The arrow’s flight

Long have been the hours

For you have practiced hard

And now success is not too far

For the choice of life or death is in your power

 

It has seen many a target

For you have shot it time and time again

To which your reaction was usually a slight grin

And now the lethal arrow is on its way and nothing can stop it

 

The stillness of the hunt is short-lived

As soon it will be no more

As the arrow is right at the door

The arrow’s flight ends as another challenge has arrived

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i am a killer

i am a killer.

I often have trouble sleeping at night.  This night is no exception.  It is 2am, and I can hear the rain coming down along with a slight breeze.  But I am not on a mountain, I am at my house in Bryan, Texas, with my fan on as I try to find a way to convince my body to sleep.  Too often I find myself thinking about all of my previous encounters with animals that got away or ones that I wounded.  The one that got away for me was a 360 bull in the backcountry of Colorado.  Every night I think about it.  He had a huge 4th point that was over 25 inches.  He had a huge body and a presence that truly was majestic. I battled this bull in a place that few men would go, and then chased him 4 miles up to 13,000 feet and down to 11,700.  After hours of hiking and tracking, I found myself 15 yards with my hair being blown back from his bugle.  I came to full draw but would never release an arrow as he never presented me a clear shot through the few branches that separated my arrow from both of his lungs.

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I have always said that “Well, even though I didn’t shoot anything, I still had a successful hunt.” I found that I said this more to please people and convince them that I wasn’t some cold blooded killer who loved killing innocent animals. Now just because you don’t kill an animal on a hunt doesn’t mean you are truly unsuccessful. However, if every hunter were to be completely honest, he would tell you that tag soup leaves a sour taste that lingers for a long time after the hunt.  Is there really anything that is worse than this feeling? I say yes.

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Hunting can be a controversial topic. I believe this has led to misconceptions on what the actual definition of hunting is.  I do not go out to “harvest” a deer or “collect” meat when I go hunting.  To put it bluntly, I go out to kill whatever I am chasing.  I have found myself almost downplaying the true meaning of hunting to appease other people’s ideas of what “hunting” is so that they don’t get offended.  Now there are some parts of a hunt that should not be shared and one should be cautious on being too gruesome in describing details. With this in mind, I have used the term “harvest” before in explaining to people my taking of a trophy buck, but I really didn’t harvest that buck. Crops are harvested, not deer.  When you say, “I killed this (insert animal)”, you can come across as a variety of different characters to different people you decided to share your story with.  I believe as hunters we have to find the “right story” to tell to people to educate them on “yes, did kill this animal, and here is why…”

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The situation couldn’t have been more perfect. I had snuck into the oak mont along our creek here in West Texas. Crawling into a west wind, I had spotted a 4.5-year-old 7 point chasing a doe about 100 yards away. He soon lost the doe and started walking away defeated.  I saw the opportunity presented and acted. The doe had walked behind me, and I knew that nothing would get this buck madder than if another buck showed up to steal his girl.  I rattle my antlers briefly, and just like that he is making a bee line right to me.  Everything came together perfectly.  He stepped out and presented me a 20-yard frontal shot. (A shot I am very comfortable in making) But I screwed it up.  I had held my bow for over 1.5 minutes and in the process had lost some mental focus in shot placement.  I had focused so hard on holding back my string that I had let my mind shift to the pain in my muscles instead of focusing on the buck. The result: A low non-lethal shot.  I tracked this deer for 600 yards and came to the conclusion that he would live on, and he did as I would see him later on in the season healthy as can be.

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There is not a feeling that hurts more than wounding an animal. Both my elk encounter and the buck encounter are learning experiences, and both leave a sour taste in my mouth.  I truly only failed at one though. My goal every time I go out to hunt is to kill my prey.  When I am presented with the opportunity to make a kill and fail, I feel sick.  The animal deserves to be killed in the fastest way possible by whatever means of weaponry you are using.  The sight and sound of a wounded animal is one that is never forgotten.  I have had to “finish off” deer with my knife and nothing about doing that is enjoyable.  I have sat beside a bull elk as breathed his last breath.  I don’t know how to describe it but the look I see in the animal as it breathes its last few breathes can rightly change a man.  All of a sudden I go from being a killer to being almost apologetic for the pain I have caused.  Killing an animal is whole lot easier mentally when they run off and die in the brush or drop in their tracks.

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Now I sound like I am getting emotional and overthinking this whole hunting thing, and you are right.  When you make a life goal, you want to accomplish it with 100% success.  All the time and effort you put into preparing for the opportunity to succeed builds your emotional ties to the subject.  When you come down to it, an animal dying in not graceful or majestic.  Killing is killing.  You are taking the life of animal that God has put on this planet.  With this responsibility, you have to find what you perceive as your personal ethics.  For me, as hard as it is to go into hand to hand combat to kill a wounded animal, it is what I believe the animal rightly deserves.

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Killing an animal isn’t everything to me though.  There have been many times where I have passed on a mature animal just because I didn’t feel like killing it.  Sometimes I find more joy in getting close and then sneaking out without my quarry ever knowing I was there. My first year of archery elk hunting, I passed up many bulls that would have been suitable “first bulls”.  Frankly, I didn’t want to kill.  It seemed that everyone wanted me to kill something to prove myself as the “Almighty Hunter”, and I did think about this in every encounter as I walked the line of life and death.  But I had a goal I had set and was going to do everything in my power to accomplish that goal, and not give in to what the outside world wanted me to do.

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I guess what I am trying to accomplish in writing all of these thoughts down is this.  Being a hunter means you have taken up the responsibilities that come with killing an animal.  Practicing, having the right equipment, taking ethical shots, honing your tracking skills, and meat care are all parts that you should try to learn and advance in.  The animal deserves your best effort as a hunter. When you do wound an animal and lose it (if you hunt long enough you will wound one and either lose it or have to track it a long ways and anyone who says they haven’t had this happen after so many years of hunting is probably lying), learn from that experience. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it makes you question rather you should go hunting again.  Visualize your mistake. Make the appropriate adjustments so that the next time you are presented with the opportunity to kill; you make it happen.

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As for me, I still think about all the animals that outsmarted me and the ones that got away with my arrow.  Every time I shoot my bow, I visualize these situations in hopes of bettering my skills both physically and mentally.  But no matter how much I practice, I will lose at least one animal in my next 50+years of hunting.  Sometimes stuff happens. As a hunter though, I don’t want to be judged on how many “trophies” I have taken or lost. I want to be judged on how I reacted in times of great obstacles. Rather that be passing up an animal because the shot isn’t 100% there, having to follow a blood trail on a bad shot or having to finish off an animal because it is suffering, I want my actions to show what I truly am.  Even though I am a killer, I find respect and admiration in the animals I hunt. I am blessed to of acquired skills that help me run through the mountains and walk across the brush country, and I will use these skills in a way that is ethical in the field of hunting.

Over the next ridge

Onward to face the greatest challenge I go

Not knowing what my future will hold

Ignoring all cautions, I have been told

Over the next ridge I go

Off into the darkness I see no light

Yet I quicken my pace and increase my stride

I look into my past and leave my pride

For going over the next ridge will give me new light

Never knowing when my journey will end

I fight until my dying breath

To reach my goal until I am finally laid to rest

So then over the next ridge I will go, as a new journey begins

The hunter

The previous day has just ended but you have just begun

For the battle to win the day is half as easy as the battle at dark

You topped the ridge, disregarded fear, for you have left your mark

But night sneaks up on you, captures you, and tells you your only way out is to run

But you will not run, for daylight brings new adventures

As the light shines in, you once again are greeted by the obstacle

The early morning climb leaves you exhausted as you crest the mountain standing tall

The sound of a distant bugle leads the way to wherever you dare to venture

The long days that have prepared you to run

For one second there is chaos and the next, stillness

For the woods have given up its treasure and the herd is one less

Silence is upon the mountains as a new challenge has begun

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having purpose

Through my adventures I have always had a camera, pen and paper. I have written many thoughts down and taken many a picture. My goal is for people to learn to love the nature and the outdoors through respect and ethical practices to which I strive to achieve.  My motto when I am out hunting or hiking is always to make it the next ridge.  But the adventure never stops once you reach it, as another ridge becomes visible. Thus you must press on to conquer the next challenge. The same goes with life.  You can’t “win” at life.  As soon as you overcome one obstacle, another one will present itself. When you are all by yourself in the wilderness, self motivation becomes hard to muster, and doubt creeps in as you begin to question your abilities.  Its funny how closely our walk with God correlates to hunting.  Sometimes I feel on top of the world after finding a bull elk I have been chasing all day. Then just when I think I am the world’s best hunter, my wind changes and the bull is gone forever.  The same goes with living your life walking with God.  One minute you are standing firm in your faith, and the next you are questioning if God really even exists.  Hunting has some many ups and downs, and you must be willing to learn through your failures.  99% of the time you will fail in some way, shape or form while you are out chasing your quarry. Life can truly beat you down and make you feel as if you don’t “deserve” to know Jesus. You will begin to lack the faith you have acquired and will begin to believe what society says about being a “Christian”. In these times of hardship and stress, the world truly sees what your values are.  My attitude towards hunting is that I am always trying to learn something new. Whether that be through failure or listening to another hunter’s experience, my goal is to never be the smartest person in the room.  I strive to achieve this goal I have for hunting with my walk with Christ, but I admit I fail most of the time at doing it.  I will not give up nor concede to temptations of this world as the next ridge is just on the horizon, and I know I am not alone in pursuing my goal.

My goal, in sharing my passion, is to help people see what true beauty we have in this world.We do this by hunting in such a way so that it is ethical and supports conservation for the animals that are given to us kill.  The journey to chase an animal is full of life lessons that can open someone’s eyes to the true Meaning of life.

A bow hunter’s prayer

Lord,

The season has been long

For I know my days are few in the woods

Yet I know were I belong

As I see my breath in the cold winter rain

I think of warmer days and previous hunts that went astray

And pray that today’s hunt will not be in vain

Give me guidance as I pursue my quarry

Give me the strength so that my shot will be true and my arrows straight

And let me be at peace

Though I may worry.