Since 9/11, they told us, everything had changed on Capitol Hill including even getting to work. Concrete barriers had been installed, blocking streets where they used to move freely and forming barricades around historical landmarks including the Washington Monument. It was hard adjusting to the loss of freedoms they had taken for granted.
This weekend would help. For a few days, they could immerse themselves in the hunting lifestyle, in a world where early wakeup calls led to watching dawn break in the woods rather than over a traffic jam. Current events and work stuff made for conversation at the supper table that first night, but by Saturday and Sunday, all talk was about hunting deer with bows and arrows.
For several years now, the Archery Manufacturers Organization and industry sponsors (Muzzy Products, Parker Compound Bows/Nationwide, and Realtree) have been hosting archery weekends for Congressional members and staff. In theory, the industry believed when the idea was developed, people and decision-makers exposed to archery in a positive way will be more likely to support our sport.
Building Congressional Bridges
In practice, the benefits multiplied much more. Not only did the newcomers support the sport, they often took it up, and they built lasting friendships. They had a blast. This year, there would be another benefit — from a work environment tainted with threads of sorrow and fear, they would escape to a timeless place of freedom and beauty — the deer woods. I would learn a lot, too.
The archery hunting newcomers included Erica Tergusan (legislative correspondent for Congressman Bob Schaffer, R-Colorado), Cindy Marlenee (wife of former Congressman Ron Marlenee, R-Montana), legislative assistant Griffin Garner and deputy press secretary Will Claiborne (both work for Senator Zell Miller, R-Georgia).
Legislative correspondent Erica Tergusan, who works with Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colorado), practices her archery skills.
Parker/Nationwide president Bob Errett, who spent 10 opening days in Michigan hunting with Fred Bear, hosted us on his West Virginia farm. We were joined by Michele Crummer of Muzzy Products, Johnny Grace of Parker/Nationwide (he’s national sales manager) and Tom Woodworth of Parker/Nationwide (operations manager). Complimentary hunting licenses were provided by Ed Hamrick, director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Johnny Grace headed the archery instruction Friday and Saturday. On Saturday afternoon, we headed to our treestands. From business attire to camouflage, from briefcases in hand to compound bows, the transformation from Capitol Hill to the West Virginia hills seemed complete. Their enthusiasm was contagious.
On stand, I kept wondering what everyone else was seeing. Towards dusk, a few deer cruised through my finger of woods towards a field, and I got a shot at a doe. While it was still light, I got down and looked at my arrow, which seemed too clean. There was blood, but no bubbles. Disappointed, I half-heartedly walked a short way along the path of the deer’s flight, finding no more than a small drop of blood. Still, I knew Johnny would want to investigate further, and left things as they were.
On The Blood Trail
Cindy and I met in the field, and then Johnny came to pick us up. We returned to my stand area, and he expanded the search. Not 30 yards from where I’d seen the tiny drop, Johnny called me over to a good blood trail. We decided to go back to Bob’s house and eat, then return to the trail. At the table, we laughed at Erica’s imitations of a, “deer blow,” and her own shaking, “buck fever.” We had neglected to tell her that those things might happen.
After supper, Erica said she’d really like to go out with us on the blood trail. I worried needlessly that seeing the blood might bother her — Erica grew up on a beef farm in Colorado. She said later that she loved tracking on the blood trail, and that it was like a, “treasure hunt.” I remember Johnny, Michele, Erika and I stopping and shining our lights ahead on a gray shape. None of us wanted to be wrong, nobody said anything. We tracked some more, lifted our lights again on the same gray shape. Closer now, it was possible to see that it had hair, and was the doe.
I don’t know who was most excited. We all helped drag the deer up the West Virginia hills and hang it in Bob’s barn. It would be joined there by does harvested by Johnny, Tom and Michele. Michele harvested a true boss nanny, the biggest doe I have ever seen.
Everyone saw deer and could have taken shots. But, more impressive than the shots taken were the shots not taken, due to what they’d learned about archery hunting and shot placement from Michele and the Parker bow folks. I heard sentences like, “Well, it was quartering towards me,” or, “it never stopped walking.” While they learned that archery was fun, they also learned that it wasn’t easy getting so close to an animal, and getting a shot.
Capitol Hill Success
Just from overhearing what Johnny said on the archery range, I learned more about shooting. I also learned that blood trailing is an ever-continuing education.
By the time we left Sunday, Bob was already fairly deep into the process of canning the deer meat. Michele and Johnny had de-boned the meat from her deer and had packed it into a cooler with ice for her flight home. The folks from Capitol Hill had been part of a deer hunt from start to finish, from the archery range to the hunt, from the hunt to the trail, from trail’s end to meat preparation. Now, we were all going our separate ways.
Hmmm, I was thinking as I waved goodbye to Will, Griffin, Cindy and Erica, look how easy it was to get people so enthusiastic about archery and archery hunting in a single weekend. I was thinking what a good idea it had been for the AMO and industry sponsors to host such events. In just a few days, those four people had gotten a slice of what makes us love our sport so much. I had gotten a doe, but my enjoyment came from seeing their enthusiasm and fun.
Some would say the industry needs to do more to introduce people to archery, but here’s what I learned that weekend — the industry is doing that, and the Congressional hunts are a great idea. In the end though, it is up to people. People who are willing to volunteer their time so that just even one more person can discover why we love archery so much. People like Michele, Johnny, Tom and Bob.
People like you and me. We can do it, and we should.