Bowhunting taught me nature’s connection to my food, and instilled in me the importance of stewardship, persistence and mindfulness.
Lesson 1: Learn your food’s source.
Before I started hunting, I often tagged along with my boyfriend, Nick, on whitetail hunts. I sat patiently in treestands for hours, waiting for deer to emerge from thickets. My intentions were simply to get outdoors and spend time with Nick. A cold December morning forever changed how I viewed food.
That’s when I watched Nick arrow a doe from the two-person ladder stand we shared. It saddened me to watch that amazing creature take her last breath, but as we field-dressed, processed and later ate the venison she provided, I was struck by the profound notion that hunting is about food. That’s when I became a hunter. I realized the importance of knowing where my food comes from. It’s a mindful process; one that brings you closer to the natural world and our role in it.
Lesson 2: This is your land.
I did not understand the value of public land until I moved west of the Mississippi River. I’m embarrassed by that ignorance, but I grew up in a state in which less than 26 percent of land was publicly owned. That did not help me learn about this incredible resource. After spending one archery season in the Rocky Mountains, which engulfed me in wild and unblemished landscapes, I became a conservationist. Bowhunting taught me that public lands are one of the greatest assets we inherit as Americans.
Lesson 3: Time and practice: Get used to it.
Learning to bowhunt is a long process with a steep learning curve. Success won’t happen overnight. Failure is inevitable. Hardships persist, and can be downright unfair. Bowhunting’s relentless challenges can reduce the toughest hunters to tears, but if you can treat each mistake as growth and learning platforms, you’ll become stronger in all aspects of life.
I spent three seasons chasing elusive pronghorns before I sneaked into 35 yards and filled my tag. The many hours spent perfecting my shooting, stalking through sage brush, and walking back to the truck emptyhanded were obligatory steps in reaching my goals.
I’m forever in debt to bowhunting. Lessons I learned through my outdoors experiences with a bow run deeper than mere pursuit of animals. Those lessons connected me to my food and wild landscapes, and proved to be the best teachers I’ve ever had.