The great fervor of new activities and interests sparks not only my imagination but is a constant assault on my being. The decision to arrive to archery with the intention of bowhunting has been a journey. My obsession with eating quality food, the environmental impact of our current food production model has slowly led me to this point. I come from a family of non-hunters and I think when I shared this news specifically with my mother there was a hint of mild disbelief that I have what it takes to kill. She might be right and only I will know in that exact moment when I’m face to face with a wild game animal if I can release an arrow into flight. My father is one of those who thinks all wild animals taste ‘gamey’ so if and when the time comes for me to serve up some venison to him, I just won’t tell him and hope that I prepared the meat in the best way possible.
Two weeks ago I picked up my first ever bow, a Mission Riot. It’s the step up from the Craze yet fully adjustable in both the draw length and draw weight, so if my son ever decides that archery is something he wants to pursue when he gets older I can pass this along to him. A week after I brought my Riot home I headed out with my good friend, who is a bow hunter, to the range to begin the tuning and sighting in process on my bow. We set up on the range and I focused in on the 20yd target and started releasing arrows. My groupings for the most part where close together, but not dead center, so we started making adjustments…then the Cascadian rains started falling. We stayed out on the range for a bit longer, as thats the real conditions I may face in the field. Once I was throughly soaked I packed up and headed home to the family to celebrate my birthday.
Some things I learned on the range:
1. I expected my right arm, which is my draw arm to be more tired than my left and in fact my left arm, bow holding arm, was more fatigued. Near the end of my practice session my 20 yard pin was really floating around and I found myself just waiting for the pin to cross over the bullseye and then I released the arrow. Which I now realize is not smart, so I will be working on that when I’m on the range.
2. I struggle to see the arrow in flight, and in my state lighted nocks are illegal in a hunting situation. Therefore I want to learn to follow through with my arrows without the illuminated nock. Any tips on how to ‘see’ the arrow in flight is welcomed.
3. The point of trigger release is unexpected and surprising to me. I’m betting that it’s like driving a stick shift the first time, it’ll just take time with the bow to find that moment when the arrow is fired. I just need to put more time in on the range.
4. Finding the proper mechanics of holding the bow, lining up to my anchor point and releasing the trigger is still awkward and surprising, but a rush too, so I realize that this is just going to take time on the range. I’m in a period of knowledge and learning and this is all very exciting.
I’m lucky that there are about 5 ranges within a 45min drive of my home, so over time I’m sure I’ll go to check them all out and see what other shooting situations I can put myself into. In the meantime, I am going to spend my attention on 20 yards and more specifically my mechanics and fundamentals of shooting.
The long downward demise of our food system is not only a disgrace, but also rather alarming. Catastrophic decisions have been made in how our nation farms both for produce and meat. The nutritional value of produce has dramatically decreased over the years due to pesticide usage. Produce and meat recalls no longer shock society and are becoming more and more normal. Hormone’s, such as RBsT, are changing how our children develop and obesity/diabetes among Americans is now reaching critical levels. None of this should be new news, I believe we are all ‘aware’ of it. Authors such as Upton Sinclair, Rachel Carson, Steven Rinella, Hank Shaw, Tovar Cerulli, Novella Carpenter and Michael Pollan have lamented on this subject over the years. The question I ask myself, is how can I affect change in my life and with my family to eat healthier and more sustainably — not just organic?
My thoughts on this subject have been caught in a mental wave pool since 2005. These thoughts are always near the forefront of my mind but they fluctuate back and forth and there really is no escape or outlet. The more I contemplate the status quo the greater I find a massive internal paradigm shift. I want to be mindful about what I put into my body and how I care for my body so that I can live a long healthy life with those that I love.
In this light, I am choosing to start bow hunting. There are numerous reasons that I’ve arrived at this decision. Those mentioned previously, but more specifically I want to be completely honest with myself as to where my meat comes from. Wild game is truly free range, and grass fed lean meat. Can I look the animal in the eyes, take his life, and then later serve him on my dinner table? I will choose which animal to harvest, and I will be responsible for placing my kill shot as merciful as possible. This is a great responsibility that I will take seriously. In bow hunting the great challenge is achieving close proximity to your target. Typically bow range is less than 50 yards requiring great skill and patience, therefore in my mind leveling the playing field. It is not the ‘thrill of the kill’ that I look forward too, if it was all about the ‘thrill of the kill’ then I probably would have a job at a slaughterhouse where I could fulfill that thrill. People may wonder how can you kill a defenseless animal? They are not defenseless, the environment of the wild and laws of nature are based on a lifecycle of predator vs prey. Comments regarding how hunting is bad seem like an oxymoron — especially if said from those who choose to get their meat from a supermarket. Those animals are defenseless; they live in jam-packed fenced pens and are force fed grains with growth hormones so they can get fat and ready for slaughter. Ultimately, the large agra-business model, puts value on getting to market as fast as possible and less on quality. Equality in the wild does not exist, as man is only king of the food chain in the supermarket.
Hunting provides an opportunity for humans to face mortality and realize that death is not an abstraction, but rather a condition of living. Urban life has separated us from wild places, numbed our senses to death and further distancing our understanding of food sources. Therefore, our emotional awareness and our own actions of sourcing food have been anesthetized even though the end product still supports death. The cognitive disconnect between cellophane wrapped choices at the butcher counter and the process it took for that meat to arrive to that counter should be a considered by anyone who choose to eat meat. I am choosing to have a visceral participation in the wild, not just as a tourist, but as a way to provide food for my family.
In this day and age, our food cost will only continue to rise. The current large agricultural model is based on food miles and with the skyrocketing price of oil it is just a given that we will be paying more for the continued decline of quality food down the road. I’m looking to try and break free from the current model and institute a sense of independence. As a man who was raised in a non-hunting household, I have not taken this decision lightly. It’s been almost 2 years of investigating, thinking and processing emotions on the ideology of hunting that I’ve come to this. I say all of this as I’m not necessarily looking for approval, maybe a bit of understanding, but more importantly I deeply believe that we should all examine and question our sources of food both individually and collectively and make thoughtful decisions on how we choose to fuel our lives and our families.