The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
A week ago I made the 3 1/2 hour trip to Cheboygan to drop the kids off at their grandparents house and popped in to say hello to my friend Hawley (Rhew) while I was there. Hawley lives across the street from my parents and happens to be a traditional bowhunter. He was integral in my catching of the stickbow virus and has always been there for questions, support, or “shootin’ the shit” over a cup of coffee.
Hawley has lead a life rich with bowhunting success and is always happy to tell a story or two if prompted, especially if it is for educational purposes. Hawley has enough bowhunting tricks and equipment modifications in his mind to write his own book. I am fortunate enough to have absorbed a few for my benefit, but my favorite part of our conversations revolve around “the way things used ta’ be”. Back when traditional bowhunting was just bowhunting and Papa Bear was a reality, not a memory.
My favorite “Hawley story” is the one about his trophy black bear; a state record standing proudly in his living room as fierce as the day he shot it. A Herters recurve and modified WASP broadhead (with razor blades welded to it) got the job done, as Hawley was able to take the monster boar on the ground from a brush blind only yards away. Hawley was interviewed about the hunt and it was published in a collection of Michigan bear hunting stories, which featured a story by Fred Bear himself.
I’ll have to get back to you on the title of that book, but it was published in the 70s and is fairly rare as it has been out of print for some time. I was awestruck by the bear and his story when I first heard it. Who could imagine drawing on a bear that large from such a short distance? To this day, that hunt is still the opus of Hawley’s bowhunting experiences, but he’s been shooting deer with a recurve all his life and I find those stories equally interesting when he tells them.
There is always something to be learned from Hawley if you listen. And I mean really listen. Hearing and listening are two different things. Stubborn folks tend to hear and take all advice as criticism because they are insecure about the way they do things. I find this foolish, but maybe that is because I am so new to this game. In my opinion, if someone who has been doing this the majority of his life gives you advice, it would behoove you to listen to him, whether you agree or not. Frankly, its your own fault if you don’t.
Not that I haven’t met a couple overzealous old timers or the occasional blowhard, but most (like Hawley) have the best of intentions and either want you to avoid making the same mistakes they did, or just want to talk bowhunting. Sometimes when dealing with the latter it makes sense to start with what they know and think you may not know. Having this understanding when having a conversation with one of bowhunting’s elder statesmen will help to open the eardrums and keep the ego in check. Whether you use the information or not is your business, but I find it best to nod, absorb, and then ask questions. Think of it as receiving a Christmas gift from a family member; sometimes you get a $50 and sometimes you get a pair of socks and a really ugly sweater. A gift is a gift, whether you return it or not.
And sometimes the knowledge you absorb proves itself handy later. I’ll never forget the first time I shot with Hawley. I’d only had a bow a month and Hawley invited me over to shoot some 3Ds with him in a course he set up on his property. I was shooting an old Pearson recurve at the time and had double-nocked the string with dental floss. I’d seen a friend doing the same and aside from preventing the arrow slipping down the string, I thought it looked pretty cool.
Hawley let me go an entire round of 3Ds before saying anything, but after watching me struggle to nock the arrow on several targets, decided it was time. He asked to see my bow, drew it a few times, and then addressed the string.
“This is a nice bow, but let me tell you something about that second nock…” he said. “This isn’t going to do you any good when a deer walks by and you don’t have your wits about you. You’ll end up nocking the damn arrow beneath the wrong nock and miss the deer completely!”
I hadn’t planned on hunting at the time and decided to leave the nock on, but thanked him for the advice. All continued as it was and the nock didn’t give me any problems until I became distracted and sent an arrow into my basement wall the following week. I was concentrating on drawing from a back quiver, nocked my arrow beneath the lower nock, and missed high by at least a foot at 12 yards. I haven’t double-nocked a string since.
Pride can be a funny thing. Especially the kind of pride that convinces a person it is better to make their own mistakes rather than learn from the mistakes of others. While I am a proponent of having your own experiences, some things are better off avoided. Hawley had obviously ran into the same issue years before and wanted to spare me the embarrassment. I opted to learn the hard way and that is okay, but constantly doing so makes for a bumpy road.
Sometimes it is better to listen to the old guy.