Bowhunting Priority Check: Focus on Relationships

In the author’s opinion, it’s easy for bowhunters to become obsessed with results — inches of antler — and lose track of what’s really important.

Bowhunting Priority Check: Focus on Relationships

The author (right) with his longtime hunting buddy, Bill, during spring 2022. Bill shot his first archery deer with the author about 30 years ago.

As summer turns to fall, and you finalize plans for upcoming hunts, it’s easy to be consumed with killing a massive buck or bull. Like many of you, every day I think about ways of improving my odds of arrowing a big buck. From building mock scrapes and maintaining food plots, to shooting my bow and sharpening broadheads, the tasks are endless. But I enjoy the grind. As one of my hunting buddies likes to say, “If it was easy, everybody would do it.”

I can speak only for myself, but I find that focusing on relationships rather than racks is more fulfilling. Here’s one example.

I met Bill in junior high and we’ve been good friends ever since. We bowhunt together every year for spring turkeys and fall whitetails.

I’ll never forget when Bill killed his first deer with bow forever ago on public land in Wisconsin. We placed his hang-on stand in the dark that morning, and I left him there and hid in a natural ground blind 100 yards downwind. I didn’t have much of a chance of seeing anything in my spot, but that was okay. Me killing a deer wasn’t important that morning. And I’ll never forget being startled an hour after sunrise by the sound of his bow firing, then hearing a deer crashing through the tamarack swamp — coming toward me! — then silence.

As I sat there, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The first thing I did after hearing these distinctive sounds was put my arrow back in the quiver. There was no way I would shoot a second deer. This morning the focus was on Bill.

An hour later, Bill circled the swamp to find me. I’ll never forget the look on his face — like a young child on Christmas morning!

He was so excited as he described every detail of the doe encounter. “I think I made a good shot, but I’m not sure. I didn’t look for my arrow. I just waited an hour in the tree and then looped around to find you. I didn’t want to mess up your hunt.”

I told Bill I heard his shot, but said nothing of hearing the deer crash in the swamp. We slowly walked back to his stand and started the trailing process.

“Here’s the arrow,” he said excitedly. “Does this look like good blood?”

I nodded and then followed him into the swamp. Blood was steady and heavy; this deer wouldn’t make it 75 yards, but I didn’t say a word.

“There she is!” Bill yelled.

That morning decades ago lit a flame in Bill that will never be extinguished. And being present for his first archery deer will forever rank high on my list of favorite hunts.


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