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.