The Long And Winding Road To Becoming A Bowhunter: Part 1

Humble Beginnings
As a bowhunter, everyone has his or her own unique beginning. Some people are “hand-groomed,” coming from hunting families with long, rich hunting heritages. Others come from the opposite end of the spectrum, having learned everything the hard way — on their own. If you are serious about this pursuit, it’s safe to say that you’re on a journey of passion and learning that will teach you many things about yourself. Why do you do it? … because you love it? Why do you focus so much of your time, money and effort around it? What part(s) of it do you obsess upon?

In the following three-part series, travel along with me as I give you an opinionated, speculative and sometimes rambling spill on the blessings and pitfalls of a passion that has obsessed/possessed me most of my life. As you digest this story of 35 years in the life of a bowhunting junkie, I hope that some of this fodder imparts some important “food-for-thought” into your journey also. If nothing else, possibly some of my thoughts, feelings and learning experiences will help you grow as a responsible and constructive outdoorsman, and bowhunter. As a matter of fact, I could still use a lot of help in that department myself!

Most serious bowhunters are even-more serious conservationists — a deep-rooted love for the out-of-doors is what fuels the fire inside them.

I plainly remember the first time that I had a “close encounter” with a whitetail buck. I was a young whelp (about 8- or 9 years old), and my family and I were visiting some of our relatives in Osage County, Oklahoma. It just so happened that we were there during the Thanksgiving holiday, which coincided with the Oklahoma firearm deer season. Having not come from a hunting family, I had no idea of the excitement that was in the air for many of my hunting relatives.

A Seed Planted
My cousins and I were outside playing together when one of my uncles came rolling up in his old pickup truck. I guess that most of my cousins knew what this meant because they immediately ran over to the truck and peered into the bed. Not to be left behind, I quickly followed the rush, climbing up on the bumper to see what all the commotion was about. I was immediately awed by what awaited my attention — an 8-point buck! In a short while, my companions had drifted away, once again quickly immersed in their game of “Cowboys-and-Indians.” Left to my own means, I quickly climbed into the bed of my uncle’s truck to begin an inspection of the amazing creature that lay before me. For the longest time, I examined the buck from one end to the other. Of all the amazing parts to be explored, it seemed however, that I always gravitated back to the “horns” — touching them, turning them, admiring them. Little did I know, but this experience sparked an infatuation that would last most of the remainder of my life! 

However you got your start as an outdoorsman, treasure the memories of a life spent communing with nature.

After my first close-up encounter with antlers, I found myself often dreaming about getting some of my own. That pursuit began at age 13, when I got my first bow and arrows. In reality, the bow and arrows were extremely primitive, yet they accomplished the most important goal possible — simply putting me in the game. For a couple of years, I tackled the woods around my northeastern Oklahoma home with reckless abandon. I don’t think you could actually call my efforts “bowhunting,” rather, more fittingly, “outdoor adventures.” I never came close to anything that resembled effective hunting efforts, yet I soaked-up field and stream with gusto. I came to realize that my desire to “hunt deer” was overshadowed by my insatiable appetite for nature — there was a lot of neat stuff to do and see “out there.” These were truly, the best years of my life.

In Part II next week, you’ll see how my love of bowhunting elevates itself into an all-consuming passion. 

Please read more in Part 2.

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Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Over the past dozen years, Claypool has harvested 23 Pope & Young recordbook whitetails. Six of the deer were taken on public ground, with the rest coming from private ground that he accessed through knocking on doors. He has not been guided on a hunt, or hunted on managed properties. He also has hunted many other species of game including elk and mule deer.

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