My dad Art, on the right, with his friend Howard and a deer he bagged in Iowa.
My dad Art got interested in bow hunting as a kid in Ohio. My grandmother Daisy reported that he would don a native American headdress and, clutching his little bow and arrow, he would go to sleep. He was also very interested in collecting arrowheads and tomahawks that could be found in the plowed fields. I would go with him and he helped me find my own artifacts. When it was getting close to deer season my dad would take me out to the dried up corn fields at night and we'd scan the fields for deer sign in the dark. We'd usually see deer in the headlights, literally, as they ate the leftover corn from the fields. They were getting grain fed and they were going to be tasty!
My dad was born 1922 near Warren, Ohio. His dad was a French Canadien from the western part of Quebec on the Ontario River. They were all outdoorsmen of necessity. As a child in the depression hunting was a way to get by. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He flew troop transport planes and towed gliders into France. When the war was over he went back to the life he loved.
My dad's first bow was a 62-inch recurve he bought for $30. At first, he was only interested in shooting at targets. He joined the Isaac Walton League in our home town of Marshalltown, Iowa. They had an archery range and great fish fries every Saturday night. After practicing with his bow for a year he started thinking seriously about hunting deer for the first time since he was a kid.
That was at a time when many hunters looked at bow hunting as a novelty. Real deer hunters used rifles! He got in good with a local farmer Mr. Polley and he and his buddies went out and built a rudimentary deer shack where they would go in and get warm after they'd been sitting in their deer stands for hours with no deer showing up. We also had great chili cook offs at the deer shack. My dad also took me bushwhacking through the woods in the dark scouting deer trails and sign and this way I learned to navigate the woods without feeling afraid.
The first year he didn't get a deer, but the second year, on November 22, 1959, he got a 6 point buck. It was hard to get a deer with a bow and arrow. My dad said, "You have to aim perfectly and likely as not the deer will flinch at the sound of the string. It will flinch just enough that you will miss. It is also hard to hold the (recurve) bow still enough until your shot is perfect and if your muscles aren't in tip top shape you will shake. Wind can also work against you or branches in the trees or brush can get between you and the deer and knock your arrow off course. The deer has a definite advantage with old fashioned bow hunting."
Practice is of utmost importance.
My dad also made his own arrows. He'd be down in the workshop smelling up the air with stinky hot glue and I'd go down and watch him. He always used wood for the shaft.
He said, "I really prefer wood and I have used several types of wood. I like the feel of wood and I like the smell of wood." He got turkey feathers from a friend who was a turkey hunter. His friend saved the left wings for fletching. My dad would split the quill with a knife and grind it down with his sander.
I'm not sure whether he used a broad head arrowhead or field points. He's not around to ask now so that part will have to be a mystery. I think I remember field points. I do know that as a side hobby he experimented and eventually got pretty good at napping obsidian and flint. His hands would have little cuts all over them, from the sharp edges of the napping even when he used the deer hide to protect his hand. To my knowledge he never used his hand-napped arrowheads. But he always marveled at how skilled the native Americans were at creating quality equipment. He said, "Their living depended on them doing it right so that's what they did."
Although he never forgot his first deer, the most memorable one was also his best. It was memorable due to the length of time he watched it as it slowly approached him where he was hidden. The deer was browsing the corn in the field. My dad said "I could just barely keep my cool as I watched a big 8-point buck for half a mile slowly make his way toward me. I was set up at the edge of a big field in a big tree and I couldn't tell if he would come all the way or if he would slip off into the woods. I watched him with my binoculars for almost an hour. It was really hard on my nerves. When it got within 30 yards, I took the shot. I was proud of myself that day." Unfortunately, the picture of this buck is lost.
For several years, my dad hunted from a permanent deer stand on a farm owned by the Polley family. I went back there recently and I could not honestly recognize the old place. We rode the farm horses there and then there were the days of deer hunting. I can still see it all in my mind's eye.