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Don Yarber Don Yarber
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Ramblings of a Rookie Bow Hunter

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My morning writing about a bow hunt adventure.

Ramblings of a Rookie Bow Hunter
                      As I sit in a tree this morning, chilled by an early morning breeze, I think of the many things I have learned about the sport of hunting White Tail deer with a bow.
  I know, there are some of you who don’t think hunting is a sport.  Well, my response to that is, turn the page, delete, go to another story, tear it up, or do whatever you want to with it.  It doesn’t bother me that there are animal rights groups out there who will rant and rave about killing “Bambi”.  
  I can hear a squirrel hopping through the leaves, looking for the spot where he buried a hickory nut back in the summer.  The steady, Tch, Tch, Tch, Tch sounds like a deer walking, but I know it isn’t, I’ve learned to tell the difference.  Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a motion and slowly turn my head.  It’s the squirrel.  He decides to climb the tree that I am sitting in.  I freeze.  I can hear him approaching my deer stand, as his claws hook into the bark.  Then he is on a limb, two feet away from my face, staring at me.  He can’t make up his mind what he’s looking at, but hasn’t started his incessant barking yet.  I make a sudden motion with my left hand and it scurries away.  
I’ve learned a lot since I moved to Kentucky from Southern California.  Although I grew up not 60 miles from here, I never hunted deer as a young man.  There just weren’t many deer left in this part of the country after the great depression.  People ate them.  It has taken nearly 40 years for the deer population to grow enough to have hunting seasons again.
So I didn’t know anything about deer hunting when I moved here.  Shoot, I couldn’t even shoot.  A friend told me how to zero in the bow.  After a little practice I could put 7 out of 10 arrows in a 10-inch circle at 30 yards.  
My brother Joe taught me a lot about bow hunting.  He said that bow hunting was 95% luck and 5% preparation.  It was the 5% preparation that I was thinking about.  Had I done everything I could to prepare for this hunt?
I had read a lot of stuff on the Internet and in books and magazines about bow hunting.  I listened to friends and neighbors.  I took everything in, shuffled it around a bit and tossed out what didn’t make sense to me.  I knew that deer have basic needs, just like a man.  Food, shelter, water and sex.  Using that knowledge, I had placed my deer stand near a cornfield, and it was early morning.  Deer feed at night, and return to the woods in early morning for shelter, or to follow a path to the creek.
It wasn’t yet mating season, so the “sex” factor didn’t figure in for today’s hunt.  I was careful not to shave, brush my teeth, use deodorant or do anything that would leave a lingering scent on my person.  I had washed my camo clothes with baking soda,  that takes the scent out of them and leaves them virtually scent free.  I had dried them on the clothesline, not in the dryer with a scented static guard thingy that my wife uses for her clothes.
I had sprayed my boots with earth scent stuff and had made a drag out of a piece of cloth sprayed with doe urine and tied to my foot with a five foot piece of string.  The danged string had gotten tangled in honeysuckle vines and berry briars a hundred times on my way to my stand, but miraculously it was still there when I arrived.  I untied it from my foot and hung it in a tree about 25 yards away from my stand.
The stand was in a tree on the edge of a creek.  The creek had a tiny trickle of water in it but deeper water in pools stretched downstream.  I knew the deer might come here for a drink.  I was out on a limb, twenty feet up in the tree.  
I knew that it was important to keep quiet while in the tree, so I had dressed warm enough to keep from shifting around to keep warm.  Movement in a tree stand creates sounds.  Sounds are a deer hunter’s nemesis.  The only sound I wanted to hear was a big buck tiptoeing through the woods.
I devised a way to recognize the direction sounds were coming from by tuning an old radio to an A.M. spot on the dial, just between stations, so all I got was static.  Then I sat the speakers on opposite sides of the room and put my chair in the middle and fiddled with the balance knob so that sound came from first the left hand speaker, then the right. Then I varied the volume from one speaker to the other.   I taught my hearing sense to recognize which side of my head the sound was coming from.
In the tree, I knew to keep my head as still as possible, not to swivel it around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist.  When I heard a sound, I moved my eyes, not my head.
After an hour or so, I got a tickle in my throat and barely suppressed a cough.  I had some hard vitamin C drops in my pocket and managed to get one into my mouth and hold it long enough for it to abate the urge to cough.   I never worry about passing gas; nothing I have ever tried can stop that.
I went over the mental checklist to see if I had done everything right.
1.       Got into the stand before daybreak.
2.       Made myself comfortable.
3.       Showered and washed my hair with baking soda.
4.       Tightened the quiver to my bow and put Styrofoam so arrows wouldn’t rattle together.
5.       Brought water and an apple so I could spend 6 hours in the stand.
              Everything was in place for a successful hunt.  I wondered about the most vital factor, patience.  I didn’t know if I could sit in the tree long enough to get a shot at a deer.
              I must have sat there for at least 4 hours when I saw a deer.  It was a buck, and a big one.  I estimated its distance from the stand to be about 80 yards.  It had its nose to the ground and was walking slowly on an angle towards my tree.  My heart froze in my chest.  My breathing became a little erratic.   I tried to keep calm, but my nerves were jingling like sleigh bells.  
              I peered through the leaves and tried to count the points on the deer’s antlers.  It was too far away and I quit counting at 8.  My brother was going to be proud of me, bagging an 8 pointer on my first trip.  The deer was still coming on an angle towards my stand.
              I forced my self to be still and wait.  The deer got closer.  Now it was 50 yards away, then 45, and then 40.  I was ticking off the yardage like a football announcer describing a runner headed for the goal line.  Now 35 yards.  In another 5 yards it would be within range.  
              I pulled the bowstring back and held it steady.  The big buck took two more steps and stopped.  I raised the bow slightly to get the deer centered in my sights, aiming at a spot right below its neck and between its two front legs.  That was my target.  
              The tip of the arrow touched a leaf above my outstretched arms.  It made a very slight sound like “tish”, just as I released the arrow and sent it towards glory. The buck jumped straight up in the air about six feet.  In mid air it turned 180 degrees and when it hit the ground running I looked to see my arrow sticking in the ground where the deer had been standing seconds before.
              O.K. all you Bambi lovers, I missed.  Big deal.  There’ll be another chance, another deer.  
              By the way.  Deer meat is low in cholesterol, and makes great stew.  Ground venison makes excellent chili, meatballs for spaghetti, and meatloaf.  
              Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

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