The Family Equation


I began my archery journey alone.

It is the one thing I jumped into on my own. My friends weren’t interested. My brothers weren’t interested. Even my Dad, who was always willing to plunge into the depths with me, wasn’t interested. My wife thought it was just another “thing” to sop up time and finances. There was no influence of any kind save for a Green Arrow comic book and I had no intention of fighting crime. Especially not in green tights. Still, something drew me to the bow and arrow.

The lack of support didn’t stop me. I had a habit of keeping the pedal to the floor whenever I set my mind to doing something. A few months later, I’d gathered a bow, arrows, a place to shoot, and people to shoot with. Dad came around a month later. Jessica’s support was the only thing missing.

I suppose I could’ve carried on without it. I knew folks in similar situations who immersed themselves in the culture, living from season-to-season and shoot-to-shoot without their families in the picture. It brought them newfound happiness, but it also brought (or often threatened) divorce.

I didn’t want that. I married a woman who was interested in her own things. I just happened to share those things. She didn’t this time and that was okay. I tried not to overdo it – for her sake. I was the one who flipped our relationship on its ear, after all. I altered the agreement with this new adventure. However, history has proven archery isn’t a mere hobby to be “dabbled” with. There are no “sort-ofs” in traditional archery or bowhunting. The desire for a bow to be pulled and the need for the archer to pull it are one and the same. The arrow must fly once it touches the string. It was an unshakable urge that only grew with time. Jess and I were at an impasse – albeit a minor one – but an impasse all the same. It would only get worse with children.

Fortunately, Dad always had a fresh take on these things:

“Ya know…your Ma used to pulled that shit with me whenever I went salmon fishing. You already feel guilty enough for leaving, but they always gotta twist the knife!”

Only Jess didn’t have a knife. She never had a problem with me going anywhere. Sure, she’d make a comment here or there, but it wasn’t anything argument inspiring. I felt guilty for leaving her out of an activity that was becoming such a big part of my life. That scared me. I knew it wouldn’t get any better as our family grew.


Enjoying a perfect morning with our St. Joe River longbows.

And it did. Our second daughter was born two years later. We were now a family of four and bound for trouble if we didn’t find a way to make the longbow a family activity. So, I did what any guy would do and bought Jess a longbow for our anniversary.

She loved the gift and understood the sincerity behind it. I even made sure the color matched the bow we bought our oldest daughter. I wanted her to understand this was a family investment and not something I intended to do on my own. It worked somewhat. We began attending shoots and camping as a family, but I noticed Jess spent more time at camp than on the range. I couldn’t figure out why. I combed my husbandly insecurities for the answer. Was I not helping out with the kids enough? Was she nervous? Was I “coaching” her too much on her shooting?

I vented to a friend about it. Someone who had lived a similar situation, but was now engrained in the longbow lifestyle. Her answer wasn’t what I expected.

“Its because she’s shooting with you.” She laughed. “You have to get her shooting with other ladies.”

“But I’m not even hard on her.” I whined. “I don’t ridicule her or anything.”

“It doesn’t matter. Shooting with you is going to make her nervous and she’s going to take anything you say as patronizing her. That is just the way it is with spouses. She is competing with you. She may not even know it.”

It was tough to hear, but she was right. But, just when I thought all hope was lost, Jess joined a ladies league and began shooting weekly. She was making friends, shooting well, and having a fun. And all without me. To make matters worse, her league night was on my league night, which meant I no longer had a league night.

I’d created a monster. I was okay with that. The woman I loved was enjoying the activity I loved. It was the first brush stroke, in a much bigger picture.

Then, one sunny summer Saturday, something awesome happened.

“Its a nice day.” She said. “Let’s take the girls to WMAC and shoot the course. It’s only $25 a family.”

What a great idea. The fact she initiated it made it even better. We had arrived. We were the archery family I wished for. This kept me going while weathering the heat, the whiney “Daddy lets go homes”, and digging for arrows in the pricker bushes. We only made it through 15 targets, but it was the best 15 I had ever shot.

I’m looking forward to more and will cherish every one.

Did you make archery a “family activity”? Was it a challenge to do so? Feel free to share! And check out if you want good examples. This is what they do.








To Kill a Morning



The frost came. The deer with it. And my arrow followed.

I hadn’t had a realistic shot at a Michigan buck since my very first season. An eight-point cruised by to find a younger, dumber me soaking up the morning within the roots of an old beech tree – my bow several feet away. A staring contest went on for several minutes. I lost. Several does fell to my bow in the years that followed, but not many, and never a buck. Then, during the first frost of November (2015), all that changed.

Footsteps cut through the morning mist, alerting an older, slightly wiser me in a brush pile no more than 15 yards away. The wind was right and my heart thumped wildly as he closed the distance.

Saliva dripped from the corners of his mouth as he breathed the heavy breath of a young buck in rut. I could see every exhale in the morning cold and could almost feel the veins throb in his neck as if they were my own. I knew passion when I saw it. He was on a doe.

At eight yards he turned toward me, brown eyes peering at and through me to the woods behind. I froze, hiding behind the brim of a wool hat and the riser of my bow. “It’s been three years since my last kill.” I prayed. “Please, turn him. Please guide this arrow.”

He arched to sniff the air and suddenly threw his head to the left, finding what he was looking for. Everything slowed down. My back and shoulders creaked and popped out of dormancy. My left arm raised. My right hand scraped against the whiskers of my face like a dull razor. I found my spot.

The string fell and time returned to normal – and then some. Arrow disappeared into hide with a sharp crack and reappeared with another. He dropped, spun, and returned to the safety of the grass. All in one, single, devastating instant.

I felt nothing at first. Just the shaking. My knees wobbled, as I stood up to track the buck’s exit. Even then, with all the trouble I caused, he moved with a level of grace I could never achieve. I envied him for that and suddenly hated myself.

“Take him.” I prayed. “Please, make it quick.”

Time passed and my stomach churned. It was eerily still. The squirrels quit barking. The birds quit chirping. The geese quit honking. The sun was much higher now and the frosty white browse melted into a dull brown. What was once beautiful and vibrant now seemed  dead to me.

“I’ve done it now,” I thought. “I killed the morning.”

Suddenly boots crunched against the frozen undergrowth and I turned to find Rob emerging from the edge of the timber. I waved him over.

“I think it’s bad.” I whispered. “Where’d you hit him?” He asked, leaning his bow against a tree. “It looked high, but the arrow went all the way through. I can see a few drops by that sapling. I don’t know. I’m afraid I necked him. I think I might’ve rushed that shot.” My heart sank – heavy with the words.

He walked over, kneeling to inspect the ground. “It’s bubbling.” Rob observed. “I think you did better than you think. There’s more over there. Hell, anyone could follow this.”

“I suppose.” I muttered.

We crept from spatter to spatter, each getting thicker than the last, until we reached the freshly plowed dirt of the cornfield. My arrow lay on the edge amidst the soil and stalks. It was red. The once pristine, white fletching was now a mess of matted crimson.

My heart began to beat again. This time, in a good way. “He finally shook it out here Rob. I guess he couldn’t have gone far with this mess in him.” I bent to examine it but felt the smack of Rob’s hand against my shoulder instead. “Nick, he’s right over there.”


Rob laughed, pointing adamantly to a pile of brown fur in the middle of the field. He emphasized the words as if they were a sentence and laughed at every one.

“Right. Over. There. In front of you.”

I looked up and followed his finger to a pair of antlers sticking out of the rows. Everything hit me – anxiety, relief, sadness, disbelief, elation – coming and going and going and coming and all at once. I stared, forgetting what to do next.

“Rob, that’s my buck.” I babbled. “I didn’t think I was going to see anything. Shoot anything. I thought the shot was terrible.”

“You shot a buck.” Rob chuckled. “He’s a nice buck. It was a great shot.”

We made our way towards him, as slowly as excitement would allow. He was still, but I couldn’t touch him at first. I wouldn’t touch him. He looked too alive – too perfect laying there. He’d disappear if I touched him. I knew it.

“Yeah…I guess it was.” I said, feeling the smile spreading across my face.

“So, did you bring your knife?” Rob asked.

I laughed, because I couldn’t remember.