Staying the Course

Sometimes being a traditional bowhunter is truly difficult, especially when the temptation of the modern industry surrounds you. This has been true for me and I’m certain it’s even harder for those of you with compound roots that flirt with the former when your confidence takes a hit. Traditional archery has plenty of obstacles accompanied. Becoming proficient is a constant battle that requires patience and dedication. For this reason, not everyone is willing to stick with it.

My first season was minimalist. Primarily because that is what my budget would allow. I hit the woods with a pair of clearance camouflage pants, a facemask, white long johns, a flannel shirt, and a pair of rubber boots I bought the weekend of opening day. I spent as much time in the woods as possible, was as green as the flora around me, and hoped for the best.

I’ve come a long way since then, but I’ll never quit learning and am therefore susceptible to setbacks and influence. The information available on the Web and on social media has made it easier than ever for the aspiring bowhunter to be brought up to speed quickly. Unfortunately, it is also easy for a complete novice to become an “expert” just as fast. I spend a lot of time online, which makes it difficult not to absorb information or be influenced by what other hunters are doing or think I should be doing.DSCN1888

There isn’t anything particularly wrong with influence. It can be extremely positive depending on what your goals are and whom you surround yourself with. Unfortunately, the wrong kind can set you back years, especially when you’re a traditional guy in a high-tech world and most of the people you communicate with have goals that differ drastically from yours. I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a member of the compound community and suddenly decide to go “trad” despite your buddies’ nagging and eye rolling.

I do not necessarily blame the sources of the influence. Let me be clear on that point. The majority of mine are friends and encourage the way I do things. I have tremendous respect for them and what they do in turn. Whether or not to indulge in the candy of the industry is my choice and I’ve made the right one in accordance to my standards thus far. However, doing so isn’t always cake and punch. The traditional world isn’t black and white, but a myriad of gray with a whole lot of subjectivity. I could (very easily) stretch the parameters of the traditional label to the point in which the only thing separating me from my modern compound-wielding brethren are the limbs of our bows. This may be acceptable for some, but not for me. Therein lies the issue.DSCN1811

I have strayed before. Several times in fact. I’ve made big, bold statements about only hunting with wood arrows, certain types of bows, and a limited amount of scent control, but have ended up with a foot in my mouth more times than I’d care to admit. It’s a cycle of sorts:

  • I get discouraged and look to the industry for a solution;
  • I rely on that solution rather than my own instincts and abilities;
  • I become uncomfortable with said solution when I don’t find the success I was hoping for;
  • I remember why I hunt the way I do and realize that “success” was never part of the equation.

It is the experience that is important to me, not the success. If it were the opposite I’d be hunting with something that insured results. The point of traditional tackle is to give the animal the edge, nullifying that by pushing the boundaries of said tackle is silly to me. Plus, winning the game at the cost of cheating yourself won’t get you what you’re looking for. Settling for less than what you wanted is never ideal for anything in life and it shouldn’t be for hunting either. A buddy of mine once summed this up nicely, while shooting a round of 3Ds:

“I got frustrated once and brought a shotgun out the last day of turkey season. After several hours of distant gobbling I finally had a few big Tom pass by within range and I shot him – really nailed it. You know what? I didn’t feel a damn thing. I thought I’d be happy about it, but ended up wishing I’d brought the longbow. Again, it was the last day of the season and it probably shouldn’t have mattered, but it did. It bothered me.”

I’ve heard stories like these numerous times around the fire — from diehard traditionalists no less — and I’ve found it disconcerting. If the oldest, wisest, and most dedicated of us can stray, what degree of resolve is required to stay the course? Did I possess that kind of fortitude? I’ve dedicated several years and gallons of coffee to that question and still haven’t arrived at a conclusion. Maybe there isn’t one.

I guess the only advice I can give you, the aspiring traditionalist, is to establish your own parameters, find a piece of the game to cling to, and stick to it. More importantly, don’t let your pride get in the way of having a good time. This is supposed to be fun. Remember that. If the goals you set for yourself start to rule your experience in a negative way, it is time to scrap them for new ones.

And if you need a shot of confidence after reading this, I hope you can find consolation in the fact that I’m still here. I started with no archery or hunting background, have struggled for the majority of the five years I’ve been doing this, but am still doing it. I love every minute of it.

If all of this is for you, you will too!

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Staying the Course

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