Last December I decided I would attempt to learn a new hobby, archery. I had never shot a compound bow, but I liked the idea of spending extended time in the mountains in September when bow-hunters chase deer and elk. Conscious of my naivety, I decided to attempt to become competent and confident in time to hunt deer and elk this September.
I found a bow that seemed right for me on Craigslist.com: a reasonably priced, lightly used, five-year old, left-handed bow made by one of the leading manufactures. I shoot left-handed. My son picked it up for me and when he brought it home I excitedly tried to draw it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t! My confidence plummeted. What had I gotten myself into? This is what I wrote in my journal December 16th:
“So far, I have not been able to muster the strength and coordination to draw the bow. This is going to be a long hard climb for me to become proficient enough to confidently hunt. I am not sure if I can even make it, but I want to try.”
I stepped up my cross-training exercises and studied “how-to” YouTube videos. Within a week, I was able to pull the bow back a couple times and by the end of December I was shooting about a dozen arrows each day, but my shoulder was sore.
Because I could only practice shooting during the day, I started my workday at 5:30 AM and took a break mid-morning to go to a nearby wooded area to shoot. By the end of January I had shot about 500 arrows and was growing in shot-accuracy.
My progress was interrupted by a six week trip Nancy and I took to Africa in February and March. After we returned, I immediately started practicing again. Unfortunately, I had lost much of the strength I had gained. On March 18, I could only pull the bow back three times to shoot three arrows. Nevertheless, I regained strength quickly and by the end of the month I was shooting about 20 arrows a day about five days a week.
In April, I started to more deliberately increase focus while shooting. I learned that accuracy in archery requires a high degree of concentration both physically and mentally. This is proving to be even more difficult than developing appropriate muscle strength.
By July I was shooting 40 to 50 arrows every day and estimated that by the time Nancy and I left for a road trip to Colorado mid-month that I had shot about 4000 arrows. That might sound like a lot, but I was not confident enough in my skill-level to draw on an animal. I needed more time! To complicate the situation, when we returned to Spokane in early August, I was suffering from a pulled muscle in my back. Slowly, my back felt better and I was able to shoot about 1000 more arrows by the time deer and elk seasons opened at the beginning of September. By then, I felt that given the right situation, I would be able to confidently draw on an animal and make an ethical shot.
I never was in the right place at the right time to take a shot. Nevertheless, I reached my goal. I am now confident that I can take an ethical shot.
I intend to continue practicing. I have much room for improvement in this new skill. I’m grateful for the opportunity.