves always were before the advent of the compound. Nothing has changed, really, except today’s stickbows are better than ever.
- Using a compound should never be an excuse for taking shots beyond one’s effective shooting range; using a stickbow should never be an excuse for shooting poorly.
- Anyone who defines “bowhunting success” only in terms of bloody arrows and animals on the ground doesn’t belong in bowhunting.
- Becoming an old white-haired bowhunter isn’t so bad after all. Especially when you consider the alternative.