Above- Joe Ford proudly displays his first deer taken during the special youth deer hunting season. Photo provided.
With autumn’s first chill we heed the call. Our early archery deer hunting season is in full swing. With this comes a passion that will lead us on a journey lasting all of fall and part of the winter season. For some, this trip will be fruitful, resulting in venison for the table. But for the majority the only success will be eyeing the carrot on the stick. But is that a bad thing?
Since the age of 13, Galveston resident Drew McRae has taken to the woods in search of his first deer. Archery seasons would come and go and success continued to elude him. There were times he was close, but the brass ring was just out of reach. “Be patient,” his grandmother Diane Turner would tell him. “You’re time will come as long as you stay with it.”
What this young bow hunter may not realize, in reality, he has seen success. In today’s world, the great tradition of hunting is about the entire ride – not the final destination. I agree the outcome of a whole season can hinge on a few precious seconds but as modern sportsmen we should never lose sight of the real reason we are out there to begin with.
Hunting with archery equipment is supposed to be hard. Some take it to the extreme and use traditional recurves or longbows. It tests our ability and commitment to sit motionless for long periods or stalk stealthily and silent. By its very nature, bow hunting allows the hunter to step back in time, relying more on skill. It is also a type of hunting that captures our greatest emotions. There were several times McRae had deer within ethical bow range. “I just couldn’t get a clear shot because of limbs or brush,” he said.
Acceptance of the difficulty and the failures that go along with it indicate the growing maturity of a hunter. After all, on nature’s scoreboard even top level predators like birds of prey, bobcats and even mountain lions succeed on a limited basis.
Randall Eaton Ph.D. has written extensively on why we hunt. He points out that hunting success has been defined through tens of thousands of years of man’s existence. Our earliest ancestors fed and clothed their families with their hunting skills. The amount and size of game taken was the standard for measuring one’s prowess. Historically, there was no concept of sportsmanship. Anything went. You either made a kill any way possible or you starved to death.
For the most part, this remained a valid measure of success and failure until roughly the last century. In today’s world, virtually no one hunts solely for survival. Never-the-less, in some remote way, the old concept of failure as a measure of a hunter’s worth remains.
Maybe in some ways, this attitude is a reflection of our highly competitive society in which the final outcome is the tape measure to which everything is measured.
More than ever before, bow hunting success has come to mean much more than taking an animal. The underlying attraction to hunting with archery equipment is that it places the hunter and game on a more equal footing. We want to be challenged, and then when success does come, it is much sweeter.
Thankfully, we no longer have to take to the woods to satisfy an empty belly, so new motivations and standards provide the drive to hunt with archery equipment. Like sportswriter Grantland Rice once said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”
Today, many hunters venture into remote areas for the total outdoor experience. Learning about the game we seek, enjoying beautiful surroundings and a communion around a crackling campfire with family and friends is what’s really important. These connections are what link us to our hunting roots which are the most important now that our lives continually move farther from our natural world. After all, why would we even want to hunt if we didn’t enjoy everything that went along with it? As long as a hunting trip is uplifting and fun, we have not failed.
But the occasional taking of game is important also. A bow hunter works hard to become successful. Without harvesting game, at least occasionally, we lose intensity and direction unique to hunting with archery equipment. A connection to our past can be consecrated in no other way than by seeking and ultimately taking of game – if only once in a while.
It was just last week, through years of patience and persistence McCrea, now age 20, did succeed in taking his first deer with archery equipment, a nice eight-point buck, tipping the scales at over 170 pounds. It was one of the highlights of his entire life.
There’s no denying that our competitive juices kept man fed for many years and is why we exist today. Those same urges are still a small part of why we hunt. But success is much sweeter once we realize that failure, by its old definition, is just fine too.
Goodbye to an old friend
The first time I met Jack Feightner I was 16. It was hunting that drew us together, but it was his charming, warm personality that kept us friends. “Why aren’t you working,” he would always say when I stopped by to visit.
Feightner was well known through his excavation business, but I more respected him because of his outdoor pursuits. In 1975 it was him that helped worked out the details for my first elk hunt in the Montana wilderness with my father.
Through the years the Kokomo businessman travelled the globe taking every species of North American big game with his trusty Remington model 700. Out of deep respect, I have the same gun patterned after his. Even while in his eighties, he travelled to the Arctic and Alaska in pursuit of moose, grizzly bear and muskox, attaining feats no one his age could possibly endure. Even up until his death, he was planning on accompanying a friend to the Arctic Circle on a hunt for polar bear.
Several weeks’ back, at the age of 88, Feightner passed away, leaving a legacy few will ever surpass. His funeral was more of a celebration of his life, detailing service to his country, his business and the activity he cherished, hunting big game.
Whether he was spending time with family and friends, working or hunting, he approached everything with the upmost in dignity, class and respect. Those that knew him know what I am talking about. For those that didn’t, well, I am sorry.
Goodbye old friend. Thanks for the memories.
Deer Hunting Results
With the early archery deer hunting season now in full swing many sports minded people are taking to the woods. Taking any deer with archery equipment is a notable outdoor achievement and one I always try to recognize. Here is this week’s list of area bowhunters who have seen success over the past week. This list is provided by Frank Simpson’s Deer Processing and those who have contacted me directly.
David Lee Burns – 100 pound doe; Austin Walker – 120 pound, six-point buck; Tim Lane – 90 pound doe; Steve Kelly – 100 pound doe; Max Elmore – 100 pound doe; Jeremy Koons – 100 pound doe; Kevin Cockrell – 90 pound doe; Adela Cockrell – 90 pound doe; Wyatt Conyers – 100 pound doe; Mike Tedlock – 90 pound doe; Bud Fields – 120 pound, six-point buck; Aaron Mathews – 200 pound, eight-point buck; Austin Lucas – 125 pound, five-point buck; Drew McRae – 170 pound, eight-point buck.
Dave Robertson and Larrell Norris came away double winners at last Tuesday’s Delphi-Delco team bass tourney with one largemouth tipping the scales at four pounds, 10 ounces. It also gave them the weekly contest’s “big bass” award. Kyle Hobbs and Bob Taylor reeled in second place with two fish weighing three pounds, nine ounces. Third place went to Dave Catt and Mike Clark with one fish tipping the scales at three pounds, eight ounces.