© By Othmar Vohringer
Spellbound the young boy sat in his father’s “hunter den” which was decorated with the memories of past hunting successes, and listening to the hunting adventures of a well traveled family friend he called uncle Heinz. The uncle told stories of hunters that pursue wild game on foot in the vast forests of North America and the savannas of Africa with nothing more than bow and arrows.
Fascinated by the magical stories his eyes gazed upon pictures of African tribesmen with crude longbows made from wood that was capable of taking down a big elephant or even a lion. Other pictures the uncle handed to the boy showed hunters in North America sitting and smiling next to a majestic whitetail deer or elk and proudly displaying their longbows with which they had shot the animal. From that moment on the boy had but one dream: to travel to these far off countries and hunt like the men in the stories and pictures of uncle Heinz.
Fast forward from 1959 to 1989.
On a rainy February day in 1989 the airplane touched down at O’Hare airport in Chicago. A driver of my new employer was waiting to drive me to my new home and workplace about seventy miles north of Chicago. It was in the middle of the night and there was not much to see on the way there but that didn’t matter too much to me since I was very tired from the long flight and several times almost fell asleep.
Within the next few days I got acquainted with my new surroundings, saw my very first whitetail deer in the back yard and had an unfortunate encounter with a very smelly animal they called “skunk”.
Over the next few weeks I got to know the rest of the staff and one of them in particular got me curious.
Tim regularly left after work with what looked like a gun case and I assumed he was going to a shooting range. After wondering about it for some time I finally decided to ask him “What are you carrying in this case?”
“A bow” came his reply.
A bow? Did he say a bow? Instantly I had flashbacks to my childhood memories of listening to the stories Uncle Heinz told me about the bow hunters. Needless to say my interest was at its peak when I asked Tim: “What are you doing with the bow? Do you go hunting with it?” Tim answered back: “Not yet but soon. Hunting season is opening in two weeks and so I head to the archery range to get in shooting shape”. All of a sudden my childhood dream of bow hunting suddenly and totally unexpectedly seemed to be within reach.
Not a week later I was the very proud owner of a compound bow that I purchased in a well-known chain store. A dozen arrows and a few other must-have-items to get started and soon I was on my way to becoming a bow hunter.
At this particular time my employer had sent me on an 8 month trip that would take me through America and parts of Canada and it was at this point that my trials and tribulations of becoming a bow hunter began. A complete novice to archery I was just barely able to understand the fundamentals of holding and shooting a bow but eventually I was able to get the arrows to hit somewhere on the portable target. Getting the arrows to group tightly, however, was proving to be a little more difficult.
I was getting pretty frustrated about this and so, while in a small town in Texas I visited an archery store telling the clerk about my dilemma. What do you know? He had the solution for my problem. “What you need” he said, “is better arrows.” That made sense to me and the next day I was the proud owner of a dozen brand new arrows but an hour later my hopes were crushed by a grouping of arrows that was so open that a deer would have to be the size on an elephant to make sure I could hit the vitals.
In yet another archery store in a town in Kansas it would be the same story; again I walked out with a new gadget to ad to my bow that promised to improve my shooting. Alas, the results were the same: wide open groups. This went on for eight months; my bow started to resemble one of those contraptions that you would see in a Rambo movie. The bow was brimming and heavy with add ons, gadgets and gizmos that were designed to make me become a better archer. By now the bow also had considerable weight and got very noisy to shoot but my shooting had not improved one bit.
I was ready to give up and stick with rifles - something I knew plenty about since I grew up with them. I was even ready to admit that the European hunters were right when they said “bows are children’s toys and not for hunting”.
But then how did the men in the stories of uncle Heinz do it? Had they a special talent that I somehow lacked? In any case I was sick and tired of trying to get a hang of archery and spending my hard earned cash on gadgets that didn’t work. I decided that as soon as I got off the road I would visit the archery shop in town and ask them to sell my bow for me. That’s it - I was done with it.
Shortly after coming home to Illinois I visited Midwest Cimmarron Archery fully intending to end my bow hunting dreams. But things turned out quite differently and I am glad it did. I am a great believer in fate. It just so happened that Joe entered the store at the same time I did. Was that really just a coincidence?
Will, the owner of Midwest Cimmarron Archery, after listening patiently to my sad story of disgust with archery simply replied: “I will take your bow but I would like you to talk with Joe before you make up your mind and in the meantime I will have a good look at your bow.” Not one to turn down a reasonable suggestion without giving it some consideration I agreed.
I followed Joe to his truck were he took a traditional longbow from the trunk. Then he proceeded to show off what he could do with it. My jaw hit the ground in sheer amazement as I watched arrow after arrow hit the bull’s eye squarely in the middle. Then Joe proceeded to operate a manual clay launcher and again I watched in astonishment as each clay disc was blown to pieces in midair. What really surprised me about Joe was that his bow was nothing more than a bent wooden stick with a string attached. How did he do that without fiber optic sights, stabilizer, peep sight and all the other gadgets that I was told you needed to become a proficient archer?
I ended up having a long talk with Joe and it came quickly to light that he not only loved archery and bow hunting, he lived it every minute of his life.
In our conversation it started to hit me that, for reasons I can’t even explain, I had foolishly come to believe despite the fact that I should have known better that gadgets really could make me a better archer. I had abandoned common sense and had fallen for the salesman’s pitch. Of course Joe was right with the advice he gave me that in becoming good at something required dedication and a need to keep things simple. How could I have forgot this important lesson that has served me so well all my life?
Joe and I went back into the store after the shooting demonstration where Will was waiting for us. Will gave my bow a good expert look and found that my el-cheapo super-store bow had a bent riser which explained why I could not get it to shoot right no matter how hard I had tried. In short, it was a piece of garbage. Will offered to set up a brand new bow and a dozen arrows for me for which I would not have to pay. “Take it home and try it out and if you’re not happy with it bring it back, no questions asked. If you like it you pay for it and it’s yours to keep.” What an offer that was and what great customer service.
At home I took the new bow to my backyard range and after the first arrow hit the target right in the middle my confidence climbed high and when the second arrow stuck less than an inch next to the first I was ecstatic. That evening I was hooked on archery and bow hunting and the next day I went back to Midwest Cimmarron Archery and wrote a cheque out.
Thanks to Joe and Will I am a dedicated bow hunter today and in honor of Joe in particular, for the time he generously took to show me what archery was truly all about, who shockingly and sadly passed away only a few days after our one and only meeting, I named that new bow “Joe”.
I still own that bow, a Jennings Buckmaster, and I still use it every hunting season in the woods and fields in the pursuit of deer and other critters.
By today’s standards “Joe” is an old bow but it is still the perfect hunting bow. It has a simple three pin sight in combination with a peep sight and the only additional gadgets you will find on that bow is a detachable Kwikee Kwiver. Another product that I found helpful in making the bow quieter is a set ofLimb-Savers mounted on each bow limb and string silencers. That’s all there is to it; plain and simple. I also still use aluminum arrows that are a bit on the heavy side tipped with cut-on-impact Magnus 125 grain 4 blade broadheads.
My advice to people who are taking up archery or bow hunting for the first time would be to keep it simple so that you can shoot more and worry less.
Tags: Bow Hunting, Archery