Even the most basic deer hunt—as in walking 100 yards and hoisting yourself up a tree for a couple of hours on a nice afternoon—imposes a logistical load not unlike that of the invasion of Iraq. Maybe this was always the case. Maybe I just used to be better at it. But there’s another, more worrisome possibility. Maybe what little sense God gave me has begun leaking out of my ears like invisible maple syrup.
I say this because I went on a hunt just the other day. And, just as I was assembling my gear after arriving at the edge of the woods, I discovered that I’d brought many things to make my hunt more enjoyable and productive. But I’d forgotten arrows. Arrows are important when bowhunting. Your only two backup weapons are the bow itself (which is a hard thing to throw at a deer with any authority) and sarcasm (which almost never works, even on tiny deer).
And the thing is that I’d done so many other things right. I’d rigged my new safety harness just the way I like it. Tired of heavy five-point harnesses with seatbelt buckles and carabiners designed for machine shops, I’d recently shifted to a rock climbing harness. Similarly, after experimenting with about six ways of bungee-cording the two halves of my Lone Wolf climber together, I’d arrived at a way that kept the two pieces from clanging together—or at least clanging only minimally—when it’s on my back. I’d breathed new life into my moribund rangefinder with a new battery. I’d gone through my inventory of folding saws—I have four of them, all cheap and unsatisfactory—and selected the least unsatisfactory one to carry in my fanny pack.
I had my headlamp (also with fresh batteries), pink flagging tape for blood trailing, a film can of thistledown with which to check the wind. I had a folding, screw-in, bow-holder hook that hangs the bow right in front of me at the correct height if I remember to screw the hook in at the correct height. I had other hooks to hold clothing and my fanny pack. I had what I’ve come to think of as my “emergency quartet” in places I could access from a suspended position: cell phone, suspension relief strap, pocket knife (recently sharpened) clipped to my right trouser pocket, and a spare screw-in step in case I needed a perch until the cavalry showed up.
I even had two feet of Gorilla Tape wrapped around my large tracking flashlight. I had extra safety pins (large and small, good for all sorts of things, including tightening collars of shirts and parkas to reduce heat loss—why do so many expensive hunting parkas lack a neck drawcord?), paracord (lets you find ways to hang things you couldn’t otherwise and an endless source of amusement for the simpleminded). I had lightweight gloves and a hat. I had a grunt tube with an adjustable reed, so I could startle and alarm deer irrespective of their size or sex.
As I say, I’d pretty much nailed the minutiae. My downfall was the bigger picture. Bows need arrows like guns need bullets. And, after swapping out the field points on mine for broadheads, I’d somehow left my arrows in the garage.
So what I did was to still-hunt my way across the hillside without a weapon. I took about one step every 30 seconds, stopping longer at trees or in shadow. I saw a fox trotting along upwind of me that passed within 25 yards and never knew I was there. I watched individual leaves sail down. I studied the shape of the hillside itself, its subtle benches and ridges. I wondered what it had looked like a hundred, two hundred, a thousand years ago.
By the time I went home, I realized two things. One was that I was okay with the fact that I’d forgotten the arrows that day. The other was that I would bring them next time.
_Editor’s Note: Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time Heavey has forgotten to bring an essential piece of equipment on a hunt. Check out this classic Sportsman’s Life column. _