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The Bow Hunter
The Bow Hunter
Kevin had the day off from work. He was driving into the Appalachian foothills on the east side of Ohio near the West Virginia border. He had never been to this particular county before, but that is part of what made it so exciting. Kevin thought how these trips were not dissimilar to meeting someone new. That thought was ripped away from him as fast as it entered his mind as a Doe flashed across the twisty road in front of him. A quick turn of the wheel and a stomp on the brake pedals sent his jeep onto the edge of the opposite side of the road.
Kevin’s hunting instincts took over. He knew there was a buck that was following that doe, but it probably was deterred from his goal at the screeching of the Jeep’s tires. Kevin smiled as he looked down the steep embankment he came inches from plummeting down. He knew there was a creek bed down there at the bottom. He looked at the hills and traced out in his mind the pattern of water that flowed between them.
“Food,” he whispered to himself as he looked for and area where a field might lay concealed in the forest.
A skinny spiral of smoke painted the sky a few hills over. Kevin knew there was a farm over that way. Not much by the way of crops were grown in this part of Ohio, but most people had what amounted to large gardens and small orchards.
Kevin scanned the hills again and decided where deer would most likely path between food, bed, and water. A car whizzed by him, the driver’s uneasy look telling him it was time to move on. A bit down the road he saw a gated dirt drive. A shiny Master lock secured a chain brown with rust coiled around gate and post. He pulled into the little cove in front of the gate and retrieved the County Map lying under a Compound Bow in the passenger seat. Under the County Map was a Surveyor’s map that showed the area’s elevations. Flipping between the two, Kevin planned his route into the forest.
Several minutes later, the Jeep pulled off the dirt road in a well tire marked area that had served many hunters in the past. Kevin got out of the Jeep and went around to the rear of it. He pulled out a light but sturdy camo-jacket that he donned and half-zipped. Next he put on a broken-orange vest.
He then retrieved out of a small tackle box a bottle of deer scent. He applied some liquid from it on the bottom of his shoes. His shoes were a bit interesting. The uppers were knee high moccasins made of doeskin. The bottoms were a rubber sole somewhere between a running shoe and a work boot.
Kevin took a red scarf out of the bottom of the tackle box and tied it around right his ankle. He applied more Doe-in-Heat to the ends that dragged the ground.
He then opened a long box. Inside were graphite shafts that he had fletched and painted himself. He used his own colors much like they did back when the bow and arrow was used every day. In Europe and the Americas, it was the same, every tribe would have their own pattern of colors and fletch. Staunch individualists, heroes, and mercenaries would have their own, unique pattern.
He pulled out four shafts and screwed Field Points onto their ends. He then dragged a box out of his trunk that was a cheap target he had bought at Wal-Mart in the spring. It was well past due for replacement. He set the target on the ground a few yards away from his Jeep. He then retrieved the bow out of the passenger seat and the arrows out of the back. He walked until he was about forty yards away form the target. He put the points of three of the arrows into the ground and seated, pulled back, and released the last arrow. The arrow whistled through the air and embedded up to the feathers in the upper right hand corner of the box. Most Bow Hunters would adjust their sights at this point, but Kevin did not use them. Kevin slowly turned his head, feeling the gentile breeze caress his cheek. Yes, there was a slight wind from his left but it was not strong enough to account for the errant shot. He pulled an arrow out of the ground, nocked it and drew back the bow. This time he reviewed the position of every muscle and bone in his body. He noticed his thumb was on the wrong place on his cheek. He made the adjustment, sited down the arrow shaft like a pool shark aiming down a cue, and then let the arrow fly. Bull’s eye!
He repeated the process with the last two arrows with similar results. He then retrieved the three good arrows and went farther away from the target to practice again. Satisfied, he repeated the process one final time.
Kevin took the three good arrows and replaced the points with razor tips from his tackle box. The final arrow he took the field point off of then broke the shaft in two. He took one more shaft out of the box and affixed a razor tip to that one. With a small wrench, he tightened all the heads before inserting them into the quiver attached to the side of the bow. Most people took six or even eight arrows out with them into the woods. Kevin had found he had rarely ever shot three in an outing and never had used four.
He then retrieved a plastic film case out of his tackle box, opened it, exposing a cotton ball, and put a few drops of Doe-in-Heat on the cotton. He closed back up both containers and put them into his pockets. Finally he took out a .380 pocket pistol, loaded a clip into it, and put it into its holster sewn high onto his right shoe. An extra clip went into another pocket. Kevin closed up the back of his Jeep after setting the bow on the hard top, then went to take a final look at the maps, glancing around himself as he did so.
Satisfied, he put on a camo-veil and a camo-orange hat and charged into the woods like a deer spooked out from a field. About thirty yards in he stopped and listened.
Now, he thought to himself, is where hunting and meeting someone new really starts being a lot alike. Up until now I was just observing from a distance, perhaps even asking questions as I do a lot from local café’s. But now, these woods, this is the person. Charge in, make my presence known. But now… where do I go?
Kevin looked at the forest floor and saw the tale-tell trails that animals had made as they criss-crossed this area for decades or perhaps even longer. He listened to any movement in the woods. There was none. He knew his charge into the woods was a warning to all the other creatures of something detected as not right by a deer. They would wait for his signal that the danger had passed before coming out again. Kevin took a half dozen steps forward and stopped again, using the area between two trees for concealment. A bird flew from one tree to another to his left. He was now one with the forest. He watched the Robin watch him curiously for a few seconds then took four steps to a small pine that was no larger than a low bush. Again, he waited. He heard a squirrel cracking acorns in the distance and a Chip Monk skitter across the dry leaves behind him.
Kevin continued to feel out the woods as he followed its conversation the best he could. He drew upon his experiences of the past in similar places, yet this one was different, as they all were. He needed to figure out what the differences were if he was going to have the woods fully accept him and he was to be successful in the hunt. This, being his first time here, was not likely to result today in success.
He finally came across a recently used deer trail. He stooped down to look closer at the tracks, figuring out which way the deer traveled in the morning and evening. The wind was still in his face as he followed the direction the deer traveled in the morning.
After an hour or so, Kevin noted the thickening trees on his right as the trail bent slightly to the left. He knew this meant that there was a field and perhaps a bedding area just past the thickening brush. He always called that barrier between woods and fields “fence row,” perhaps incorrectly but it fitted somehow in his mind.
Knowing the trail would circle the field so that the deer had a better chance of smelling any intruder upon their sanctuary, Kevin left the trail and eased over toward the yet to be seen field. He scampered with small steps from tree to tree, stopping at each tree, sometimes tapping or scraping his bow on the trunk. He was no longer a deer that would stay on the path but a Squirrel dashing from tree to tree looking for nuts to harvest for the approaching winter. The brush thickened.
Kevin was intent on the sounds he was making and did not notice that a brier patch had engulfed him until dozens of thorns had locked in on his arms, legs and body. He gently extracted himself from the blood freeing prison. He cursed under his breath before he realized he made a sound. He heard a “woof” as a buck snorted and crashed through the underbrush away from him. The twang and whistle of a bow was followed by the dull thump of contact, as the crashing took up a more frenzied pace for a few seconds then suddenly ceased.
Total silence enveloped the woods.
“Get him?” Kevin said slightly loader than a normal talking voice.
“Yup. A nice one, too. Healthy eight points.” Came a voice heavy with an Appalachian twang. “Where are you?”
“Being eaten by this briar patch,” Kevin answered with a curse.
Kevin finally extracted himself from the thorns and walked around the barrier to where he had heard the local’s voice. He helped the fellow bow hunter field dress his prize as they chatted a bit. Kevin got some information of a good local eatery then continued on his way, giving up the bedding field for the day but marking it for future reference, including it’s less thorny approaches.
As Kevin faded back into the woods he reflected on the event.
Why do I always do that? I always seem to run smack dab into a thorn patch. Like people, the deer may try to stay and hide in that patch, even the next time I come by, or it will bolt like that buck did right into someone else’s arms. But, then, there are those that become friends or lovers by either staying beyond the reach of the thorns or coming out of the thicket later. I guess sometimes I just have to test my limits. Hee, hee. Who are you fooling? You always have to test them until you know what they are. I could never figure out where the edge is with out stepping over it a bit.
On the far side of the field, Kevin stopped dead in his tracks. He bent down to get a closer look at the hoof print. He glanced back at where the eight-pointer had dropped then back at the print before him.
No, this one is much bigger. Looks like I spooked up a huge buck.
Kevin glanced up the hill to see the flash of a tail as a doe fled to the sanctuary of the far side. Standing beside where the doe had stood just seconds before was a huge buck. His antlers looked like they belonged more on an oak tree than a mammal. He was well out of range. Kevin just watched him as he scanned the forest for the man he knew was there but could not remove from the trees. After several minutes the buck boredly turned and scampered after his mate.
Only then did Kevin move again. He scratched his cheek and nose, repositioned his veil and followed the trial once again, noting but ignoring for now the direction the big buck had gone.
A couple of hours later, the trail emerged from the woods onto a dirt road. To the left, the road curve around a bend to the right and out of sight. To the right it curved in a wide arc. About a hundred yards in that direction the sight of his Jeep beckoned to him.
Funny how life always parallels nature. Kevin thought as he walked unhurriedly to him car. Sometimes a trail will take you to another trail, sometimes to a road or other barrier, sometimes a stream, and sometimes it will just take you right back to where you started. But you never know until you walk down that trail where it will lead, and sometimes it takes awhile before you learn the trail well enough that you will always find your way along it.
Kevin put up his gear with practiced precisn. He then drove off slowly to find Nina’s Place for a good meal. As he drove along the dirt road, Kevin reflected on the buck that he had seen.
Even though today I was not successful in the hunt, and even chased one into another hunter, I know I will see Oak Rack again. Kevin giggled, as he was prone to do when he was alone. “Oak Rack” I like that. I have the feeling that we will get to be old friends before this is all over. Getting to know him is more important than catching him, anyway. I have a feeling he has much to teach me, not only about himself and his woods but about me, too. Next time, I will not fall into that brier patch. That will be a good start.
Kevin turned on his headlights to compete with the setting sun as he pulled onto the blacktop, hoping he was heading the right way for his meal.