Editor’s Note: This post is part two of a two-part series. To read part one, click here.
In Part 2 of this series, my evolution as bowhunter continued as I braved Wisconsin’s cold, dark dawns and dusks from ground blinds bordering fields and woodlots. As I practiced drawing and then letting down on a nearby doe the second night, I learned the difficulty of moving undetected in a deer’s presence.
The larger of the two does I was watching heard or sensed my movement as I lowered my bow. Its head snapped around and stared my way, but it looked just past, not directly at me. Or so I thought. When the two deer continued feeding, I relaxed my posture a fraction of an inch. Big mistake!
Suddenly – just 14 yards away – the larger of the two does stamped a hoof, snorted and fled. The high-pitched blowing noise startled me. I was awestruck that this four-legged creature was sounding a warning bell to every deer in the area. Conceding the match, I settled in to watch night fall on my corner of Wisconsin.
The days that followed were equally beautiful, important reminders to appreciate the natural world around me. I was continually humbled by elusive deer despite my best efforts at camouflage and scent control.
On the final night of my bowhunt, despite an utter lack of deer sightings, I regretted only that I would head to the airport in the morning instead of a blind. I’d miss the renewed hope and excitement that each trip to the woods promised. As I watched the light warming and the sky catching fire with the first rays of sunset, 11 turkeys joined me. Then a tiny fawn wandered in to feed where the two does had stood days before. I was content to sit and watch the fawn feed, marveling how evolution bestowed this creature with preternatural senses and graceful beauty.
As the light faded and I prepared to wait for my ride back to camp, I heard movement in the leaves behind my blind, perhaps 15 to 20 yards away. I felt excited, hoping a monster buck was approaching. My joy quickly turned to dread, then fear, when the yips and yodels of coyotes erupted nearby. I prayed my scent was truly blocked, and fired off a text message to my guide: “A ton of coyotes howling in woods not far behind blind. Don’t want to walk out. Do I need to worry?”
In the five minutes before seeing my guide’s truck headlights, I experienced heart-pounding adrenaline and outright fear unlike anything I’ve ever felt. I contemplated the mysteries of pack behavior as the coyotes seemed in no hurry to leave. All that yipping and howling probably meant they were feeding on something right behind me. I frantically tried to devise a “what-if” plan while reflecting on the irony of the situation. Here I was, a woodland predator in my own right, but the coyotes reminded me where I fit in that cycle of life. I was humbled and terrified.
While riding back to camp 20 minutes later from the safety of the truck, I kept waiting for my heart to stop racing. As my panic eased, I reflected on what I had gained in my week at Bluff Country Outfitters. That list included a profound respect for nature, an appreciation of the world’s beauty at sunrise, and a newfound love of bowhunting that I suspect will be a lifelong passion. Perhaps most importantly, though, I found new faith in myself. Though I still hope to fill my freezer with venison and eventually outclass some of my boyfriend’s beautiful big-game mounts, I’m grateful for the important life lessons from my week of bowhunting.