Can’t fight the fever

The tinny buzz of the mosquito hovering annoyingly close to my ear was almost enough to distract me from completing the draw on my bow string and setting up the umpteenth arrow of the day. With a sideways exhale that pushed the micro-menace away for a few more seconds, I steadied and clicked on my release and the muffled twang of the string and dense thwack of the arrow finding the foam block were quickly absorbed into the humidity of the afternoon which hung heavy in the small lane cut through the woods. Through the sun-dappled path and its growing swarms of blood-thirsty insects, I approached the target, nodding my approval at the final arrow of the bunch that had centered perfectly in the white diamond while replaying the two that were a bit farther away from the middle of the faded mark on the side of the old black block, to figure out how they strayed a bit.

Perhaps it was a slight twitch just before the release. Maybe it was instability as the slightest amount of fatigue settled in. It could have been I breathed wrong, lost focus or found myself thinking about the bow hunting season to come. While it could have been any number of things, the fact that the other arrows were only off center by an inch or two was nothing to get nervous about, as a group that tight at 30 yards were all enough to put a deer down in October. Getting them to their mark then, however, will be a different story.

The enjoyment of target practice with a bow in summer certainly adds to the excitement which builds toward autumn’s first big game season: archery deer hunting. It’s the getting in shape and the setting of goals, to have each pin ready to go for the upcoming hunts that will start in the sweat of September, and in many cases, end in the chill of November or even December. There’s a sense of satisfaction in hearing that sound as well: a deep thunk of field point smacking composite foam, whether it’s in the body of a deer-shaped target pegged into the ground or a cube lying against a tree. I’ve rarely had a problem figuring out what to adjust in order to hit my mark in the calm, controlled setting of a backyard.

Come deer season, however, all of that goes out the window.

I can’t stop getting excited on stand, and I don’t mean in that casual “hey, the Twins might win the central this year” type of way, either. I mean that dictionary definition where every neuron is firing, every muscle fiber is twitching and every atom of my being seems to be bouncing around within my body, bathed in the wash of adrenaline as if someone took a pin to my renal glands and they exploded like a summer water balloon any time a deer — buck or doe — steps into view and reduces me to a shaking pile of Jell-O 15 feet up in a tree. It’s the portion of the preparation process I can’t practice, and while part of me hopes for better success at overcoming my nature as not only an excitable person, but also one who rides the rush of endorphins like an extreme sports junkie takes the currents in a glide suit down a mountain, I don’t know if I’d even want to become numb in the slightest bit to the excitement of hearing a twig snap in the woods behind me, the swish of grass along a trail, and that eventual ghost-like appearance of a deer where there was nothing standing before me just a moment prior.

So I’ll continue to practice the things I can this summer: pinning my target at the ranges I feel comfortable, checking my shooting lanes and distances, following up on trail camera photos and maybe even just staring at the pictures a little bit longer and imagining the biggest buck among them wandering out in front of me. While it’s not the real thing, the latter experience will fall somewhere between the pre-season efforts in the zen-like setting of a controlled environment and the seasonal surge in adrenaline with thousands of swirling internal and external challenges that keep me going back on stand despite my lack of ability to curb the physical side-effects of the fever I can’t seem to fight and probably would never want to become immune to … in our outdoors.

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