Primal Stress Relief

By Annie Hays
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It was 38 degrees outside my tent cot. I was wearing pajamas, wader liners, a jacket, gloves, wool socks, a blanket, and my sleeping bag. Essentially I was wrapped up like steaming hotdog, and I had no intention of leaving my cot. However, some primal instincts in me to feast on wild hog sausage and shoot targets in the woods with my recurve bow were urging me to get up and prepare myself for "the hunt." Plus, it was a long walk to the girls' room and I needed to get going.

This last TBOF Spring Shoot was the seventh one that my dad and I have camped at. Every year, in hottest day or coldest night, the two of us have a blast. This year was no exception, although it was the coldest three days I have ever spent in the woods, and we brought a new friend along.

George Haseltine has been a friend of the family for years. He is one of those people who worked way too hard and now, upon imminent retirement, needed to learn how to have fun. So Dad and I convinced him to come with us that weekend.

On Friday night, after Dad and I had set up our camp, we took George out to the practice range to warm up. While we were there we ran into Sterling Holbrook, one of my dad's favorite writers for Traditional Bowhunter. Sterling was shooting his homemade arrows with his homemade longbow and wearing his homemade quiver. I bet even his socks were homemade.

While Sterling told us all about how he converted a cage fighter covered in tattoos to the path of traditional archery, and how he had gone hunting several times on St. Vincent's Island, I was once again reminded of how everyone at these tournaments is so down to earth and nice. I have met people from all walks of life from commercial fishermen to famous archers, and not one person has ever been unkind or rude to me. What a wonderful thing to find in today's world.

After it got too dark to shoot the fun range anymore, we prepared a feast of scallops and pasta on our 50 year old Coleman stove, and the sun went down. Then our lantern broke. Fortunately, our friends Pat, Amanda, Ron, Ronnie, and the rest of the gang had a fire going, so we ate our feast under the stars by firelight.

Having pulled myself away from college for the weekend, I was still fidgety and confused as to why I seemed to have nowhere to go, no work to do, and was not witnessing the weekend antics of bored college students. Sitting under the stars that night, roasting the front half of my body while the other half froze, and listening to our old friends talk was just what I needed. It is so easy to lose yourself in your work, and the only cure I have found to break work's grip on the mind is the outdoors.

The next morning, after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and wild hog sausage Dad, George, and I headed out to the Howard Hill range to begin the first leg of the tournament. We teamed up with the Harris family. Mr. Harris and his daughter Becky had just begun their careers as bowhunters this last November. Normally I would feel bad about only getting 115 out of 200, but that score actually put me in the lead of my group that round.

I had a great time stalking targets in the woods that day. I am the first to admit that I need to practice my archery more, but truthfully shooting is like riding a bike for me. After I took a drawing class in high school and learned how to go into my own little world where noise and distractions no longer exist, archery has come naturally to me. Now, if only I could use this ability at night to drown out my dorm neighbor's music.

After I slogged through the Fred Bear range, where I somehow pulled out another 115, it was time for the feast. Dad and I had been looking forward to this for months because one of our favorite writers, E. Donnall Thomas, was the guest speaker this year. Now anyone who spends half their year in Alaska and the other half in Montana is automatically a cool person worth meeting, in our opinion. But to meet someone who does all that and hunts grizzlies and water buffalo with a longbow bow is a necessity.

After getting advice from Dr. Thomas on rearing Labradors and fishing in Montana, it was time for the food to come out. I think that was the night I finally recovered from being sick all winter because I ate more food than most of the grown men at the table with me.

Normally I am exhausted and cannot wait for the speaker to stop talking, but listening to Dr. Thomas talk about hunting the west, specifically Montana, made me almost ache to go back to the Rockies. I also could not help but think that so many famous hunters on the outdoor channels seem so arrogant. They wear expensive camo during the whole show, shoot sniper quality guns, and act like heroes when they shoot an animal. But then you have people like E. Donnall Thomas, who shoot animals 10 to 15 yards away with traditional bows and seem so much more accomplished, but are not boastful at all.

Unfortunately, another frozen night gave way to Sunday morning. Dad, George, and I did not even bother shooting the last round of the tournament, but that was okay. After all, the whole point of this tournament for me is not to win; it is to remind myself that in a world of stress and technology there are still real people doing natural, primal things.