Traditional Bowhunters of Florida

Old Love Returns

By Todd Brandt

     Have you ever been rummaging through some old boxes or things in storage and found an old photograph of friend from childhood?  Some old memories come flooding back or maybe you miss the old days of youth.  Maybe you find an old jersey or dusty old cleats and your mind slips back to when you played ball and, if you are like me, remember how good you were back then!  I think my mind remembers me better than I really was, but nonetheless, I was pretty darn good back then.  A few years ago I was looking for something in my “hunting closet” and stumbled upon my old stickbows and a Bear recurve I got for my 16th Christmas.  I remembered how I would hold that bow and dream of days afield deer hunting with it.  Well, the dreams of my youth never came to fruition and when I would finally bow hunt for deer it would be with a wheeled bow.  I have bowhunted for 25 plus years and honestly get school boy giddy every year anticipating the coming season.  

     Today’s modern archery equipment is so good and I have been at it long enough that so much of the guess work is gone and kills within range are almost automatic.  I don’t know if I was bored or just needed a new challenge, but when I saw the old bows in my closet, a spark hit an old flame of mine that day.  I reminisced and considered and even said I would maybe pick up the old girl again.  

     You see, as a boy growing up right next to Skinner’s Dairy in Jacksonville, I spent countless days exploring the pastures and surrounding creeks and trees with my bows and pellet guns.  They were cheap fiberglass stick bows and arrows, but the passion for the hunt was pure.  I even hit some of the things I shot at. But school, the Army and life gets in the way and the boy forgets his first love until one day, he sees her standing in the corner again and she whispers, “Did you forget about me?”  Well, two years later, “gonna” turns into calling a deacon buddy of mine who had told me that he had a longbow that he wasn’t using, so I borrowed it and I was back in business.  Whoa, wait a minute, where are all the gadgets that made me shoot like Robin Hood.  Gone are the sights and releases and drop away rests and shooting 70 pounds drawing machines at 300fps, but only holding 14 pounds at full draw.

     Now regardless of what contraption a bowman shoots, practice is always required, but my high regard for the animal I pursue now demanded a dedication to practice that my compound never did.  But with the longbow in hand, an old flame had been reignited, a deeper passion for something that I already had loved returned.  Now the stick becomes an extension of my hand and the arrow follows my vision to the focal point.     

     I shot one buck with that borrowed bow last year and I would pick up Super Shrew for my 50th birthday this year and set out to get one with my own bow.  I hunt in northeast Florida and bow season is hot and the vegetation is thick and lush as summer.  The first doe that presented a shot one Saturday morning came in about 7 am and stayed for nearly an hour foraging in the oaks I was in.  She came in cautious, but would eventually settle down and present a 15 yard shot slightly quartering away.  As I took my bow off the bow hanger, I decided now is the time to shoot.  Did I mention that the stick and string I held in my hand is much longer than my Mathews compound?  I need to unlearn some things don’t I?  They may call it a longbow, because it sounds so good or maybe because it’s long!  Well you probably guessed that I messed up.  I started the very fluid motion of pushing the bow away from my body and drawing the arrow to the corner of my mouth, but the very tip of the bow made contact with the metal bow hanger that I had hung.  The doe reacted appropriately and made two to three bounds and turned to silently ask, “What the heck was that?”.  She would eventually calm down again, but never presented another shot that I felt was consistent with my ability and she left the way she came.  

     I waited for about another hour and at 9:02 I saw the familiar twitch of an ear and it looks like she’s coming back from the last place I saw her, yet, if it was the same doe, she had a new purpose as she looked back over her shoulder.  I thought, “Why are you looking back over your shoulder?”  She then moved another 15 yards up a trail and stopped to look back again and then I saw why she looked back.  In came a nice seven point that was trailing her and I was nearly offended that he paid no attention to me, but this great opportunity is not looking good as she picked a path of dense ground cover and tree limbs at my level and I had no shot in that entire patch of woods.  

     She would run about 10 to 15 yards and stop and he would move towards her and she would go again.  I dreaded that they would come in together and I would not get a shooting lane on either deer.  As they danced this dance, she moved and stopped in a spot that was the only shooting gap in the trees above and the forest path she was on.  Her brief hesitation in the gap told me that if he stayed true to her path, I could get the shot right there, so I prepared for that, but I couldn’t follow him with my eyes, I had to prepare for the shot, because he was not going to stop there.  If I were to get the shot, it would be just as he stepped into that gap.  

     Did I ever mention that for this shot I would be holding 55 pounds at full draw and not 14 pounds like the Mathews, which, by the way, I have held for several minutes while waiting on deer to get right for a shot?  The buck is moved quickly toward the shot window and is close enough that I can now see him in my peripheral vision, the bow instinctively bends to full draw as he steps into the gap and the arrow is gone and the razor sharp broad head buries itself in the rib cage of the unsuspecting beast and the woods explode with activity.  Both deer break camp, but that beautiful buck only made it just fifty yards and his race is through.  What looked like a perfect disaster when deer come into range but stay out of any shot windows became a blessing as she led him to the only window I had in all that cover.  That was back in September of last year and you may have heard my rebel yell that day as I climbed down and saw him lying in the distance.  It may have been loud enough to hear no matter where you were!  By the way I sold the wheeled bow as I won’t need it again.  The old flame is back!