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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Bows and Arrows

Kodiak Daily Mirror Article 
Printed July 1st, 2015
By Zoya Saltonstall

This summer the archery bug has definitely hit our house. (And shed. In more ways than one!) 

In front of our red shed rests an archery target-a big foam square with large pink dots painted on it. Around the foam target  are 6 hay barrels to help absorb the stray arrows. Around those barrels are a few pieces of plywood. And yet we still have many hits into the shed from stray arrows (but we really don't mind too much).   In the evenings my son, Stuey, and husband, Patrick, take turns with the bow. Sometimes its chill and other times its competitive. Stuey loves the bow and has to painfully wait his turn as Patrick takes his turn shooting their five arrows. Then, its Stuey's turn again. 

The bow and arrow fascination isn't  a recent one for Patrick. As a kid he was hooked on wrist rockets and later used  bows and arrows. When  Patrick was in his early 40's and living here in Kodiak, he learned to hunt with a bow and arrow.  For goat hunters, bow and arrow hunting means you can hunt on the road system without drawing a  permit.  That said, it is  more challenging than rifle hunting.   Goats are often perched on cliffs- icy, snowy cliffs. To hunt those goats with a bow, one must be perched on those same icy cliffs. The hunter must be also be ready to go retrieve them when they tumble off a cliff after their death. 

 Eight years ago during winter, Patrick and his  hunting buddy John B. would disappear for many Saturdays and Sundays. Off they went to mountain tops to go after goats with their bow gear. In the early hours of those cold, snowy November  mornings I was just grateful it wasn't me heading up mountains in the near darkness. 

I found their mission to be so manly. Like ultimate manly. Guys chasing after goats with bows and arrows. How much more primal can it get, really?    That winter was  a particularly snowy and cold one.   They wore white "camo" suits to keep their presence from the goats more hidden. 

Every weekend, for about 6 weeks, Patrick returned from his hunts with a similar story.
 "Honey, we were SO close. I had the goat right there, in my sights, and then a gust of wind came, and…" Patrick would say,  or "Honey, This time we really almost had one. He was 5 yards away, I had arrow pulled back and then he dashed around the cliff"

The sexy primal-ness of the bow and arrow hunting  really started to wear off. My patience for bow and arrow hunting was wearing thin.

"Ummm hmmm. Ok." I began to reply with less empathy, as I bounced baby Stuey on my hip and toddler Nora was clinging onto my leg. I wasn't sure who was more challenged-him chasing after goats on snowy cliffs or me trying to appease an infant and toddler. (For you moms in the mix-you know what I mean. Just having an extra set of hands on those weekend days can help so much!)

At the end of those 6 weeks, Patrick and John did get their goat. When he walked through the door telling me they shot one, I was in disbelief. It really happened. 

The other evening after dinner, I went outside to check out the bow and arrow time with Patrick and Stuey. I sat on the lawn with a cool summer beverage and soaked it all in.  Patrick and Stuey were taking aim at 10 and then 20 yards. Stuey carefully drew the bow back, elbow by his ear.  He would look over at me and smile, glad to finally have an audience. 

"I want to try shooting" I told the guys after almost 30 minutes of watching. 

"Ok, Yeah! Stuey,  lets let mommy shoot one round of arrows." Patrick said, "How about we start mommy on the 5 yard line?" I  got the sense that the guys were skeptical about my abilities. I understood. I hadn't practiced at all. 

So I started at the 5 yard line, pulled the bow string back. Took aim. And wham. Into the target my arrow landed. I moved back to 10 yard and same result. Wham.  I wasn't too far off, for never having practiced in my adult life. 

"Wow, Zoya!" Patrick said. I tried to act chill but inside I was screaming with delight! "You're pretty good!" Patrick remarked.

I was channeling my Camp Woodsmoke energy. Camp Woodsmoke was a sleepover summer camp my twin sister and I went to in 4th and 5th grade. It was  on the shores of Lake Placid we went there for 2 week periods, two summers in a row.  I was particularly fond of sailing, archery and canoeing. I got a little plywood carved award for archery. At some point many years ago before college I threw it away. The award may be gone, but the muscle memory for that bow and arrow shooting somehow stuck. I took myself by surprise shooting that first set of arrows. 

Drawing the bow back, aiming, releasing. Watching  the arrow fly through the air.  Then the satisfying thump as it lands into the target (as opposed to the whack as it hits the barn!). Its good to be reunited with these arrows which bring challenge, and pleasure. And the joy of knowing that archery is  part of our family and  that those Camp Woodsmoke skills are with me still. 

Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves black labs and chocolate.

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