Tuesday, January 8, 2013

There Is No Easy Button

Sometimes, after opening day, when the heady wave of optimism that has picked you up and carried you from backyard anticipation to the wilds of the deer woods has broken on the shore of reality, revealing a sublime pattern of experiences etched on the sands of memory but leaving no meat in reality's belly, sometimes, a type of ennui sets in.  After the steamy mornings of archery, the too-fleeting days of limited entry permits and then the last-ditch out-of-state hunt, even though I'd had no success my drive to continue hunting had all but vanished.  I supposed the (real or imagined) futility of hunting public land that had been under pressure for months contributed greatly to this, but there was also an element of self doubt.  

A few days ago I was already reflecting upon how to tweak in any way the chain of events that may lead to actual blood on my hands next fall, before a repeat of the above could set in.  A certain large manufacturer of archery equipment posted a photo of a familiar red button that was also part of a certain large retail chain's marketing:  The Easy Button.  The question was posited:  Would you press it if you could?  If there was an easy way out in hunting, would you use it?

Many people's initial reactions were that there are already far too many easy buttons, either real or perceived.  Camouflage and stands to hide, sounds and scents to lure.  High fence operations, canned hunts galore.  And of course, the greatest irony from this company that was both founded by a great traditional archery master and still milk the mystique of his memory for all its worth, the popularity of these machines composed of cams and idlers and fiber-optic sight pins that are still called "bows".

Now let me freely admit, I'm not truly "primitive" myself.  My recurve is just as much a product of space-aged technology as the machine bows, all laminated wood and fiberglass.  But somewhere between the two styles something changes, at least to me.  Something that turns an experience that we can share with our ancient ancestors, of taking time to learn postures and techniques that, to some extent, have been shared with every human who has ever picked up a bow, into something far more modern.

But even so, I have spent considerable time thinking about modern machine bows, dreaming of an Easy Button (remember just then when I was talking about how to make next year bloodier?).  Hell, right before Christmas I went and test shot a new one at the above mentioned archery company.  It felt so odd contrasted with the reflexive style I've developed for myself.  I remember thinking, wait, you're supposed to find a deer, draw back with the release, pick a spot on it, figure out which pin to put on that spot, center it in the peep site, keep the bubble in the level centered, then pull the trigger on the release?  It seemed much harder to me, not easier.  Obviously tens if not hundreds of thousands of hunters pull this off every year to great effect, and the web abounds with testimonials of awesome groups at 40 yards the day of purchase.  I guess it all depends on your frame of reference.  The experience provided me enough mental whiplash to realized I'm happy with my current tackle, ennui or no.

I'm not meaning for this to be some blanket condemnation of the compound bow, far from it, not much about making venison with archery via fair chase is easy no matter which you choose.  Hitting a still target is nothing like hunting.  You have to find some way to get within "wolf range" of an animal who's senses (except maybe for color perception) blows ours out of the water.  And things change when you're that close.  The deer is no longer a brown blob but a living, breathing, moving animal, right there with you in the woods, interacting with the same environment that you are submerged in.  And that is primal no matter what.

So I got a set of six of these babies for myself for Christmas instead, new Gold Tip 3555's fletched with pink and white feathers, they weigh in at about 410 grains and fly super straight (no pun intended).  I know the color's not that unusual, pink has great visibility and Fred Eichler, a pretty well-known traditional archer, uses pink fletching too. However, I'd be lying if I said part of their appeal isn't because I feel just a tad subversive using them :)

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