SAMUEL: My last bowhunt


“My last bowhunt.” 

Sounds a bit sinister, and for me it is.  Fourteen years ago I lost one lung during surgery.  I knew that meant no more western mountain hunts.  Gosh, I loved the mountains, but I knew I could adapt.  Use guides more, hunt the “easier species” more.  Be satisfied with lesser animals and still be able to bowhunt.  

So that’s what I did.  No tree stands.  Ladder stands would do fine.  I never fancied ground blinds, but I bought some to use. A second health issue also threatened my bowhunting; a benign tremor.  I took pills for it, but my right hand continues to get worse.  

For the past four Novembers, I’ve hunted with Ted Jaycox of Tall Tine Outfitters in Protection, Kan.  Ted knew his business, maybe better than any guide I’d ever hunted with.  Two years ago, at Ted’s place, that shaking caught up to me and I missed a buck of a lifetime at close range.  

My good friend, Scott Whyel, from Pennsylvania and I decided to drive to Protection because of the pandemic.  I knew I wasn’t healthy enough to shoot at Ted’s big bucks, but I selfishly went anyway.  On the third evening, the inevitable happened.  I made a bad hit on a nice mid-140’s buck at very close range.  Not a monster buck by Ted’s standards, but a nice buck.  The moment I saw the arrow hit the hind leg, I knew I couldn’t do this anymore.  The next morning, Ted, Scott and I drove to my ladder stand.  

Maybe I got lucky and hit the femoral artery.  For a back-leg bow shot, that artery, the size of a bowstring, was my only hope. 

Non-hunting readers may not want to read the next paragraph or two, but it describes the occasional reality of hunting.

Ted and I followed the scant blood trail 20 yards into the brush, and found a pie-plate sized pool of blood where the buck had apparently stood.  This was a good sign.  Meanwhile Scott was 40 yards away from us and hollered that he found a good blood trail, paralleling our trail.  

I looked at Ted and said, “I only shot one deer.” 

We didn’t know what Scott was following, but we pushed on the original trail.  Every 10 yards or so, the buck stopped and bled a lot.  About 60 yards along the trail we found a bed, but no blood trail led away from it.  I looked up and 50 yards away was Scott, but he’d lost his trail, too. I walked up there and after finding some blood I realized that the trail Scott was on was my original deer.  After bedding it had circled back toward the tree stand.  Scott was following the trail backwards.  Very easy to do in tall grass.  

Once we realized that, the rest was easy.  The buck ended up dead around 30 yards from my stand.  It was probably dead 20 minutes after the shot.  That night after dinner, it struck me: God gave me that last buck, it was time to stop hunting.  

Once home, I told friends that after 66 years, at age 80, I was done bowhunting.  Several suggested using a crossbow, but that was never an option for me.  Others can use them, but I enjoyed shooting bows.  In fact, as I look back on hunting, the adventure was part of it, and shooting bows was a big part of it as well.  

Once I made the decision to stop, I’ve never looked back.  I am totally comfortable with it.  I no longer look ahead for the next hunting adventure.  The  memories are enough.  Guns and crossbows were never part of the hunt for me.  It was shooting bows and the challenge of chasing deer, or whatever.  I loved every minute of it and thank God for making that a part of my life.