Famed existentialist author and thinker Franz Kafka wrote The Metamorphosis. In this chilling tale Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to find that he had been changed into a huge bug.
Some hunters may experience a similar occurrence. No, we don’t often awake to discover that we are bugs, though the camo effect could be beneficial. But we do awake one day, perhaps after a long period of contemplation, and conclude that we no longer want to do things the way we have been doing them. We morph in a way. We wonder how hunting was before technology began to steer it. We wonder if we, in those days of old, would have been well fed or hungry. We wonder, and this wondering prompts a wandering into different approaches. The collecting of game takes second place to the method by which that game is taken. This is true of several of us in my hunting circle. We focus on method; we have gone through a metamorphosis that dictates our hunting. My friend Neal Brown is a perfect example.
Brown, a skilled deer hunter, grew tired of shooting scope-sighted rifles and compound bows. He wanted to try some of the old ways, ways employed by explorers of the 18th century, ways of the Native Americans. This led Brown to flintlock rifles and fowlers and longbows. The longbows of modern construction, with glass and carefully trimmed laminates, led to stickbows, those units made of nothing but wood. Brown became a master at building all these, but has chosen to focus his creative talents on stickbows. He and I now each shoot osage bows backed with bamboo that he built.
One afternoon this past October I asked Brown to go with me to my farm for a bowhunt. We knew of a buck that was captured on a trail camera at the close of the past season and had been waiting for those just-right weather conditions to hunt him. That day a cool front had moved through, taking with it the rain we had been enjoying for three days. The wind turned from the north and created a perfect set up for this buck that we felt sure was still around somewhere close.
Brown and I arrived about 2 p.m. and made plans to hunt this buck. Since bowhunting is a close-in affair, we opted to set up within 100 yards of one another in hopes that one of us would see the buck as he left a pine plantation and headed either to a green field or white-oak acorn ridge. My stand was set in the edge of some big timber near the green plot. Brown eased down the hill to the oaks. A glorious autumn afternoon unfolded before us.
Just before dark I heard Brown coming up the hill. He was moving with abandon, and I suspected that he had taken a shot. “Come on down and let’s go find my deer,” he said as he approached my stand. Brown’s breathing was fast with excitement, and his voice had that edge of urgency. He quickly outlined what had happened.
“I heard a deer in the leaves behind me,” he said. “I looked back and saw that it was a good buck. After that I didn’t look at his rack again. I tried to get a shot, but my bow limb bumped the tree. I had to turn a little to my left to clear the tree. The buck was popping the white-oak acorns and was no more than 15 or 18 yards out. I was afraid he was going to see me.”
But the buck didn’t see my comrade. Rather, the deer continued munching acorns. Brown made one of those smooth, fast draws that is common to him and the arrow was on its way, a heavy cedar shaft tipped with a two-blade Magnus head.
“I tucked the shot in tight behind his left front leg. He bounced off down the hill 60 yards or so and stopped. I watched him go down right there—I don’t even think we will need a light.” And we didn’t. The buck was there where Brown had said he would be; a beautiful deer, main-frame 10 with two kickers and some reasonably heavy palmation. The scales later showed that he weighed 192 pounds. “The buck of a lifetime,” Brown called him. And he was taken with a stickbow, a primitive tool common to those who roamed these hills and hollows long before we did. Brown has no desire to reverse his metamorphosis.