A day with NBEF

The punishing sound of the alarm clock punches through the dreams of warm beaches and sunshine. Those soft jabs in the ribs my spouse loves to bestow on an early Saturday morning have my feet hitting the floor. Some time in the shower I finally wake up enough to realize I’m moving like a zombie on downers. There is a mission and that mission is to learn how to hunt with my bow. Boots on, coffee in hand, pencil in pocket, and car keys ready to go I hit the road.

There is nothing more soulful than the sound of an American V8 winding up and down as I negotiate the road construction towards my destination 2 hours away. With the whimsy of hoosier time they are eastern time, and I’m on central time. So for an 8 AM start in class, I subtract an hour, then two more for driving, and I’m rolling down the back roads of Indiana at 5AM. I watch the sun rise on a frosty morning and keep my eyes on the fields for possible sign of Turkey or Deer. I see the chewed remnants of trees around the Wabash river and discern beavers are busy.

I’m one of the last to arrive at the little church on the hill. Overlooking access to the river and backing up to the parsonage a more ideal setting I can’t imagine. Students sitting in rows of four and looking prepared I pay my fee and take my seat. I think the chairs were designed by the Marquis de Sade but I’m not complaining. Out of the 27 students about six of them are youngsters. In a sport worried about viability I saw the earnest and passionate look in all 4 of the young ladies and two gentleman. Yes to those who can’t think I believe most these kiddos were girls.

Our day begins talking about Archery. What is a bow hunter? Describing and evaluating what ethics of hunting are. How do people hunt? We delve into deeper issues of how to handle non-hunters as opposed to anti-hunters. We work our way through the types of bows and the instructors keep us engaged and awake this early morning. A few videos about the history of archery and some discussion over the capability of archery equipment are all part of the curriculum. I learn that a couple of passionate bow hunters can talk all morning about archery and not once bash anybody else’s choice of bow.

As the time gathers and we move towards higher level topics I find some preconceived notions of hunting with archery equipment are challenged. I see in some discussion about camouflage the picture of Fred Bear standing over an Elk in our book. In tan pants and a flannel shirt. He didn’t need camouflage. In the intervening moments and slots of time open to our discussion people ask simple questions and some more difficult questions. I find my notions and thoughts directed towards absorbing and critically analyzing the information. With dexterity they instructors move us through the process and give some fairly substantial reasons and logical inducements towards understanding the art of bow hunting.

The local Indiana Conservation Officer visits and I find out that my hoped for Fathers Day present of a life time hunting and fishing license can’t happen anymore. We talk about the rules and regulations and many people have questions about the problems of nuisance animals. For those of you who spend time reading threads the discussion swarmed around free range Elk in Indiana, black mountain lions, bob cats, and other predators. All handled with equanimity and some topics like black bear (escaped pet) and elk in Vincennes (escaped private herd) being verified by the conservation officer.

We went outside and assessed our ability to blood trail which is definitely harder than it looks. I can’t explain how cool it was to follow even this artificially created blood trail through brambles and leaves to a successful conclusion. The second hunt it was referred to as and how true to the process of prosecuting a hunt to the end. The next thing we did was judge yardage. I definitely need to invest in a range finder. One young lady observed my guesses and said I needed glasses or a clue… Little munchkin.

The things I found the most advantageous was the discussion about ethical shot placement. A discussion of ethics without a framework to evaluate and make my own decisions would be rules not ethics. With diagrams and examples the instructors showed extensively the reason some shots are good and some are bad. One diagram was a stencil of a deer from the rear (eerie huh?) and another from the side. Unlike other places any question could be asked and I thought most of them quite appropriate. The best part is the dissemination was so complete that many questions were answered on the vine.

I am not an expert at hunting but I do know about structuring curriculum and I can evaluate teachers. I found the instructors to be incredibly enthusiastic and very much involved and excited about the topic of bow hunting. Best of all I think that they were also very much interested in providing quality information. I was impressed and can say on my way home after a long day that this full day was a good day.

As I drove home to a setting sun I thought about the fullness of a day and the information I had been given. I still have a lot to learn but now I have some framework to ask questions. I hope to never be done learning for on that day my soul will leave my body. I think somewhere along the way I came to an epiphany today that killing something is most definitely not hunting something. In the act of hunting we make decisions to let some game continue on their way unmolested. That addition to the decision matrix takes the hunter to a higher level of credibility.

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