by Aryn Corley

Last year, I almost walked away from the sport of archery.

I sat on a hunting stool in the middle of the woods near a food plot with my bow in hand. I was cold, hungry, and dejected while trying to decide the fate of my archery career. The whole time, I didn’t care that ticks were feasting on me.

I had only been “throwing sticks” for a couple of months up to this point. I’d shot at hay bales, foam blocks, old tires, and the occasional lawn gnome. In my mind, I was as lethal as a rattler’s bite if anything had gotten close. Yet, several opportunities materialized and I got nothing in return. The only thing I had to show for my effort were the receipts for the gear I’d purchased.

Maybe I should’ve taken up quilting?

I feel compelled to mention at this point that I’m a “Squirrel Sheriff”, a “Minnow Marshall”, a “Turtle Trooper”, a “Raccoon Constable”, a “Possum Cop”, or more commonly, a Game Warden.

As a Game Warden, I’m expected to have a certain level of expertise when it pertains to hunting and fishing. However, I always found myself limiting contact with archery hunters for fear of being engaged in a conversation. I knew absolutely nothing about archery hunting and worried about not being able to communicate with archers.

My co-worker, Game Warden Brian Scott, changed all that for me when he took me bow fishing one day.

During that fishing trip I was amazed that I could actually shoot fish. For someone who can’t even catch a cold, let alone a fish, it was exciting! Brian was surprised that I had some natural ability for someone who’d never picked up a bow before. His accolades instantly caused me to have delusions of grandeur. I envisioned myself shooting with the best archers to ever nock an arrow: William Tell, Robin Hood, and Cupid.

It wasn’t long after our bow fishing trip, I got Brian to help me pick out a bow from a local pawnshop run by a Lebanese man. Since I was his “cousin”, I got a great deal on an “almost new” Golden Eagle Predator bow. This was going to be my first deer-hunting bow. I figured that shooting deer was probably just as easy as shooting lethargic buffalo fish.

The first time I hit the woods I was sitting in a freshly logged area amongst some downed pine trees. My bow had been rigged out with some extra stuff Brian had laying around his kit. I felt like the little brother who’d gotten to wear his older brother’s letter jacket after he went off to college. I was also happy that my foray into a new hobby wasn’t going to show up as a blip on my wife’s financial radar.

A yearling deer and its mother emerged from a clump of trees only tens of yards away from where I was sitting. Being the ethical hunter, I opted to take the doe and leave the yearling orphaned. Rather than take the yearling and deny it a chance to someday wander into oncoming traffic. I launched my first arrow with my first bow for the first time at a deer.

Sadly, the old arrow I’d gotten from Mr. Scott lost most of its fletching. I was so focused on shooting the doe I didn’t even realize I was shooting an arrow that was barely fit to pick boogers. It flew sideways and skittered off into the brush. The two deer, totally unimpressed by what happened, ran off into the woods. I shrugged it off. I was undaunted in my determination to make archery history.

Strike one.

My next mission involved watching two mature deer bedded down in some tall grass on a fire lane. I was sneaking in to get a closer shot using top-secret methods taught by the United States Army. Basically, I was being really quiet.

As I approached, the two deer decided they wanted to move. So, they got up and started off down the road in my direction on the other side of a line of pine saplings. Both deer were oblivious to my presence and they loped into my “kill sac”. This time, I had brand new arrows. I launched my first store bought arrow with my first bow for the first time at a moving deer.

THWUCK!

That was the sound of both the arrow impacting and the word I said as I saw my arrow embedded in a small pine sapling. How could I have missed? I was disappointed.

Strike Two.

After having suffered two humiliating defeats the score was Deer: 2 and Overconfident Novice Archer: 0. I felt that Karma had to swing in my direction and my time to shine would be just around the corner.

My third situation was in the top of a downed oak tree using it as concealment.

A small herd of antlerless deer came along the trail lined up end to end. When the lead deer stopped to investigate a clearing, the whole caravan stopped and was lined up sideways in front of me like a carnival shooting gallery. My adrenaline spiked. This was the opportunity I had been wanting. Lady luck finally had her gaze upon me. I line up my target, pulled back on the release, then…

BOINK!

I watched my arrow glide upwards about six feet in the air then come straight back down. Apparently, when you have your finger on the release trigger when you are drawing back you get a premature discharge. Ironically, the deer all turned and looked at the motionless arrow. I slowly tried to grab another arrow from my hip quiver but with no luck. The ends of the arrows were mingled in the branches of the downed tree, like gum in a little girl’s hair.

In the beautiful dichotomy that is the predator/prey relationship, I successfully and single-handedly interjected a third element: the dork. All of the deer playfully scampered away leaving me crestfallen and sitting in a dead sideways tree. Lady luck took her ball and went home.

Strike three.

As I sat on that stool I decided to stay married to my new passion. I felt like I couldn’t leave her after we’ve been through so much together. After all, she was my bottle and I was her bum. Those experiences she taught me showed me I was capable of being persistent as well as patient. Despite my failures, archery and I will stay a couple.

Well, at least for another year.