The Stuff Weekends Are Made Of (Part 1 of 3); My First Bowhunting Experience

Every year for as long as I can remember my mother’s side of the family has gone to the Vermillion fair. Ever since I moved to the city I have spent less of the weekend at the fair and more of my time at the farm taking in every occasion to enjoy the outdoors. Summer 2012’s fair weekend, I think, has been one of the best to date. This story however cannot be told chronologically but rather divided by subject.
Throughout the winters my imagination is often filled with many things, one of the main ones in 2012 being my recent discovery of archery. My original intention was to use my bow to take a bear in the spring, that plan sadly fell through and I instead used my trusted 30-30 for the occasion. So for this weekend, I treated myself to some small game heads and set my sights on some local gophers at my mother and step-fathers farm. Thursday morning I did some work at the farm for an upcoming shoot, we’ll touch on this later, followed by sighting in my bow’s top pin for twenty meters, the remaining two pins were intended for thirty and forty meters however that’s farther than my bow skills will allow, so they were not sighted for this event. My brother Kyle and I were given a tip that there were some gophers setting up shop in a field east of the house. Just as fast as we had heard, we were off. Me with my bow and my brother with a beautiful German made .22 magnum, he’s not one to do something halfheartedly.

We came to the field and found a lot of gopher holes as well as evidence that a badger had been doing some real-estate development, it is at this point I’m starting to really appreciate Kyle being there, well more accurately I appreciated the .22 magnum and Kyle’s proven marksmanship. The gopher patch was split in two by a patch of trees so, Kyle and I first walked along the southern patch and saw a bit, but nothing we could take a shot at. I then began to walk the northern patch while Kyle retired himself to keep an eye on his south patch from the comfort of his trucks seat with the radio on. I learned early in my walk that twenty meters is pretty close for a guy like me to be able to get to a skittish gopher. I learned quickly that soft, slow steps and smooth slow movement would help get me closer. Finally! I see a gopher in range… I take aim… Thwunk! And a miss… I walk slowly to my arrow, I was close, and that makes me feel a bit better. I stand quietly watching and sure enough a second appears. I shoot again and miss again, I am thinking more practice is in order. I walk sadly over to my arrow in the dirt only to find I broke my game head. I stick it in the dirt fletching up… no sense carrying it around if it’s broken.

 I should mention, at this point in life I was too broke to afford at quiver. A few more minutes pass and I see another gopher, this one I’m not missing, it’s standing looking around, probably wondering what the noise is. I take aim I take a deep breath… I squeeze my release… thwunk and whack… I got him. My feeling of accomplishment rapidly shrinks when I see it’s still barely alive, and crawling down a hole with my arrow. I watch in amazement and disbelief as I witness a 30 inch arrow sink and disappear, like a battleship going down. I walk up slowly only to realize that with its

The Gopher’s Trap For Me

dying breath this gopher set a trap for me. It pulled my arrow down a badger hole! I look inside from a distance, about a foot down the tunnel makes a hard turn that I can’t see past. I can, however, see the last few inches of my arrow sitting there. That red and white fletching taunting and tempting me. I run back and grab my broken arrow out of the dirt and use it to try and fish the arrow out of the hole… its stuck and I can feel it vibrating. I can’t help but wonder if my prey is wounded or being eaten. I don’t like the thought of either. With a firm thrust I stick my broken arrow into the ground to mark the hole… I will get this arrow back. I run back to the truck where Kyle is sitting and enjoying the radio. I, with a bit of laughter, explain the situation.

Luckily for me he at least has a single leather glove in his truck for me to borrow, I would however prefer something along the lines of a pair of falconing gloves and some large tongs. I don’t know much about badgers other than they dig big holes, eat gophers, have sharp teeth and claws, and are not generally known for being friendly. Kyle and I walk back to my broken arrow. Me with my bow him with that 22 magnum, he jabs the barrel down the hole and I take a few deep breaths and reach in, I grab the arrow and it shakes violently, as I pull it out I see the gopher is alive barely he slides and falls off the arrow to his death, I don’t feel too good about that. A quick death is always the goal when hunting anything and gophers are no exception. 

I did however get my first animal with my bow, it was just a little more difficult than I had hoped. After this I went back to the farm to practice on my target more and on Sunday I went out with my bow and some friends and of five of the gophers I shot my bow at, I killed four quickly and humanely, and missed one by mere inches. I learned with a bow that practice is key and so is slow and quiet movement which, I’m sure, will help me practice for deer season.

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