I put three arrows through three deer and hung the results on the wall to honor the memory.
The first was aluminum – the culmination of beginner’s luck and a newly discovered talent. It reminds me of a young hunter nearing the end of his first season, overcoming shaking hands and pounding heart to cast it. Killing was new to me then and I haven’t forgotten the weight of the moment: the arch of the arrow; the crunch of red-speckled snow under foot; my breath rising in the chilly December air; Dad’s voice congratulating me on the phone.
Remorse. Joy. Pride. I never thought an object capable of retaining such things, but I relive the moment with every glance to the wall. That simple implement, that ridiculous tin can, is so much more than an arrow somehow. It represents an awakening – my baptism to the world of bowhunting.
The second – a cedar crafted by my own hand – weathered the challenges of public land, a two-year drought, and a shoulder blade to take a doe. It was nothing short of miraculous for an amateur like me. I believe it was my finest hour to this day. I scouted and stalked that deer, I intercepted her, and I made the shot. It wasn’t perfect, but the arrow was heavy and the broadhead sharp. What began as a simple cedar dowel – stained, lacquered, and tapered – turned vision to reality. I was continually evolving as a hunter in both skill and perspective and the proof now runs within its grain.
The third arrow is carbon fiber – a material of little meaning or attachment. It was circumstance, not fate nor opinion, that yanked me from my beloved cedars. Some would consider this a regression, but I’d found fatherhood twice between arrows one and three, and a lack of ambition from a surplus of diapers. Every second alone in my shop was now a cherished commodity and I reserved that time for writing or shooting. Carbons were easy and they always delivered.
When my very first buck fell to one, I had every intention of saving it. I cleaned it up the best I could and draped it across the little skull-cap mount I made. It stayed there, as the seasons changed and hunting season rolled around again. I looked at it daily, cherishing the details of that morning in November and all of the wonderful interactions and emotions that accompanied. That arrow had given me a lot; more than most people ever would or even could.
Last week, I took one final glance at the “soulless” bundle of fibers on the wall, and decided its fate was no longer fitting. Dormancy, after all, was a death sentence for any warrior.
I pulled it off the rack, running my fingers through the matted feathers. The blood flaked to the touch and collected in a dusty red pile on my workbench. The broadhead, dulled from the buck’s hide and rusted from the Michigan humidity, would require more. With a bit of light filing, it was ready for service once again. I was amazed at how quickly the transformation from “sacred momento” to “lethal projectile” occurred, but this was its purpose, after all. Swords are not made to stay in their sheaths.
I began to dab peroxide on the bits of blood I couldn’t remove by fingernail, but found it futile. It would never be clean again. I decided that was okay. The blood would pay tribute. The blood would bring luck. The blood would make memory. I would carry the warrior with me as long as it did so.
Do you retire your arrows after they’ve harvested game? Do you have an arrow story? Feel free to share it below or on my Facebook page.