Like our ancestors, I found myself knee deep in more than just the woods, but in satisfying my primal need to play the role of a provider moreover, of a hunter – bowhunting from stone age to new age
Photo courtesy of David Antolin Gil
Bowhunting’s Primal Connection
The stars seemed brighter when I finally settled down on a bluff some 25 feet above and 20 yards off of a heavily used trail. I had been here before while scouting in the daylight but now, canvased in the moon’s silvery hue, everything looked different. Still, I could see the upwind side of the trail on my left snake off into the woods and fade into black perhaps 40 yards away. Looming fog veiled the mouth of a marsh through the thicket less than 30 yards to my right where the trail ended while looming fog on my right invited the trail into the mouth of a marsh 20 more yards through a thicket. I knew the spot was a solid choice if I did my part the deer should do theirs.
The obstinate clock in my head, usually rushed, slowed to a crawl as I sat motionless in the dark, waiting for shades of gray to finally succumb to those hues of amber, crimson and gold that, today, not just signaled the dawn of a new day but of a new season. I hadn’t missed an opening day in over 10 years and this was no exception however, the warmth of a wood burning stove and soft bed nearly kept me from the stinging cold now biting at my cheeks.
Sunlight poured softly across the landscape as the temperature dropped a few more degrees. Fresh snowfall blanketed the earth as far as I could see what wasn’t buried heaved under its weight. The only visible signs of life were my footprints, singing birds and an occasional squirrel, but that was more than enough for me. Like the warmth of the sun’s rays on my face, I soaked up the serenity of it all and meditated on why it was I left the comfortable confines of that stove, and the side of my wife still slumbering in that soft bed. In fact, the only words playing on my heartstrings as I watched two squirrels chasing each other around a tree trunk was “I am a hunter.” I had answered a call older than man himself.
Stick and String Roots Run Deep
And, as far as humans are considered, hunting has been a major staple of sustenance since the dawn of our species. As I sat there in the cold with a light breeze biting at my cheeks, my mind took me back to another time, sort of a daydream I suppose. I thought about those Upper Paleolithic bowhunters some 10,000 years ago, wearing hides and sitting, perhaps in this very spot, waiting for game animals while snow-laced winds stung, wrapped and bit at their faces.
What a hard life it must have been. I pictured myself in ancient times, in the midst of Isaac and his son Esau when the very words of Genesis chapter 27, verse 3 were spoken, “Now then, get your equipment, your quiver and bow, and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. ”
Like our ancestors, I found myself knee deep in more than just the woods, but in satisfying my primal need to play the role of a provider moreover, of a hunter. I sat there on the bluff and absorbed the freezing temperatures because that is who I was called to be. Like the ancient Egyptian bowhunters depicted on cave walls, I hunt for sustenance however, the thrill of up close and personal hunting dictates my tools of the trade my BowTech Experience, ThermaCELL and Carbon Express arrows.
I could use other conventional methods like long range rifles but a cave image just wouldn’t be the same, neither would the in-your-face hunting action that causes those “shakes” I get after a well-placed shot. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy firearm hunting. Nothing could be further from the truth. But, the truth remains – I get a deeper, more primal feeling of accomplishment when stick and string efforts result in table fare. Of course, today’s creature comforts do make it a bit easier to truly appreciate the surrounding beauty of my wooded hotspot, even in the face of freezing temperatures.
When she emerged from the wooded void, walking the trail “on a string” as they say, I was cold, hungry and ready. I waited as she carelessly wandered, stopping occasionally to pull exposed blades of grass from their frozen confines. She drifted into range. As her head disappeared behind a tree I came to full draw, found my anchor, and settled the pin just behind her shoulder. At 15 yards, as if on cue, she stopped to wait on fate. I loosed my arrow and watched it disappear precisely at my aiming point. It was a good shot. She wouldn’t go far. After a short wait, I headed off after her. The blood trail was thick and easy to follow, leading directly to her resting place not more than 50 yards away. She had expired in seconds. The woods fell silent. The doe and I were alone. I meditated on the morning and the common thread that connected me with those who came before me.
More than “Meats” the Eye
While bowhunting is a largely solitary endeavor, there is a great deal of comfort in numbers not in the woods, per say, but in ideology; in primal desire, the thrill of the hunt and appreciation for our great outdoors. In every bowhunter rank and file, we are innately aware of our role in preserving the delicate balance between man, wildlife and natural resources. We know full well, how fortunate we are to watch the world wake up with the rising sun and fall to slumber with its fading rays. We relish the responsibility of leaving lasting, integrity-based outdoor legacies while helping our children begin building their own. We recognize that the outdoors and the wildlife we hold domain over are precious and worth protecting with every ounce of blood, sweat and tears we can muster; at least, until the last of us emerges from the woods.