I stared bug-eyed as Rick swung his bow at half draw past Joey, and he doing the same toward Rick! I thought fer sure someone’s going to the hospital, but it was actually under pretty good control with these guys quite used to how a push can go. The deer got past us, but we found them in the pasture at the top. Again, we lined out at the edge of the woods and tried to flush them back in. Rick and I saw them first. He was standing in a ditch and I was up on a rock with a nice clear 25 – 30 yard broadside shot. I raised my bow to shoot, and Rick brought his hand up and pulled it down. I was furious! I still don’t know if he simply wanted the shot himself, or did not trust my marksmanship. I got him good later on the 20-minute piece. No deer were flushed out, but he was one of the pushers, and I had the top station. He came out of the woods toward me. I had good bark camo on top and gray jeans on the legs. I sat nestled between two trees with my legs along the roots and a head net on as Rick walked right up on me. He turned the other way and I gave a light whistle. He turned back to find me and couldn’t. This went back & forth until I decided it was enough and moved so he could see me. He tipped his hat and said “Not bad, Eric”. I got Giff the same way while standing still in a little “whippit” grove. He walked to within 10 feet without seeing me. When he did, I could see the adrenalin push his eyeballs out. That was cool…
Of the times I went to the camp, only Giff tagged a little deer. It was consumed as camp food almost immediately. It was a heck of shot, though, from a tree stand at sunset. He had no idea just how big or small it was, but had a bead on the critter and it went down in 30 yards. Successful hunts can be elusive, but it’s not the taking of game that necessarily makes or breaks it. The camaraderie of camp life and the release of primal instincts suppressed by the demands of urban survival leave us appreciative of nature’s gifts and the desire to return and try again. It’s a most rewarding experience.
Butch & Dave have since moved south to warmer climes. Pete & Joey now have kids and don’t get out to play much anymore. Mike & Jimmy both have bad shoulders and have backed off the archery for the time being. Rick was actually first to leave our merry band, absorbed in his own set of issues and requiring extended private contemplation. Tony sold his archery equipment and disappeared somewhere. I don’t know what became of Tommy – I didn’t know him well. Giff was buried on a gray Sunday after a sudden heart attack while playing basketball. He was quite fit, but you just never know. Our hunting camp, along with 6 others, fell to arson by extremist anti-hunters. Only the old outhouse survives – lovingly transported via front-end loader to Mike’s new hunting camp, and now enshrined in reinforcing stones.
When I think of those days, it’s with a fondness toward a time that shall not be repeated. The punctuation of the burned-out camp leaves a bittersweet taste with the memories, but I wouldn’t trade those days for any other time of my experiences. I guess the moral of the story is that nothing is what it seems, and never take anything for granted, for it may not be there tomorrow. There’s a hole in my life where Giff once occupied along with wistful thoughts of rough camp life when the sights & smells and voluntary trials & tribulations gave us time to ponder our very existence. An old Indian saying sums up the long epitaph of “We will meet again where the streams run full with fish past the forests of plentiful game and join the mighty river of life under the full moon of the Great Spirit.”