What I Learned Living with a Bow Hunter

Dec 14, 2012

I grew up in a hunting household.   My dad made an annual pheasant pilgrimage to Kansas.  He also spent time stalking javelina and deer in Arizona, but he was always a rifle hunter.

The only kind of bows and arrows my brother and I encountered involved colorful plastic ones  we found at dime stores.  Remember those. The shafts had round rubber stoppers that would stick to targets for days if you spit on them before you shot them.

Once I married, I discovered a hunting world that did not involve rifles, shotguns, cartridges, shells, or any kind of powder.  This universe included expensive compound bows, missiles with razor-sharp blades, skunk scent, deer scent, camouflage, unscented soap, and intricate devices to help archers sight game. Items bow hunters require is longer than a six-year-old’s Christmas list and  more fascinating to read.

Like most most of our newly-wed friends, we didn’t own much--or so I thought.  I hadn’t seen my new husband’s hunting supplies.  It didn’t take long to realize he needed the entire spare bedroom in our cozy little house (read--microscopic) for his hunting “stuff.”  And the whole back porch.  And the shed out back.  Bow hunters have a lot of “necessities.”

Over time, I became familiar with bow-hunter jargon, but something I never understood is why anyone would be so picky about the laundry and bath soap he used when he was going to sprinkle skunk scent on himself anyway.  In short time, I learned to check pockets before I washed clothes.  It took one teensy trickle from a little squirt bottle of stinky solution before I knew I didn’t want that leaking anywhere ever again.

Thankfully, my hunter has sworn off skunk scent.   It was hard to greet him enthusiastically when he returned from his deer stand.  However, he still has the oddest items lying about his “spare rooms.”  I’ll find a pair of antlers joined by a leather thong.  These rattle in deer during the rut.  In addition, he has a strange item attached to his bowstring that looks like a mutant spider.  It’s supposed to quiet the twang when he shoots. 

When we moved to the country, he spread his supplies into the countryside. Last spring he began building the mother of all targets.  Not only does he mow our yard.  Now he clears a path to the target so there is no interference with his sighting process. He can shoot from the ground, or he can climb into his strategically placed tree stand (read attached to a utility pole) to aim from heights.

In the beginning, I thought he went to a lot of work for a chance to shoot a big deer. Over decades, I learned he sees, hears, knows more about deer behavior than anyone else I know.

Many seasons, he doesn’t harvest meat for our freezer, but he comes home with the best stories. He once watched two bucks battle until their antlers locked, and one flipped the other over its back Ninja fashion.  As he reported this adventure, I envisioned Outdoor Life buying his film of this event. Naturally, his camera was safe in the pickup cab.  He has skunk and coyote as well as deer epics from his tree-top vantage.

The reasons for his hunt involve more than bringing game home.  For hunters like him, time in the woods, observing animals in their habitat is the best part of the hunt.

Although I rifle hunt, I take advantage of his experience and park under his perch waiting for my deer.  Does this mean I do a lot of sitting and shivering? Yep. Do I gain insight into why he loves to climb into his tree stand in the dark frozen hours of morning?  Do I understand why he never complains about not bringing home a deer? You bet.