Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
It’s been several weeks now since bow season has ended and many like me find ourselves twiddling our thumbs, looking for something to fill the void.
For the past couple of months, much of my free time was spent chasing whitetails and sitting in my treestands enjoying the hunt and all that nature has to offer. To say this time of year can be boring for a bowhunter is an understatement….
We’re stuck in sort of a bowhunter’s purgatory from mid-winter until the opening of turkey season in April. Some of us will pass the time by chasing after bunnies or a late season squirrel hunt. A few of my hunting pals are avid ‘coon’ hunters and cover many winter miles following their hounds through the woods at night.
Still a few other hardy souls will ice fish when the conditions are right, but given this winter’s warm temps and soaking rains, pulling some bluegills through the ice seems unlikely.
There are a handful of sports shows to visit and take in the must-haves for the upcoming year.
When the weather cooperates, we can always stretch our legs with a “shed” hunt and look for cast antlers. If you’re a lucky, maybe a winter time hunt after wild hogs or some other species can be had in more southern climes; but for most diehards, we just wait for the gobbler season to open and the green of spring.
For dedicated whitetail hunters, most are just substitutes for our passion.
This off-season has been particularly grueling – days and days of the sun not making its appearance through the clouds and the constant gray and rain have a way of making time drag at a snail’s pace. Add to the depressing weather, the up and down of the 24/7 news and political cycle we live in; well, this bowhunter is in dire need of some outdoor time and a break from cabin fever….
The bright spot for me? With January comes monthly 3D archery shoots. Sometimes the weather is great like this past weekend, sometimes not like a few weeks ago when the thermometer hovered around 5 degrees! Despite the unpredictable weather of an Ohio Valley winter, my traditional bowhunting friends still turn out for the monthly events.
Folks from all over the area – from Rising Sun to Paoli; from Louisville to Bloomington – bowhunters make the early Saturday morning drive to Scottsburg. We gather to fling some arrows, sharpen up on our hunting skills and to compete with one another and ourselves. To knock the dust and cobwebs off that have settled on our minds and friendships since we last met.
But, more than that, we gather for the camaraderie, the shared passion of watching a feathered arrow in flight and the sight of a perfect hit. We gather to swap stories from the past hunting seasons and to catch up with old friends we haven’t seen in months. We talk with one another, ask about family, jobs, health and of course bows and arrows. We laugh and joke, barter and swap and trade gear. We share a meal and we share our experiences with each other. We shake hands, pat backs, and yes, sometimes even give a greeting or a parting hug.
Through our shared interest, through our shared passion of bowhunting, we have become a group of friends, connected by something deeper than just being casual fans of a pass time or sporting event. It sounds corny, but there’s something special about this group of grizzled codgers dressed in their wool and flannel, some in driving caps, others wearing borsalinos and fedoras, many looking like they’ve stepped out of 1940’s or 50’s – not the type of get up that you see in most of today’s hunting circles.
I hop in the truck to leave the sportsman’s club and head back towards the house. The sun breaks through the cloud deck and on this gray Saturday, I feel renewed and am already looking forward to launching some arrows down range with my pals next time.
– David Hewitt