Three area bow hunters saythey experience complicated emotions when their arrows fly and hit the mark.
Thomas Ash has spent countless hours afield in solitude absorbing nature. He prefers to bow hunt every season because he has zero interest in harvesting an animal from afar with a rifle.
“I want to be close, inside that animal’s comfort zone, defying its senses, utilizing man’s natural predatory instincts and background,” Ash said. “There is nothing more intimate than a bow kill. The day I no longer become emotional over a harvest with my bow I will take up golf.”
For Ash, successfully making a well-placed shot at close range isn’t just a rush. It’s something he’s deeply thankful for.
“You’re taking a life,” he said, “if that doesn’t affect you, you’re not a hunter — you’re a killer.”
To him, the experience is both overwhelming and fulfilling.
Immediately after a successful kill, he said his hands shake, his voice breaks, and tears often fall, but later when the animal is processed, he feels satisfied to have provided his family with “some of the best table fare known to man.”
Jordan Metro started as strictly a rifle hunter when he was younger, but once he tried bow hunting, he was hooked because of the extreme intensity and increased difficulty offered by hunting an animal at close range.
“Deer are very smart, very alert of their surroundings, and in order to harvest one, you have to make sure all your checks and balances are in place,” he said. “There isn’t a time I have harvested an animal where remorse wasn’t felt afterward, and you know you killed one of God’s creatures.
“I don’t think any hunter is in it just for the thrill of the kill. The thrill comes in the time and preparation you have put in finally paying off.”
Metro prepares for deer hunts by making sure his hunting attire is as scent-free as he can get it. He uses a scent-free detergent to wash his camouflage. He stores it separate from his other clothes by sealing it in a plastic tub.
He strategizes how to get to and from his tree stand as quietly as possible, and tries to remain aware of his surroundings once he spots a deer he wants to harvest. He said there is very little room for error if a hunter hopes to achieve a successful harvest.
“Your adrenaline starts to spike, and that’s usually when mistakes are made,” Metro said. “I think all hunters have had that one doe spot us while we are preoccupied by a buck,” he said. “Your senses all have to be up. If they aren’t, you probably won’t be as successful.”
Metro savors the effect hunting has on his senses but senses can play tricks, he said.
“You usually hear deer before you see them, but the majority of the time you hear what you think is a herd of deer coming, yep, it’s actually that one-pound squirrel chasing his next nut,” Metro said. “That spot you think might just be a shadow might end up being the deer of a lifetime, or it could just be a tree stump you swore moved 10 times.”
If he doesn’t harvest a deer with his bow, he’ll switch back to hunting with a rifle because he said his family eats venison for the majority of their meals.
Meat from a normal sized deer usually lasts his family of four about six months.
Matt Meyerhoff hunts with rifles and bows. There are things he likes and dislikes about both approaches, but he said hunting from a distance with a rifle diminishes the excitement and emotion of an up-close-and-personal bow hunt.
Patience seems to be a virtue hunters must possess.
Meyerhoff said hunters could spend months scouting and countless hours in the deer stands, while deer pass by just out of reach.
“Every rustle of leaves or snapping twig can send your heart pounding,” he said. “You may watch a deer for an hour before it comes in to your calls and antler rattles. It may spend 20 minutes just yards from your stand and never offer a clean shot.”
He said bow hunters must remain silent and still while hoping that the wind doesn’t carry their scent in the deer’s direction.
“If a deer steps into your narrow shooting lane, you have to suppress the adrenaline, steady your hand, and make a shot where misjudging distance by a few yards can result in failure,” Meyerhoff said. “After all that, if you are successful, there is an overwhelming thankfulness for the gift you have just been given. Collectively, it’s an experience that will hook you for life.”