I don’t think I’ll ever forget buying my first bow and the whirlwind of excitement and anticipation I felt leading up to my first season of hunting. I had just graduated from university where I had been fortunate enough to play on a varsity sports team. I knew that, once I had graduated, I was going to be done with competitive sports and was going to need a new hobby to fill the time. Growing up, I was always fascinated by the idea of hunting. I never saw it as just “the kill.” There was something more attractive about hunting to me than the final product; it was the entire process. So, when my good friend brought up the idea of bow hunting in my final year of university, my decision was easy, and almost-instant: I was in.
After spending all summer shooting my bow and completing my hunter course, it was finally beginning to feel real: “This is it. I’m actually going to go through with this.” It was hard to wait for September because I was ready to jump in and begin learning as much as I could. I was up late reading forums and watching countless videos, trying to learn as much as I could; I was probably more dedicated in my unofficial study of hunting than in any university course I’d taken. But, it wasn’t until I reached out to 7R that plans were really set in stone.
The day was set - September 10th, 2018 - and I will never forget it.
Waking up at 4:30am was probably the easiest part of the day, which says a lot about how wired I was in anticipation. We got to the spot, got the gear dialed in, and with the sun just cresting over the mountains, it was go time. I couldn’t have imagined the challenge that was ahead of me.
I was puppy-dogging behind Connor from 7R and was excited to move through the different terrain. As we made our way to a couple spots he had marked out, he took the time to point out and explain the signs of different animals, while also showing me how to look for the best possible route through an area. I was hooked. The feeling of complete immersion within nature was addictive in and of itself.
Fast forward to 11am. After a bunch of wasted-opportunities that involved me managing to spook every deer we came across, it was about to be one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.
Walking down a quad trail I got the signal from Connor that there was a deer up ahead. I couldn’t see this deer to save my life, but I knew it was serious when packs were coming off. I took mine off honestly just to look like I knew what I was doing, and nocked an arrow. As I stood up, I saw it. My heart started pounding, but at the same time I felt a feeling similar to the one I would feel prior to my sports games in university. It’s just this rush of excitement that almost calms you in preparation for the competition about to take place. In this case, it was me versus nature, and with this being my first hunt, the cards were stacked against me.
I crept in, trying to keep my eyes focused on the deer while also trying to observe my surroundings. I did my best to get myself in close enough to be able to take an ethical shot on this animal and do my best to eliminate the possibility of any suffering. Connor went around beside the deer and I slowly closed the gap from behind. I didn’t actually know Connor’s plan at the time because I was so focused on the deer.
I’ll never forget the shot I took. I was standing behind a small pine watching this deer eat and make its way through the forest without making a noise. As it raised its head to move to a new bush I knew I was going to have an opportunity. I raised my bow, drew it back, and waited for the animal to enter the clearing. I had been practicing all summer from 20 yards all the way to 60 yards and I knew this shot was well in my comfort zone.
The deer cleared the last tree I needed it to and the whole experience became very real. I did my best to control my breathing and centred the vitals in between my 30 and 40 pins. My index finger stretched forward on the release. I took one last breath and squeezed. The arrow flew straight and I heard it pass through.
The deer didn’t run any further than 150 yards before falling. This was exactly what I wanted. I had done it. This was day one of my hunting journey and I had filled a tag. The emotion hit me hard and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain it. It’s as if you feel everything at once. I’ve never felt that any other time in my life.
I’m proud of myself for diving in to this hobby head first and I’m incredibly thankful for those around me who’ve been so supportive. The crew at 7R have started me on a new path - more than just a filler hobby post-university - and I’m excited to continue it alongside them.