Every once in a while, without precept or plan, I’ll have a really good idea. They are few and far between. Often I think I have a really good idea, only to discover later that a lot of good ideas are best left as ideas.
This hadn’t occurred to me yet when I decided it was a fantastic idea to source my own meat. As in: Introduce myself to animals, establish a personal rapport or spiritual connection of gratitude, then kill it and eat it.
Now, I live in the woods and I regularly feed an entire herd of deer with a beautifully raised organic garden every year. They ignore my shooing and swearing with the same blatant disregard they apply when I toss pebbles at them from the porch. The turkey flocks that swagger through my yard all season also feel quite at home with my lack of threat – until now.
I was pretty sure the wildlife would just come to me. I have a pet moose that crosses my yard to the creek every day. There is a bear family that always knows when I’ve forgotten the compost bucket on the porch. I figured getting any of those from yard to table basically involved inviting them in, offering them too much to drink, then offing them in their sleep.
As it happens, though, hunting actually involves more skill and a little something called sportsmanship with which I needed to familiarize myself. First, I would need to choose my weapon (as moonshine was apparently out of the question).
I must have sat around too many campfires because for a moment I considered the Native American sling shot technique. But once I nearly killed myself trying to throw horseshoes so it seemed too dangerous.
I thought about a gun because, well, I live in Idaho and it’s a little embarrassing to not actually own one. I should probably order one on Amazon with my “Feel the Bern” t-shirt. But something in me felt like I should not have such an advantage over wild animals.
Who are we kidding? I couldn’t win a stuffed animal at a carnival.
Then one day my 8-year-old daughter (believes in fairies, eats anything but ponies) suggested that we get serious about our love of Narnia and get real bows and arrows. She noted, “We could even hunt with them!” This seemed like it would be more effective than her chasing the wildlife through the yard with her whittling knife and the straight-arm serial killer swing.
I researched the matter and discovered that, unless you were as poor a hunting buddy as Dick Cheney, it was a pretty safe method for an inexperienced mother and her sidekick to learn at home. We watched videos of Danish trick archers to get motivated and determine training goals.
I immediately started encouraging the deer to feast on my kale, for it would nourish their supple muscles, and thus my stew. I consulted with a bowyer in Montana for some legitimate equipment and within weeks he had hand-crafted recurve bows for us both. We definitely looked the part, even if we didn’t know how to use them.
Beginner bows have about enough power to scratch your car or offend a doe – if one could hit either of those things. Considering the only shooting experience I had was a poor investment in an arcade game of Duck Hunt decades ago, my hopes of ever hitting a live animal are grossly optimistic fantasy at best.
The good news is that we also source our food from local producers and farms or we’d have starved to death long ago. And while this year we have hopes of getting a bird, mostly our bows will just make fantastic costume accessories until we can actually hit something. In the mean time, we’ll play a lot of Narnia.
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