Around 18 years ago I found myself in a class. Taking it upon the insistence of my father (I’m glad he was that way!). That class was hunters education and it was a requirement to be able to hunt in Montana. I was not to interested in school or sitting in any classes after I had already sat in them from 8am to 3:30pm. Even though I can honestly say I did not want to be in the class, I wanted to hunt or at least see if I liked it and sat through the week-long class 3 hours a day and took the field course the following weekend.
I thought I knew everything. I was the typical child. About 11 years old. To say the least I was stupid. My dad took the classes for bow hunter education with me and I just came to the realization that he must have taken them with me so that I would actually want to go. I never studied in school at least not often and gave little thought to extra studying for hunting tests. I mean, how hard could it have been.
I remember my scores… To pass you have to have an 85 percent or better. I scored an 85 in regular hunters education and an 88 on my bow hunters exam. I am still almost embarrassed that I was so close to having to retake the classes. I hated class time.
We were all given a book in these classes. Beyond Fair Chase by Jim Posewitz. I remember sitting and reading this book in my room from front to back in one sitting. It’s not a big book but when it took my literally 5 years to read “Five Years to Freedom”, you get the idea im not much of a reader. I found my original copy that was given to me while sitting in that high school study hall room so long ago this past weekend.
I remember some stories in it vividly. The one about the hunter not knowing if he should take the shot. The bow hunter who vowed to never hunt the next season if he did not find his bull, yet after 30 days of searching he was able to finally tag his bull in a clearing he had walked by many times the previous month. This book is filled with so much of what a hunter should be and strive to be. ETHICS…
The thought of how I used to be then compared to now. I wish I would have been more like the hunters in this book. I have made mistakes. I think the first 5 years of me hunting was more excitement and about the kill than the experience. I remember being mad that we would not see an elk in areas we knew held a lot of elk. Yet, the more we went to the area, it seemed like we would see more and more. (another lesson in the book).
It was sometime in the last 10 years where I got fed up with how I hunted. I used to think that it was being in the mountains watching for elk from a truck. But decided that I needed to walk… I used to think that the more shooting you got, the better the hunt…
Five seasons ago, I started to bow hunt. I remembered the book but had since misplaced it. But when I got my equipment I practiced and practiced hard. I shot many arrows. Learned the process as much as I could from tuning my bow, building my arrows, and practiced my form. It just clicked in my head.
A rifle was quite different from a bow. They both could kill, but in different ways. I learned lessons from just shooting my bow that I had since forgot about with just a rifle. It was going to take a lot more work for me to get proficient with a bow and arrow and make a good shot than it was with my rifle it seemed.
I passed up more animals with my bow waiting for the right moment than I ever thought I would. Wind was not right. Was it to dark? Was this the right moment? The right animal? Would I appreciate it the way that I thought I should. All questions I never even thought about in my early years even though this book for some reason has remained in my mind for years aside from “Is it to dark?”. I have yet to harvest an animal with my bow.
The past decade has been more of a defining moment for me as a hunter. I will always have the memories as a youngster. Some of them I am very proud of. Some of them I am not so proud of. But I suggest if you have not read this book. Dig it out and spend some time with it. You might be surprised the memories that come back.