A Spring Hedonist: Part 1
I did chores with Gibson. It was a feat of dexterity, that - sliding up hills on the melting snow. After everyone was content with feed and water, I took Annie for our mile walk down the road. That time outside with my dogs was intoxicating. Watching Gibson rocket past me in a spray of slush in the stranger sunlight was a cinematic treat. Seeing Annie trot happily down the road with her nose buried in the melting drifts, sniffing out critters who lived below — damned if I wasn't catching their buzz. Watching happy animals really alive outdoors made me want to join their ranks. I decided I would be an animal of Spring, too. I went inside and got my bow.
I shoot a recurve now, bought at an outdoor archer's meet up this summer. It has a fifty-pound draw and is adorned with braided hide supports and a gorgeous sewn-leather grip. It's a fiberglass model, a faux-woodgrain. It's a little more forgiving to radical weather changes than a wooden bow, and that suits this hunter just fine. The previous owner went out of his way to make it look like something older. His leather-working skills were something else, and it makes the bow seem magical, special. The bow reminds me much of Merlin, also bought second-hand but one of a kind. My quiver has two Celtic wolves intertwined in knot-worked designed and growling at each other. It looks like something from another time, and another world, yet feels so much like home in my hands. I had not held it in weeks and just gripping my left hand around it to carry it outside sped up my endorphins. I slung my quiver over my shoulder and headed outside.
Standing in the sunshine with a just-strung bow changes your entire mood. I went from farmer to archer and that means something. You carry yourself differently, as a labrador does from a coyote. I slid my leather arm guard over my left, tender forearm. The soft deerskin of my shooting glove hugged the three fingers of my right hand. I forgot how that felt, gentle and strong. I grabbed a trio of arrows and inspected them the way I was taught. I looked for cracks and imperfections, checked their straightness and tips. When I was happy with all three I inspected my bow and stringing effort. When I was content with the quality of all the work I grabbed an empty Blue Seal feed bag and pinned it to some hay bales. It was time to shoot.
I am starting a daily practice regime when the weather allows, and even when it doesn't. Last year I was a new archer and didn't know fletch from feather, but I had a whole summer of beginner's experience and now I wanted more. I knew the gear, I knew the sport. In my local SCA group I was asked to become a Marshal In Training on our archery team, a roll of participation and leadership in the Society. I wanted to do my teammates proud, and I wanted to be deadly come next October's hunting season. This means three things:
I warmed up by shooting the three arrows in ten sets at ten yards. After thirty draws I was feeling the bow come back to me. And I was happy that even if I missed the Blue Bullseye I only missed it by a few inches. This is encouraging to any archer back from hiatus. I made myself shoot until all three arrows hit the bullseye one after another. I am working on short-distance accuracy and slowly gaining distance as confidence and skill grows. I promised myself I would do the same routine everyday, but not quit until 6 arrows hit the center in a row, then 9. When I hit thirty arrows at a bullseye I will move to fifteen yards and start over again. It's a push, for sure, but I'd rather attempt that for hours and fail than settle for just hitting one good shot and coming inside for tea. By the time summer practices come along again with the team I hope to be at a level of skill and practice that raises my score in the East Coast ranks considerably. I attained the rank of Archer last summer, but this year I want to attain the rank of Marksman. It's a huge leap, raising my average score by forty points. I'll do the work to make it happen.
I think I only spent a half hour out there shooting into the hay. But the results I was getting were so motivating. I mean, if a doe walking ten yards in front of me and stopped for a few seconds to eat, I would be a dead doe. My powerful bow would shoot an arrow right through her, I am confident of that. What I'm not confident of is my ability to stalk that well! But that's a skill for another day. When I can set up a series of deer-shaped targets in my woods and hit them all from 10-20 yards I will feel comfortable with my chances come hunting season.
When I pulled the last three arrows out of their happy marks I slid them into their quiver and felt the blunt tip of one poke my ear. I made a mental note to be more careful. If those were broad heads I would have a place to hang an earring….
With quiver over my back and bow unstrung, I headed inside. My waxed bowstring was in my kilt's side-sporran pocket and perhaps it was the talisman that had me walking on air. I wanted this feeling of adventure and Vitamin D to last a bit longer. Merlin whinnied out and I knew what I would be doing next…
I didn't know I would be in for the ride of my life...