A big, mature six-point buck popped out of the brush for a moment, then turned and began walking toward our blind.
I was sitting with my grandson, Shawn, who was attempting to take his first buck with a bow, so I began the process of trying to calm him down and walk him through the shot.
“Be still. Don’t move. Wait until he gets to the feeder and then turns broadside before you draw the bow.” All the simple stuff.
I could hear his breathing take a noticeable tick up, and so I tried giving him some encouragement and shooting tips. “Right behind his shoulder, about two ribs back,” I said, repeating instructions we’d been over a hundred times.
Finally, the old buck — a perfect management choice since he had no brow tines — turned to our right and offered a perfect shot. Shawn raised his bow and drew the arrow — quietly, I might add.
“Just squeeze and let it go,” I said just as he released the arrow, which dropped beneath the buck’s belly and clattered across the granite rocks in the background. There were sparks as the Wasp broadhead bounced a couple of times and then stuck in some briars.
The buck turned and ran about 50 yards and looked back toward us before slowly walking away. I was able to see both sides of his body and knew that it had been a clean miss. That was good.
But that was just one of a series of unfortunate events we suffered over the weekend. One deer spooked when Shawn moved as the buck was coming up out of a creek bottom. Another chance was lost when he hooked the mesh flap of our ground blind with the tip of his arrow.
The final teaching moment, though, came when he had the bow up and ready to draw on a small eight with messed-up antlers. The buck saw the movement of the bow coming up and looked right at the 14-year-old as he held it sort of at parade rest.
But exuberance got the better of him and he decided to draw the bow while the buck was looking right into the blind. He was gone in an instant, taking with him a very mature eight-pointer that stood behind him a few yards.
That was our last chance during the four days we hunted and before Shawn had to leave to go back to Little Rock, Ark., where the family lives. On the way back to the house after that encounter, I said to him, “I’m starting to think that bow hunting isn’t as much fun as you thought it would be.”
It’s hard, but it’s OK, he said. “I want to keep trying.” And that’s the main thing with bow hunting: Keep trying. Eventually the tumblers will click and the arrow will fly straight and do its job.
I’ve tried to relate it to golf, which Shawn has played since he was a little guy. Everything has to go right. The draw has to be perfect and the aim has to be perfect and the line of sight has to be unobstructed and the deer has to stand still, and then one of a hundred things doesn’t go wrong and suddenly you have your first archery buck.
We will keep trying. Maybe with a different bow, a different stand and a different coach. I’m stressed out.