I am an architect.
My work is sparse and simple — stripped of all but necessity — a nod to the rustic and primal. Most call them “blinds” as they scatter your outline from suspecting game, but they transcend that definition in my ideological, albeit sappy way of thinking.
Natural blinds are pieces of functional art, sculpted from whatever is on clearance at Mother Nature’s art supply store. Should one choose to trim away the interior of a bush, dig a seat into the slope of a ridge, or simply lean against the trunk of a large tree, the beauty is in the options. Effective cover is readily available at a moments notice.
A truly ambitious woodsman will fashion several on promising locations, granting him the ability to play wind, whim, luck…0r lack-there-of. The freedom to do so maximizes his opportunities and enjoyment. Freedom is the earthen hunter’s greatest asset. To move should logic will it, or to linger should the heart choose it. Home is where he hangs his bow or drops his pack.
A man can find a depth of solace unavailable to him in the modern world of trinkets and deadlines simply by seeking out reality’s contradiction. A bed of pine needles, sapling walls, and a few branches prove enough to fulfill nearly every fathomable need. The simple bow handles the rest.
And what fun it is to craft such a getaway. You need only be nudged to allow memories of the proverbial “fort” to fill your conscious. The urge to create shelter is engrained within us all. We build simple structures as soon as we are old enough to drape blankets over chairs or tie twigs together. I once turned the back room of my Grandfather’s clothing store into a spacious cardboard apartment with nothing but a hammer and three boxes of roofing nails. It was a masterpiece, but they always are.
The magic happens once we cross the threshold of our new abode. It is a special feeling — empowering. One only need observe my daughter play within her tiger tent to validate this statement. She cannot be seen nor heard, regardless of the racket she makes inside. Why? Because she is inside.
Hunting doesn’t afford us the same security, but the sense of empowerment is similar. We wouldn’t bother building such fortresses if we doubted their effectiveness, but we can only prove said effectiveness in the field by encountering game.
For a moment, imagine such an encounter…
It is early morning, and eerily quiet. The forest has just begun to wake up: birds begin to chirp, squirrels continue their winter preparation, trees creak against one another, casting remaining leaves to the floor below. You lose yourself to the rhythm of it all, allowing your mind to drift. If not for anything else but to remain still and quiet. You are totally alert — your body ready to act — yet you fight to keep your eyes open. Then, when you least expect it, your meditation is interrupted by the crack of a branch or the thump of hoof to moss. You are jolted awake, strangling the grip of your bow, and fumbling for the nock of your arrow. Your eye’s narrow with concentration as they scan the landscape in search of the spectacular.
You remind yourself to look for pieces of a deer: a black snout, a white tail, a wave of muscle beneath a grayish brown coat, or the tine of an antler. It is the flick of an ear catches your attention as the whitetail reveals herself a mere fifteen yards away, unaware of the danger in front of her. You decide to take her, and your body misbehaves the moment that you do. Your breathing becomes labored, your heart quickens within your chest, you grind your teeth, your arms and legs begin to shake.
You ready yourself for the shot.
She senses something is amiss and glances at you. You freeze, trying not to make eye contact. Only seconds pass, and your muscles are suddenly fatigued despite the little work you’ve asked of them, and just when you think you will fail she flicks her tail and looks away. You seize your opportunity, pick your spot, and loose your arrow.
You watch it connect. You hear the soft, wet, thump of the impact, and can see the shock on her face and the breath leave her lungs, as the missile passes through her. You are awed at the speed in which she is able to move despite the injury. Terror sweeps through you as you pray for a swift death and successful recovery. You want to act, but logic keeps you grounded. You must give her time, no matter how terrible the wait.
Those who have experienced the high that results from a similar situation will attest to the intimacy of it. Deciding to take an animals life from a distance is one thing; doing so eye-to-eye within a range of 15-20 yards is another. When so close you can appreciate the intricacies of the being, the life extinguished becomes all the more special and harder to take.
You are forever bound to that animal, and it to you.
If you’ve never hunted this way, I encourage you to do so. Even if you only do it once. Should you experience success, I can guarantee it won’t be the last time.
Have you ever taken a deer from natural cover? I would love to hear about it! Please comment below or on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/lifeandlongbows