It all started with an invitation to join Mrs. Troutbirder and her teachers’ sorority for breakfast at the Pope & Young museum in Chatfield. "What's Pope & Young," I had asked, looking for an excuse not to go. "I don't know either", she replied but Jewel said Steve is going so.... "Ok," I replied not too thrilled.The breakfast was decent, the museum tour was terrific. Pope and Young turned out to be a national bow hunters club dedicated to conservation and record-keeping. It is similar to the Boone and Crocket club for gunners. The museum had the history of bowhunting in dioramas and other exhibits. Saxton Pope and Art Young are the two gentlemen who are synonymous with the bow hunting revival that began near the start of the 20th century and continued through today.
Of course, I was thrilled to relive my boyhood memories of Fred Bear hunting the polar bear with his bow and my Ben Pearson long bow. In my youth, I had proved to be an adept hunter of squirrels and rabbits. And then I couldn't help but remember my first years bowhunting the elusive Minnesota whitetail.
It all began my first year of teaching in the Valley. Several veteran bow hunters, Don and Jerry, invited me to join them for the fall deer season. They were my mentors in this exciting new sport. I knew there would be no "buck fever" for me because well... I was Mr. Cool.
Several outings produced no opportunities. Then my big chance came on a Saturday morning near Lanesboro. I had been placed at the head of a steep gully about fifteen yards above a small spring. My hunting partners fanned out to either side after advising me that any deer would surely come up the ravine on their way to the spring. I was situated behind some bushes and directly in front of a large log.It was still not quite light when I assumed my standing position. I was ready, willing, and able to take my first deer. Soon every little sound in the forest got my attention. I was sure a number of times that deer were approaching me from behind.... only to find, upon carefully turning my head, that it was squirrels, grouse, chipmunks and other woodsy creatures. No deer though appeared for hours. Finally, I decided to sit down on the log, where I could still see the spring ahead and down to my right. The bushes concealed my vantage point.
I never heard the deer closely approach me from the left. There were three deer which I saw out of the corner of my eye. Paralyzed, I never moved. The lead deer stopped not five feet in front of me on the other side of the bushes. Then she turned her head, lowered it slightly and stared right at me. Now what do I do?I swear every time I blinked she seemed to stare harder. The standoff lasted an eternity. Every time I slowly tried to stand up and get my bow (which was lying across my lap) into a vertical position she twitched. Finally, I decided on Plan B. I would lift my still horizontal bow slightly, draw the bowstring, and shoot her straight thru the bushes. At five feet, I could hardly miss. From my sitting position I I slowly began to draw, reaching about half a draw, when the string ran into a large obstacle.... my stomach. I could have shot. Probably having the effect of a small mosquito bite. About that time I also noticed several more deer gathered around the spring. I picked out the largest and went for the stand-up quick shot. At my first motion to stand up, the deer on the other side of the bush let out a loud "woof" and immediately all six deer scattered in six directions. I never got a shot off.
I bow hunted a few more years after that but as my friends had moved on to other school districts, I found it was the camaraderie of the hunt that had been most appealing. Thus ended my deer hunting years although I continued with upland game and waterfowl but those are other stories.