Ambition aged 34 years

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 3.48.04 PM

Steve Angell with a beautiful Pope and Young pronghorn. Gross score of 74″.

The bowhunters I know have longstanding dreams afield. I do not.

I’ve been behind the riser for nearly a decade, but have always felt too new to the game to have any of my own. I’ve come a long way from “flingin’ and prayin’”, having shot several deer with my longbow, but it still feels like happenstance. Each harvest was a gift.

Not so for my more seasoned brothers. Each kill is purposeful, rehearsed, and earned. Two of my dearest friends, Steve Angell and Thom Jorgensen, are prime examples. They’ve logged more time into the pursuit of game than I have breathing. And, as if the almighty himself made it a point to reward the effort, both of them were recently very successful on an antelope hunt in Wyoming.

That is only the story’s conclusion (and a poor summary at that). I will not give you the details of their hunts, partly because I wasn’t present and because they are writers in their own regard. I’ll let them empty their quivers at the fire when they feel like doing so. Until then, I will elaborate about the dream of one of these gentlemen in particular. A dream that was 34 years in the making.

Steve Angell is one of the most dedicated bowhunters I know. He’s been at it his entire life and has wanted to take an antelope since reading about them in magazines, as a kid. Thirty-four years later – at the ripening age of 49 – he fulfilled that dream, tagging out on a 74” Pope & Young buck. It was the 34, not the 74, that flared my eyebrows when he relayed the story to me on the phone.

I turned 34 years old last December, which meant Steve had been dreaming of antelope my entire life.

I couldn’t imagine wanting something that badly. It really made me think about what I wanted to accomplish with my longbow. I thought hard about it that afternoon. I tossed and turned on it that night. One would think that knowing what he or she wants to hunt would be an easy feat for any hunter. It wasn’t for me.

It rained the next morning and I spent a lot of time indoors – journal open – wrestling with a black ink pen. I was down a pot of french roast and massaging a cramping hand by the time I finished. I read through my work and was introduced to a Nick I’d known all of my life but somehow never met.

The most intimate of truths screamed at me from the page. Things I was surprised to write, but didn’t want to read. I was ashamed of some of it, yet amidst all the self-deprecating scribbling, came true wisdom:

“You are a writer who hunts, not a hunter who writes.”

“You are never going to be the guy that organizes a hunt or knows all the answers at camp. That just isn’t you. You are there to observe, reflect, and share. In other words, you are just along for the ride.”

“You don’t care about what or where you are hunting. It is who you are hunting with that truly matters to you.”

I had never heard truer words and am thankful they were my own and not from the lips of someone I didn’t care for.

I’ve never had aspirations to hunt impala in Africa or chase grizzlies in Alaska. Not that I wouldn’t go if invited, but I haven’t laid awake in bed dreaming about the scenario. It may be because I’ve only hunted outside Michigan a handful of times. Or maybe its because I’m a bit of a pessimist blinded by the barriers in front of me. Either way, as John and Paul sang, “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends. I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

And I will. I already have hunts in the works in Kentucky and South Carolina in fact. Maybe that is the key to unlocking the adventurous side of me. I may not have ambitions aged 34 years, but I’ve got the will to experience and record life and those I live it with, as I see them.

You need to live to do that. And I will. I’ll just need a friendly nudge from time-to-time.

Posted in Bowhunting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Family Equation

JessandAubreyWMACWEB

I began my archery journey alone.

It is the one thing I jumped into on my own. My friends weren’t interested. My brothers weren’t interested. Even my Dad, who was always willing to plunge into the depths with me, wasn’t interested. My wife thought it was just another “thing” to sop up time and finances. There was no influence of any kind save for a Green Arrow comic book and I had no intention of fighting crime. Especially not in green tights. Still, something drew me to the bow and arrow.

The lack of support didn’t stop me. I had a habit of keeping the pedal to the floor whenever I set my mind to doing something. A few months later, I’d gathered a bow, arrows, a place to shoot, and people to shoot with. Dad came around a month later. Jessica’s support was the only thing missing.

I suppose I could’ve carried on without it. I knew folks in similar situations who immersed themselves in the culture, living from season-to-season and shoot-to-shoot without their families in the picture. It brought them newfound happiness, but it also brought (or often threatened) divorce.

I didn’t want that. I married a woman who was interested in her own things. I just happened to share those things. She didn’t this time and that was okay. I tried not to overdo it – for her sake. I was the one who flipped our relationship on its ear, after all. I altered the agreement with this new adventure. However, history has proven archery isn’t a mere hobby to be “dabbled” with. There are no “sort-ofs” in traditional archery or bowhunting. The desire for a bow to be pulled and the need for the archer to pull it are one and the same. The arrow must fly once it touches the string. It was an unshakable urge that only grew with time. Jess and I were at an impasse – albeit a minor one – but an impasse all the same. It would only get worse with children.

Fortunately, Dad always had a fresh take on these things:

“Ya know…your Ma used to pulled that shit with me whenever I went salmon fishing. You already feel guilty enough for leaving, but they always gotta twist the knife!”

Only Jess didn’t have a knife. She never had a problem with me going anywhere. Sure, she’d make a comment here or there, but it wasn’t anything argument inspiring. I felt guilty for leaving her out of an activity that was becoming such a big part of my life. That scared me. I knew it wouldn’t get any better as our family grew.

WhatMatters800

Enjoying a perfect morning with our St. Joe River longbows.

And it did. Our second daughter was born two years later. We were now a family of four and bound for trouble if we didn’t find a way to make the longbow a family activity. So, I did what any guy would do and bought Jess a longbow for our anniversary.

She loved the gift and understood the sincerity behind it. I even made sure the color matched the bow we bought our oldest daughter. I wanted her to understand this was a family investment and not something I intended to do on my own. It worked somewhat. We began attending shoots and camping as a family, but I noticed Jess spent more time at camp than on the range. I couldn’t figure out why. I combed my husbandly insecurities for the answer. Was I not helping out with the kids enough? Was she nervous? Was I “coaching” her too much on her shooting?

I vented to a friend about it. Someone who had lived a similar situation, but was now engrained in the longbow lifestyle. Her answer wasn’t what I expected.

“Its because she’s shooting with you.” She laughed. “You have to get her shooting with other ladies.”

“But I’m not even hard on her.” I whined. “I don’t ridicule her or anything.”

“It doesn’t matter. Shooting with you is going to make her nervous and she’s going to take anything you say as patronizing her. That is just the way it is with spouses. She is competing with you. She may not even know it.”

It was tough to hear, but she was right. But, just when I thought all hope was lost, Jess joined a ladies league and began shooting weekly. She was making friends, shooting well, and having a fun. And all without me. To make matters worse, her league night was on my league night, which meant I no longer had a league night.

I’d created a monster. I was okay with that. The woman I loved was enjoying the activity I loved. It was the first brush stroke, in a much bigger picture.

Then, one sunny summer Saturday, something awesome happened.

“Its a nice day.” She said. “Let’s take the girls to WMAC and shoot the course. It’s only $25 a family.”

What a great idea. The fact she initiated it made it even better. We had arrived. We were the archery family I wished for. This kept me going while weathering the heat, the whiney “Daddy lets go homes”, and digging for arrows in the pricker bushes. We only made it through 15 targets, but it was the best 15 I had ever shot.

I’m looking forward to more and will cherish every one.

Did you make archery a “family activity”? Was it a challenge to do so? Feel free to share! And check out www.michiganlongbow.org if you want good examples. This is what they do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Kids, Life, Shooting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment