“Isobel, what animal do you think made this track?” as I indicated to the spoor in the wet sand.
“Don’t know Dad… is it a cow?”
“Ahh… no sweetie, a dingo made this one. See how it looks a lot like Buster’s paw print?” Buster being the family chewer of valuable shoes and a good friend to Isobel.
And there started another small tutorial of walking in the bush and being taught how to read the terrain and what moves within its boundaries. This was my daughter’s first real outing as a hunting partner with her dad. She had always been left at home, playing second fiddle to her older brother and more often than not storming off to her room in a huff after being told she was a little young to come. It has been a standing order in our house that if you want to head out hunting with Dad your feet must be able to touch the floor whilst sitting at the dinner table. I had a new cattle property that I had gained access to hunt on and I knew it had a few Rusa deer moving through its borders, so with the above prerequisite met, a day’s scouting was in order.
With pleasantries exchanged with the landholder about the normal worries on cattle prices, rain and higher fuel costs I then asked about the lay of his land and where he wanted and more importantly where he did not want us scouting about. With luck we had the whole place to ourselves and free rein was given as he did not mind where we wandered. So with that we ventured our way towards a natural water course, me with my new Black Widow longbow recently arrived and Isobel with her brothers 24# recurve, head to toe in his camouflage to boot. She felt a bit out of place and mentioned more than once saying she looked like a boy but with lots of encouragement put forward we were on our first hunt together.
When hunting or scouting out a new area I always like to shoot a lot of arrows, that being a combination of judos and blunts. The natural arc of an arrow and nock speeding away to an intended mark, all to be eclipsed by fletching builds confidence and keeps my muscles limber and eyes keen. And today I was on fire, I just could not miss. Long shots, short shots, my new longbow and I felt in the groove, diminishing all previous thoughts of having difficulty switching over to the longbow after years of faithful service to a recurve. I clued Isobel up on a game her brother Samuel and I often played when stump shooting. The deal is, I shoot an arrow and then the nock of that arrow becomes the target once the junior shooter feels they’re at a comfortable range to take a shot. I find it’s a flourishing method to get their aiming skills up as well as an easy target to pick up in the foliage of the bush. Call it beginner’s luck or what have you but on her very first shot of the day Isobel raked the fletching of my arrow. Looks as though the apple does not fall far from the tree today.
We slowly made our way along the river’s edge, sometimes strolling our way up onto the bank above the high water mark, following game trails and our conversations along the way were in whispers. All the while lessons being both learned and taught from father to daughter with hopefully a bowhunter to come into the fore front in the years ahead. Often I was caught off guard by a question as I was scanning the bush further on trying to work out the local deer herd and hoping to spot any telltale signs of their movements. Brought back to reality we engaged ourselves with the little things like animal spoor, native flowers and types of birdlife–the latter being the main topic, due to a local flock of noisy minors following our advance. I explained to Isobel how these birds will alert the deer due to their constant racket from above. Over the years the deer have cultured themselves to associate the commotion with danger, i.e. the dingo or a stalking hunter, and a flock will end any proposed stalk. The only way to be rid of them was to sit still and wit it out, anyway, when stalking deer the traditional stickbow hunter needs to be in slow motion and look far more then he walks.
We unpacked our mid morning snacks and relaxed on the fine river sand soaking up the day’s sunshine like lizards on an early winters morning. Isobel is one of those people that needs to eat all day, and she does just that. I’m sure her legs are hollow as she was looking towards my day sack for more. Then it was time to cover herself in sand just like a day at the beach and I was beginning to feel that the day of scouting I had intended was getting shorter by the minute. Little legs tire quickly and I have been known to walk too far for the untrained. So relax I did and put the scouting on hold for another day. Why with the running creek beside us and the big shady paper bark trees overhead who could have blamed me for enjoying the moment and tranquillity of the bush. A man could not have been happier, a new bow within arm’s reach, shared with my lovely daughter, in the outdoors with the first man who will ever love her and hopefully be a guide and example to all the men in her life. As I rested in the sand her imagination ran wild with battles of knights and dragons, princesses and villains, all contained by the creek she was standing in and a few sticks to act as toys. O to be young again and not a care in the world…
After a colossal battle that which I have no doubt that nasty dragon’s rule was ended, it was time to slip on the shoes and make our way back to the car for our journey home. Isobel had other ideas. Rather than stalking the river bank and shoot arrows with me, she thought it a dandy idea to walk in the creek back on our return and cool her feet in the running stream. Dad of course had to carry her bow, day sack and shoes… what are fathers for anyway? So with that settled and me loaded up the journey begins home.
I still had that feeling of whatever I looked at needed an arrow through it so once a target was spied off went all the gear and up came the bow and again, I just could not miss. This time it helped with Isobel walking in the stream as I sent arrows from one bank to the other across the flowing water in long arcs of fire, some of them 40 and 50 yard shots. With Isobel in the creek I didn’t have to even get my feet wet as she gladly retrieved my arrows after a winning shot. Although I think after the fifth or sixth arrow my enveloped had been opened and with a roll of the eyes I got the hint.
I find it kind of strange how when you’re up and on top of the world it does not take much to bring you crashing back to earth with a sickening thud. Follow on and see what I mean.
You know how I said I felt a connection with my new longbow and how I also mentioned I could not miss with this nail driver of a bow. Well it was just one of those shots that, as I said, brings you back from the dizzy heights of stardom. You see I found a fine backwash of sand along the creeks edge that looked like the perfect backstop. It was near a bend and in the backwash was an old leaf that beckoned a shot from 25 yards out… I even planned to thread the arrow through a 4 strand barbed wire fence as an added obstacle. Hell… the way I was shooting today even Mr. Hill would have been proud. My focus was burning holes in the leaf so much so I thought it would start smouldering, and as I had done all day long, I drew, anchored, held for a moment and released with a follow through painting my fingers along my face. Then it happened… I was completely engrossed in my point of aim that I never even saw the black PVC water pipe running along the top strand of the fence line. And with authority my 620 grains of well sped handmade arrow smashed dead centre of the half-inch pipe sending water hissing out from all angles. I stood bewildered at how unlucky I could be and how I’d never even seen the pipe until I hit it. I knew as soon as I tried to retrieve my arrow out of the pipe the water pressure would naturally increase and spill everywhere. I knew this was not going to look good in the eyes of the property owner so with hat in hand I made my way quickly back to the house to inform him of what I had done. Well done I thought, way to go Al, new place to hunt and you go and do this! I felt like I was being sent to the head masters office back in my school days, a feeling I knew all too well back then I might add.
But my feelings of uncertainty were wasted as the owner had planned to renew the old pipe soon anyway and we both had a good laugh about it in the end. He must have thought I was a real fine shot doing something like that I bet! But on the upside of things the relationship between us would be better for it as I handed myself in so to speak and I guess that would hold some weight as to just who was walking his land. With no game even sighted, all bar a few dingo tracks in the sand the day would seem like loss to some, just not me. With the warm glow of a proud father and a sleeping daughter resting in my lap for the drive home, the wording of successful has new meanings in my book. Father/Daughter time is for the now… the deer scouting can wait some.