I was eleven when a slight nudge on my shoulder and a persistent voice called me to wake. It was my Dad. The sun was down, and I could still see traces of the moon. He had told me the day before that the early bird meets the early worm. Hence, it was no surprise that the following morning he wanted us to be the early bird in his saying. He had spent all night preparing all we needed for the morning, so in a few minutes, we were ready to hit the woods.
For the last one year, my dad had taken me through the techniques of archery, and now, it was time to put all my training to test; my first bow hunting experience. I was super nervous. I didn’t know whether I could shoot at a deer. I had asked him on several occasions why this type of killing isn’t wrong. He would say, “Because it is ethical and accurate. It is a painless shot, Bill.” Irrespective of how long I had practiced my shooting, I wasn’t sure I was ready to kill an animal. I had shot arrows at boards, bottles, watermelons ― sometimes apples, and trees, but never had I aimed at a living creature. Dad had promised it would all be fine. He said he also felt nervous on his first-time bow hunting and shared his amazement when he caught his first game on his first day.
We went through the woods noiselessly ― aside the few times he held me back from screaming the minute something scurried past my leg. He had assured it was probably a squirrel or a chipmunk, which didn’t make me any less calm.
Before leaving, we had sprayed something all over ourselves, something that is meant to improve our stealth. “What if we see a bear, a coyote or a wolf?” I whispered, tugging my dad’s jacket. I was scared. He didn’t utter a word, but just kept moving with is blue eyes set keenly into the woods as I hurried after him. Scent control is a camouflage that keeps you concealed from sight. It ensures your smell is controlled as you move through the woods.
We walked deep into the woods for an hour without seeing a deer or any other animal. I was getting less frightened and more at ease with the environment. At last, we got to the hunting spot, and right there, few meters from us stood a rather tinny buck. It was staring at something we didn’t care about. Dad prepared the bow and handed it over to me, reminding me to shoot just as I had done several times in my training. I took a deep breath, steadied the bow, listened to the wind and took my shot. I hadn’t noticed, but my grip on the bow was tight, and my heart was racing when I took the shot. The arrow flew into the air and landed a few inches from the creature. As expected, the buck fled into the woods without hesitation. We lost it.
My dad patted me on the shoulders. “You will get it next time, Bill.” He encouraged, as we moved on to another spot. It was not long when we found two other bucks by the brook. They were sipping from the lake. This time Dad offered to take the shot, guiding me through each gesture he made in preparation for his shot. Skilfully, he aimed the arrow and fired, burying it into the larger buck as the creature fell to the ground. I was unusually excited that I didn’t realize when I screamed “Yes!” My dad smiled as we prepared the buck for transportation. I didn’t make the shot, but I was happy we didn’t go back empty. My first bow hunting experience turned out better than I expected. Now, I can tell this story to my first son, Mark, as I prepare him for his first bow hunting experience.