And then, we have these past two weeks.
If you asked me "how's your bow season going," I could sum it up with "I'm riding the struggle bus, but thanks for asking." For those of you unfamiliar with the expression, I'm not doing so well; in fact, this may have been the worst window of my hunting experiences to date. I've been having terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad hunts. And the worst part about it is that, with just a little tweak here, better timing there, things wouldn't be so bad and I wouldn't find myself broken and busted at the end of week #2.
I am a very careful person. I still have college t-shirts in mint condition, I have yet to don a cast or require stitches (yes, I just knocked on wood), and I take all my morning multivitamins as a good grown up should. This careful nature is directly at odds with the streak of bad luck in which I am currently swimming. During the past fortnight, I have managed to break or lose more equipment than I have in the previous eleven and a half months combined. Five, count them, five arrows are MIA, wedged in thickets, grass tufts, passing zeppelins, or space-time continuums for all I know because they certainly aren't in my quiver, in a deer, or neatly on the ground where I thought they would be. To help me better locate my errant arrows, I bought some new Nockturnal luminocks--one of which I promptly snapped in half trying to insert it into my arrow shaft, eliciting a string of expletives that would make a sailor proud. During a practice session, I managed to crack an arrow shaft on an wild shot while trying to figure out why my bow was suddenly shooting one and a half feet to the left. Even more infuriating was the shot that was just a tad high, skimming the top of a target and somehow shearing the fletching from the shaft, cleanly snapping the arrow in half, flipping the sections in the air like some kind of bad cartoon segment as I watched in disbelief. By my rough calculations, I am currently $160 in the hole, not counting the cost of replacements or the new blinds and gear I picked up in late September. Oh, have I mentioned I am also cheap, so this is a particularly painful figure. I am one lost arrow away from developing a permanent eye twitch from incredulity at my bad luck.
I pride myself in my scent concealment, although I am a novice compared to my hunting friends. I have a scent-free bag, but it is a DIY version and is more scent-free due to location (outside) than technology. I don't own any Ozonics, but have a wide range of Scent Killer Gold products for every possible application. I developed a habit of eating an apple before every hunt to cover the smell of my breath. Last fall, I had a coyote track prey within five feet of my ground location before he noticed my presence. I have years of experience telling me that I am able to go undetected, which infuriates me even more with the number of times I have been busted this fall. To date, I have hunted 21 hours, seen 22 deer, and have been busted all but two times, which accounts for all the missing arrows. Have I mentioned that there are FIVE of them? The worst part is, I am getting busted in ridiculous ways. One doe walked up behind my friend and I through dense woods, stopping five yards away before either of us noticed each other, my eyes turned toward the field rather than the brush at my back. Another doe was lying directly in my hunting spot as I walked in one afternoon at 3:30, the soonest I could get there after school. Trapped in the open, I stalked up to her within 20 yards before she finally noticed and bolted. Three other does paraded through the field that evening, just to bust me one at a time, much to my chagrin. One doe and her fawns busted me as I tried a new spot, seated just a little too near the trail for the amount of cover I had to work with, a rookie mistake. The final, and most embarrassing, happened as I left my blind at the end of the hunt, gear packed away, only to emerge to face a doe at what I figured to be fifty yards--I couldn't tell for sure, because like an idiot, I had packed away my rangefinder. I shot anyway, and hit her, but never recovered my deer. I believe "crestfallen" best described my mood that evening, and to some degree, still does.
Yes, I know season has just begun. Yes, I know the Rutting Moon has yet to come. Yes, I am aware that even the hunters I watch on YouTube have bad outings and their own fair share of misses. To be honest, the laughter and consolation of my friends has eased the sting, but hasn't healed the burn. I'm ready for a win, a shot I'm proud of, a deer that is humanely harvested and recovered. That day will come, I'm sure, but until it does, I will keep plugging along, flinging arrows and writing checks to support a hobby that has become a life that I can't do without.