October Mornings

Phoenix copy

The alarm beeps 4:30 and I fumble for the snooze before it wakes Jess and the girls. I force open my lids, pull the phone from its charger, and check the weather. My eyes burn from the screen’s glow and notice a messenger bubble in the middle of the screen.

John is already awake and telling me to meet him at the crossroads instead of the usual rendezvous point. “I’ve got us a special spot today,” he types, “…one of my old honey holes. I haven’t hunted it in years.”

“Understood,” I thumb back, “field boots or knee-high rubbers?”

“Better bring the rubbers. It rained pretty good last night and we are hunting by a creek. It’s probably going to be wet.”

“Good,” I think to myself, “the deer won’t hear us coming”. I realize we won’t hear them either, but cast the counterpoint aside to avoid dampening the excitement.

There’s nothing like a Michigan October 1.

It is the one time of year adults happily rise before their alarms and toss their covers to the night like children on Christmas morning. Only it is the possibility of wild things and not the brightly wrapped gifts and sparkly tree that drives them into the cold, unforgiving wood at such an hour.

This rush into solitude is hard to explain to the non-hunting world. The idea of trading a perfectly warm bed and pot of coffee for a long, lonely sit in the cold, dark woods seems ludicrous at best.

But something peculiar happens on such a morning. Something that must be witnessed rather than explained, which is why the non-believers don’t get it. We don’t have the vocabulary to describe such a feeling — though many try.

While the human race is divisive on so many fronts, anyone with a touch of wild spirit would agree that few things compare to the beauty of a morning sunrise. Likewise, any sportsmen would agree this feeling is amplified ten-fold while afield. And I believe, that out of this segment of enthusiasts, it is the bowhunter who has the best seat in the house.

Ol’ Fred said it best, hunting “cleanses the soul”, and the crackle of leaves in the ears and crisp autumn air in the nostrils would leave the most obtuse of naysayers clamoring for a counterpoint.

Hunting does indeed cleanse the soul.

It brings you peace, it removes you from the worries of the world, and gifts you the precious moments of reflection that should be cherished by any human being.

My brothers and sisters: a bow in the hand is worth all the riches in the world on mornings such as this. The most hardened of warriors couldn’t pry it loose without a fight — and anyone in the know would know better. October is a precious month — rain, sleet, or snow — to rest, recharge, reflect, or seek redemption for the previous year’s failed attempts.

Truth-be-told I haven’t had a successful one in some time. Whether it be work, family, rain, or my own ineptitude, month number ten seems to be a slippery one for me. That, however, doesn’t stop me from cherishing every minute of it.

As Emerson once said…

“Live in the sunshine. Swim the sea. Drink the wild air.”

Get out of bed. Grab your bow. It’s time to go hunting.

A Disclaimer

SteveStringAutumnWeb

When I try to explain traditional archery to people and exactly what it is that archers “do”, I get the sense they don’t truly grasp it. When I try to explain it further, I get the, “man this guy is really into this and I need to find the nearest exit” look. Neither surprise me. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that both are to be expected. Shooting a longbow is simple enough to wrap your head around, but the passion associated with the activity – not so much.

I’ve developed a saying for this and I offer it as a disclaimer.

“You’ve got to live it to get it.”

I cannot overemphasize how literal the word live is, in regards to this topic. “Traditional archery isn’t something you dabble with.” I tell them. “It is both a life warming and warping pursuit.”

Since I rarely get the chance to elaborate on these statements, I will do so here. Please humor me by pretending you know very little about this whole deal. Or just pass this along to someone who doesn’t and is brave enough to find out.

Life is a journey and traditional archery is the the road less traveled. And by “road” I mean a squiggly path winding off through the trees. The beginning is unmarked and often stumbled upon. The end is the promise of self discovery, eternal happiness, enlightenment, the perfect bow, the buck of a lifetime, optimal arrow flight, and all that good, philosophical stuff the oldest among us blather about if the weather is good and their stomachs are full.

The middle is where it all gets interesting. It is where you’ll spend most of your time and is a mess of stumps, creeks, mud, burs, briars, deadfalls, poison ivy, ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, and other obstacles to trip over. Not to mention miles of that metallic orange tape that leads straight to the town of Hopelessly Lost if you follow it.

You’ll get tripped up. You’ll get stuck in the mud. You’ll fall off a log. You’ll lose your way. You’ll end up in a pond. An “expert” will give you bad advice. You’ll lose arrows. You’ll break bows. You’ll miss targets. You’ll miss animals. You’ll have passionate disagreements with other archers over the proper “anchor point” and acronyms like “EFOC”. Then you’ll shake hands and shoot a round with them afterwards. Unless its online, of course. I would suggest a “time out” if thats the case.

And therein lies the beauty of it all – the people you share the path with. Generous, intelligent, passionate people who will walk this path with you and make it impossible not to love every minute of it. You’ll shoot with these people. You’ll share a fire with these people. You’ll break bread with these people. You’ll learn with these people. And you’ll learn to love these people.

“So you shoot bows at foam targets and you camp, right?”

– The Average Non-Arrow Slingin’ Joe or Jane

Well…yeah. We do all of that. We eat really well too, but there’s a whole lot more to it.

Just get yourself a bow. Get yourself some arrows. Get yourself to a gathering. Please do all of these things, but understand that when you find your calendar full from March to December and have a room in your house dedicated to wood and feathers, I will be responsible for none of it.

Want to know more about traditional archery or find out more about traditional gatherings? Visit www.michiganlongbow.org.