Of course, my 35-year career with Bowhunter Magazine had much to do with my yearly travels. That high profile job – including going hunting and writing about it – led to a multi-year involvement with the National Rifle Association and nationwide speaking tours. One weekend I’d fly to Denver and Seattle for meet-and-greet NRA seminars. On another three-day trip I’d be in Arizona for back-to-back NRA rallies in Tucson, Phoenix, and Flagstaff.
And early one year, on the NRA’s Great American Hunters Tour, I went on the road with Chuck Adams and James “Dr. Deer” Kroll. We did 20-some shows during a four-week swing that started in West Virginia, wound through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, parts of New England, and ended in Richmond, Virginia.
Besides these public speaking gigs, each late winter and early spring I found myself on the “Bowhunting Banquet” circuit, traveling all across the U.S. to address members and guests at annual gatherings of state bowhunting clubs and organizations. Along the way I met a lot of good people who shared my love of bows, arrows, and a passion for the magnificent big game animals we hunted.
I MENTION THESE THINGS not to boast about frequent flyer miles, but simply to offer some background on an important part of my professional life. Although I don’t travel that much these days, I still accept a few invitations to come speak and meet the guys and gals who have read my stories in Bowhunter, bought my books, and, in effect, helped me pay monthly bills and finance the kids’ college education while Janet and I raised our family.
Each place I visited, every time I shared my thoughts at seminars and after-dinner talks, I doled out serious food for thought by offering a few common sense truths. Sometimes I refer to this as “preaching” mini-sermons from the Book of James. Really, it’s just friendly advice based on personal experience. But whatever you call it, it’s been mostly well-received and deserves a mention in this month’s column. Here’s a small sampling:
*SOMETIMES WE’RE DOWNRIGHT DUMB! Perhaps the dumbest thing any bowhunter says goes something like this: “I ain’t got my deer yet but I’ve stuck two.” Or three. Or more. Why any idiot publicly brags about wounding and losing game is beyond me. Ego, probably. Doesn’t want people to think he or she isn’t getting the chance to fill a tag. Whatever, I want to yell, “Hitting a deer isn’t the problem! Picking a spot, hitting a deer where you’re aiming, and making a quick, clean kill is the goal of every responsible bowhunter! Bragging about hitting and losing animals is flat-out ignorant. Figure out what you’re doing wrong and correct the problem. And for God’s sake, shut up about your lousy shooting skills!”
*AND OTHER TIMES WE’RE EVEN DUMBER! Every bowhunter who hunts from trees or other elevated perches are doorknob dumb if they refuse to wear a safety harness or other fall-restraint device. Believe it! I can personally introduce doubters to paraplegics and quadriplegics who are now permanently paralyzed because they foolishly believed that falls couldn’t happen to them. Also, I can show true skeptics the headstones of other deniers who were found cold and dead beneath their treestands. The fact is, you can – and odds are someday you will -- take a tumble while bowhunting perched above the forest floor. No bowhunter is bulletproof or fall-proof! If you won’t practice treestand safety for yourself, do it for your friends and family members who’d really hate attending your funeral.
*STOP THE IN-FIGHTING! Everybody has an opinion on what’s the best bow, arrow, and broadhead. Boots and camo, too. Most effective hunting methods, etc. You name it. And that’s fine except when sharing opinions becomes arguing. All bows – whether basic stickbows or the newest hi-tech compounds – will get the job done. Ditto for shafts, fletching, nocks, and hunting heads. And just because your personal choices don’t dovetail with another hunter’s choices, it doesn’t mean he’s wrong and you’re right. Bashing a fellow bowhunter over his personal choices of tackle is silly, considering the fact that hunter-haters are busy trying to impose their will on all of us by outlawing our sport. They delight in seeing hunters bickering. Don’t aid and abet the enemy by tearing down fellow hunters because someone prefers longbows and recurves to cam bows, wood arrows to composite shafts, turkey feathers to synthetic fletching, cut-on-contact broadheads to mechanical heads. Personally, I don’t care what a fellow bowhunter shoots as long as he shoots it well.
*PAY IT FORWARD! Make it a point to share your passion for archery and hunting with others. Never pass up the chance to help an interested friend or youngster get started in the sport. Take time to answer questions, assist beginners with equipment selection and developing basic shooting skills, and share a hunting camp with individuals when they’re ready to bowhunt. Some of my fondest memories are being with my son Dave when the young teenager arrowed his first whitetail, mule deer, and black bear. The next best was sitting in a treestand with a young neighbor when he shot his first deer after months of practice and hunt preparation. Such special moments will never be forgotten.
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