By Dale C. Wetenkamp, Las Vegas, Nev.
Fifty-five years ago, hunters who chased after deer by “slinging sticks” at them with a bow were teased, even laughed at, by mainstream hunters who used a gun to bag their game. I was only 10, but I remember being proud of Lloyd, my big brother, for taking up the sport of archery in 1960. Dad was a bit more skeptical of Lloyd’s new choice of hunting weaponry, but he too came to respect, if not admire, the skill and talent required when hunting with a bow and arrow. Heck, a couple of years later Dad even began hunting with a bow!
With a long semi-recurve bow he borrowed from a friend and a dozen arrows, Lloyd stepped into the world of archery. He practiced almost daily, shooting into a target resting against a dirt embankment.
The Utah archery mule deer season began in late August. It was nothing like rifle season where you would see men everywhere in red shirts, red hats and rifles in the gun racks of their trucks. If you saw another hunter besides Lloyd it was noteworthy. He was practically alone in this sport in northeastern Utah, but that didn’t discourage him. He enjoyed the seclusion.
One morning late into the season Dad took me along with him and Lloyd. Out into the forest we went. Four bucks bounded across the dirt road about 75 yards in front of us. They weren’t too spooked and trotted to the edge of the timber. Game on! The four bucks, all alone, were standing near some ponderosa pine trees west of us. The recently risen sun drenched them in the early morning light. It appeared as if they were on stage under a bright spotlight!
Lloyd nocked an arrow, drew back his bow, took aim and let the arrow fly. I can still remember the sun shimmering off that arrow as it flew directly toward those bucks. To all our surprise he hit one! We measured the distance later; they were 80 yards away. Lloyd would never take a shot that far today, but he was a novice bowhunter back then. Due to Dad’s superior tracking skills we found that buck! I was thrilled for Lloyd having bagged his first deer with a bow and arrow.
Fast forward 55 years. Lloyd is a skilled and veteran bowhunter at 77 years young. He now lives in South Dakota, and the fall of 2014 found him seated in a hunting stand in a dense row of pines. His stand, which I helped him build in September 2013, is on the southeast side facing a lake surrounded by cattails. The row of trees is about a half-mile long, running north/south, bordered on the east by the lake and CRP on the west. It’s only a half-mile south of the North Dakota border.
During the morning hunt on Nov. 12, Lloyd had seen several bucks, but no shooters. He was back in the stand at 3:30 that afternoon and almost immediately three does passed by walking south. An hour later he spotted some movement to his right in the pines. He saw antlers but couldn’t tell if the buck was a shooter. The buck was freshening up a scrape. When Lloyd spotted him again, the buck was moving north fast along the outside trail parallel to the cattails.
The buck quickly passed Lloyd’s first open shooting lane. He was a shooter. When the buck came to the next shooting lane, Lloyd released an arrow at 17 yards from his 60-pound Cabela’s Interceptor compound bow. This shot was 63 yards closer than his first buck 54 years prior! The loud smack sounded like a Madison Bumgarner 90-mph fast ball hitting Buster Posey’s glove during the 2014 World Series! The big South Dakota whitetail buck was down for the count with a broken spine. Lloyd had scored another successful bowhunt.
He had a few critics back in 1960 when Lloyd started hunting with a bow, which reminded me of a portion of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous speech, “Man in the Arena.”
“… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
You will never find Lloyd with those cold and timid souls. Look in the arena of the great outdoors, and that’s where you’ll find him every fall.
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