You’ll often hear me mention that I usually hunt alone, and when I decide to bring someone along it often spells trouble. In my adult life, the only consistent hunting partner that I’ve ever had, is my best friend since almost birth. But life has a way of shifting things around and it had been several years since I had someone to share a trail or a campfire with. My wife and I decided to buy a house that was 22 miles from the nearest town, and within striking distance of my core hunting grounds. As it turned out, our new house was located in the same area as some old friends of my family. Along the same county road in fact! And the husband, Tim, had done his share of hunting with a stickbow over the years. What were the odds?
Tim is close to 20 years my senior and, until now, I hadn’t really got to know him during my adult life. But we get along smashingly fine, and he’s come to be a mentor of sorts. He refers to me as “Pilgrim”, and I call him “Hillbilly Tim”. He hadn’t done much elk hunting with a bow, and really hadn’t hunted with a bow at all over the past several years. Feeling excited at the prospect of having a “trad buddy” and having someone to hunt elk with, I hatched a plot to have a bow made for him. I was shooting a Big Stick Assassin longbow, so that’s what I ordered for him as well. I built six POC arrows for him, tipped with 155 grain Grizzly broadheads, and six practice arrows. Tim was very excited about his new bow, and we practiced together regularly. Both of us were anxious for the fast approaching elk season.
Fast forward through the last bit of summer, and the second week of September found us in the field and looking for bugling bulls. It didn’t take very long for me to discover that ol’ Hillbilly Tim had a few quirks. One of them being that he lost his mind at even the thought of a grouse being in range. This led to some comical antics and a lot of arrows being launched at the tasty birds. And believe you me, Tim is a grouse connoisseur! I’ve never met anyone that gets more excited at the promise of a grouse in the pan, to the point of completely forgetting the much larger critter that was supposed to be on the menu. One particular morning found us high on a mountain and parked at a gated road that led into one my favorite elk areas. The hunting was slow, and by noon we were back at my truck and talking about having chicken fried steak and eggs at a favorite restaurant back in town. One of my own personal quirks is that if I break any of my numerous routines, it throws me completely off kilter. Stick to my routines and things go as planned. Gear never gets lost and I can attack things with confidence. With me used to always being alone and doing things my way, well…I’m not blaming my buddy Tim, but I was feeling a little “off” that day.
With bellies full, we decided to head to an area farther north. We were about 15 miles down a dirt road, when a grouse ran in front of us and paused on an embankment. “STOP! Grouse! Grouse! Grouse! STOP!” Tim spewed excitedly. The truck wasn’t even to a complete stop, when he ejected himself from the vehicle, bow in hand and at a dead sprint. I looked over at the now vacant passenger seat, with the door flung wide-open and just chuckled. I finished pulling over and put the truck into park, just in time to see Tim emerge from the brush muttering to himself. By his abrupt body language and the guttural sounds emanating from his taciturn scowl, I didn’t need to hear the story to know how the encounter had ended. The grouse had obviously gotten away. In fact, it looked like Tim’s quiver was one arrow shy. This made me chuckle once more, and I started thinking that I should arrange my gear and make sure that my bow was easy to get to…hey, wait a minute! I racked my brain, going over in my head the gear-stowing sequence that should have transpired when we left the trailhead, before heading back to town. I felt like I had been struck by lightning. A cold sweat came on and I could feel the bile forcing its way up my throat. I couldn’t remember putting my bow into the truck after I had removed my pack, pistol and bino harness. I was ejected out of the driver’s seat, much like Tim had exploded out of the truck only moments prior. I ripped open the rear door to confirm my worst fear. My bow was nowhere to be seen. My brain couldn’t comprehend what my eyes were transmitting, and I began ransacking through gear, like there was some chance that the 62” longbow was playing possum. Tim didn’t need to hear from my lips what was wrong. Before he could get his door properly shut, we were arcing in a beautiful rooster tail of flying gravel, dust and debris.
There is a very good chance that I not only broke the land speed record, but broke a few traffic laws on the way back to town, through town and back up the mountain. I went from rally racing, to gingerly taking that last switchback. My eyes were glued to dirt and scanning for any sign of my bow. I imagined it lying in the road, twisted and broken from trucks running over its beautiful limbs. Suddenly I spotted my bugle tube. And then, there it was, lying just off the road and out of harm’s way! Thankfully, it appeared unscathed! I eased the truck into park and let out a long-held sigh of relief. Tim and I hadn’t spoken since our explosive reversal of direction, and he held his tongue until I could confirm the bow was not damaged. With a wry smile he drawled, “Well, Pilgrim, maybe you’ll pay better attention next time.” Yes, indeed. Never had truer words ever been uttered! You can bet that OCD has now been added to the list of my own personal quirks, and neither sleet, nor hail, nor grouse obsessed hunting partners have since kept my bow from the attention it deserves.