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Practice, just in case

Bow season is just around the corner (in Iowa).

I only mention this for those bow hunters that have been procrastinating worse than I have. A good person practices with their bow year 'round.

There are silhouette competitions that make great preparation. There are indoor shoots during the winter, complete with leagues to keep the muscles and skills sharp.

For those that are not so dedicated as to compete year 'round, there is the backyard practice, usually started during the middle of the summer. A person can tune up and build the muscles necessary in a few weeks of shooting a target on the lawn. There remains a few of us that wait to get in shape at the very last minute. At least one of those remaining few is typing an outdoors column with extreme pain in his wrist from taking too many practice shots in too short of a period of time.

Shooting a bow is not like riding a bicycle. Once a person learns how to shoot, that is only the beginning. They will need to practice every year to maintain a certain skill level and always work harder to improve. Muscles required to draw and hold a bow steady are not used for many other things. Those muscles need work.

To me, bow hunting is the ultimate in communing with nature. To walk into the woods on a cool, fall morning in pursuit of a grand old buck sharpens the senses and gives an adrenalin rush that lasts all day.

I know I am in his territory. He knows every tree, gully and stream bed in the area. He has sharper senses and I have to be close to get a shot. Most people like to hunt from a tree stand, above the deer's line of sight and hopefully keeping human scent out of the equation. I prefer to be on the ground, close to the action. I use the wind to sweep my scent away and hunt with the terrain. I know if a big old buck gets behind me, I do not have a chance, but if I can get him to approach upwind, he will walk into my lap. I also like the freedom of being able to move to a different location if necessary rather than being restricted to a single tree.

There are times being on the ground has its disadvantages, such as when I was sitting perfectly still in dense cover and a squirrel ran over me. He did not notice he was walking on a person until he was crossing my legs. I did not see him until that time either. We were both extremely startled. He ran up my chest, onto the tree and out on a limb, where he sat scolding me.

With him scolding and my jumping up to rid myself of the attacking squirrel, I am sure most deer in the area were alerted to my location. At other times, it is rewarding to know you are well concealed, such as when a doe walks within a few feet of your hiding place. It is a real rush to be able to see the moisture on her nose and the blink of her long eyelashes while she eats. Being eye to eye with one's quarry and not being seen is the ultimate.

When I can get close enough to touch a deer while we are in their home territory, I know I have accomplished my main goal. I think I will go out and practice a bit more in case I really want to take one. It would be a good thing to be able to hit what I shoot at.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.