A few years ago, I was playing a lot of golf. Oddly, during the first few outings my swing was great and my ball striking was crisp and smooth. Then things started to go awry. Perhaps my confidence was too high, but I usually entered a mid-season slump - and only in a few weeks.
Shooting arrows and playing golf have a great deal of similarities. Concentration, technique and the combination of mental and physical capability is so important. Adding stress only compounds the issue. Anyone can sink a short putt, but when a Master’s Championship is on the line, it becomes tougher. Even a $5 bet in a friendly game can make the hole look so much smaller. I can shoot some decent groups at 90 yards as we routinely practice at that distance, but on a big game animal things look tougher at closer, more reasonable bowhunting ranges.
I now have 30 days into my quest for another Dall Sheep. They seem to be my nemesis. Seasons are opening all over and ours here in Alberta just got rolling. Somehow, I feel I am in a mid-season slump.
But what better way to jolt myself than some extra shooting and an early morning spot-and-stalk mule deer hunt with my buddy Mike Wood.
Saturday morning, I was awoke by the alarm blaring at 3:30. After a couple hour drive, we were at our favorite glassing point. It wasn't long till the first deer came into view.
It was hot and dry when a 3x3 walked by, only a few yards away, unaware at how close he was to danger. He’d tangled with some blue binder twine as he polished the velvet from his horns. We nicknamed him "Blue" but let him walk. We knew there would be a chance to find a buck still in his last few days of velvet.
After we changed locations and continued to glass, we stumbled upon a few new deer, one being a pretty, velvet buck. The wind was good and Mike suggested I go ahead and test my stalking skills. When people ask how to best prepare for a sheep hunt, my short answer is, "go on a bunch of spot and stalk mule deer hunts". You will get lots of practice and if you can stalk a wily, heavily hunted deer, you’ll be well prepared for a sheep hunt.
After an hour, I had the distance closed from a mile to 100 yards. The buck was sleepy and I lost his horns in the tall barley. Soon I was at 31 yards and I hunkered in, waiting for the buck to stand.
My mind was wandering and I wondered what Mike was up to. Suddenly, on the horizon, I caught movement. Then nothing. Mike was skylined but his camouflage made it impossible for me to be sure what he was. When I caught a glint of his bow, I realized he was actually looking at me through my Leica spotting scope. I started to get excited and nervous. If I was to break out of my slump, it would be with a gallery.
Just as on cue, the buck stood and was facing broadside and looking straight away. It was almost too easy. I drew, rose and then almost rushed the shot. But I refocused, settled the pin, centered my thoughts and released the arrow.
I looked over to the Sitka shape on the skyline and saw a bow pumping above Mike's head - the universal sign for an animal down.
With the main part of the season ahead, I can say I have busted out of my mid-season slump. Lets hope we can build on it. There are big rams in our dreams.