The first buck I ever landed with the bow thrilled me to such an extent that every detail is memorable. After a long, hard morning hunt, I was returning to camp alone. It was nearly noon; the sun beat down on the pungent dust of the trail, and all nature seemed sleepy. The air, heavy with the fragrance of the pines, hardly stirred.

I was walking wearily along, thinking of food, when suddenly my outer visual fields picked up the image of a deer. I stopped. There, 80 yards away, stood a large buck grazing under an oak. His back was toward me, so I crouched and sneaked nearer, my arrow nocked on the string. The distance I measured carefully with my eye; it was now 65 yards.

Just then the deer raised its head. I let fly an arrow at its neck, which flew between its horns. The deer gave a started toss to its head, listened a second, then dipped its crest again to feed. I nocked another shaft. As it raised its head again, I shot. This arrow flew wide of the neck, but at the right elevation.

The buck now was more startled and jumped so that it stood profile to me, looking and listening. I dropped upon one knee. A little rising ground and intervening brush partially concealed me.

As I drew a third arrow from my quiver, its barb caught in the rawhide. Then, drawing my bow carefully, lowering my aim, and holding like grim death, I shot a beautifully released arrow. It sped over the tops of the dried grass, seemingly skimming the ground like a bird, and struck the deer full and hard in the chest. It was a welcome thud.

The beast leaped, bounded off some 30 yards, staggered, drew back its head, and wilted in the hind legs. I had stayed immovable as wood, but on seeing him failing I ran swiftly forward, and almost on the run at 40 yards I drove a second arrow through his heart. The deer died instantly.

Conflicting emotions of compassion and exultation surged through me. I felt weak, but I ran to my quarry, lifted his head on my knee, and claimed him in the name of Robin Hood.

Looking him over, it was apparent that my second shaft had hit him in the base of the heart, emerged through the breast, and was stopped in its flight by striking the foreleg. The first arrow had gone completely through the back part of the chest, severed the aorta, and flown past him. There it lay, sticking deep into the ground 20 yards beyond the spot where he stood when shot.

After the body had been cleaned and cooled in the shade of an oak, we packed it home in the twilight—an easy burden for a light heart. This is the fulfillment of the hunter’s quest. It was the sweetest venison we ever tasted.

 

Note: An excerpt from Pope’s Hunting with the Bow and Arrow.