Learning to Bow Hunt

Bowhunt or die!This story wouldn’t be possible if not for the passion and initial persuasion of a good friend of my father’s, Mr. Jim Miller. Jim’s time to hunt has been limited due to some health battles but he has had a much bigger impression on my life than he may ever know. He simply taught me how to shoot a bow. I sometimes get overwhelmed at the thought of introducing others to the sport, but let this be a reminder to not over complicate the teaching phase. You don’t have to get it all right; you just have to be able to point someone in the right direction. This is a short story about learning to bow hunt and my bow hunting baptism.

My dad and I both got our first bows the same year, it was 1999, and I was 14. We both got PSE’s, and his was louder than a car accident. We were tired of hunting during gun season not seeing good bucks, and we were curious why bow hunters always seemed to kill monster bucks. My father’s friend Jim showed us how to shoot that summer, and the opening day of the Pennsylvania bow season we hunted about 80 yards apart. I am not lying when I tell you that we both had shots at different bucks before 730am. Call it dumb luck, call it God’s hand, but one things for sure, both of those buck lived to see another day. I blew a 7 yard shot on one small buck and my dad blew not one but two 20 yard shots at another buck! He laughs to this day about drawing his bow back and having his peep sight up at his forehead! Just like life, you become a better bow hunter or outdoorsman over years of mistakes as you learn and grow. For me, it’s become a lifelong endeavor when my luck turned around one Tuesday afternoon.

 My Bow Hunting Baptism

It was Election Day, Tuesday November 6, 2001, and I was now 16 years old. Having my gear already packed in my car, I rushed out of school to get into the tree-stand during the last week of Pennsylvania’s archery season, which is during the pre-rut phase and things are typically really starting to heat up. I remember specifically that I was in such a hurry that I forgot to take off my khaki school pants before I put my camo pants on, and realized it halfway to the tree. Daylight was burning, so I said, “the heck with it”, and kept walking to my tree.

It was my third archery season at this point and I remember reading an article that summer that said it takes an average of three years to get your first bow kill. With that I was feeling somewhat relieved because I was 0-2 for my first 2 seasons but also a little discourage because of all the botched opportunities I’d had in the years prior. I also remember specifically telling my dad that if I didn’t kill one this year, I was going to hang it up and move on to a new hobby. I can honestly say, what happened next changed the trajectory of my life.

I was settled into my tree which was on the corner of the small 14 acre property that we had permission to hunt. In this area I was hunting we had good scrapes and rubs along the tree line I was on for a few years in a row. Early in my bow hunting days, I didn’t even know that the wind direction was important, so I just picked a tree that looked like a fine place to sit in. I’m sure that scent killer spray I used didn’t take the school cafeteria smell out of those khakis hidden by my camo. Maybe that’s the secret!

I Squeezed My Release

After about an hour or two in the tree, I remember turning my head to the right, and from the corner of my eye, all I could see was antler coming from behind me and coming in quick. I couldn’t tell you how I got myself positioned in time, but somehow it worked, and I drew my Hoyt compound bow (that my mom bought me at a flea market, which in my family is just as treasured as next years model). I don’t remember where I even put that pin, but I squeezed my release, the arrow flew, and the buck dropped on the spot! I couldn’t believe it! Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t know any better, but I had spined the animal and needed to shoot him again. I sort of panicked in the moment and called my dad from the stand with the buck now trying to crawl away from me! After being allowed to have a cell phone because I recently got my drivers license, it proved critical in the moment were I was stricken with an extreme diagnoses of buck fever. My dad simply said, “can you shoot him again?” I said “well yeah I guess, let me try”. I managed to get another shot in the buck and let him expire. But its funny how illogical a person can be when they are so excited in the moment.

Baptism Photo, 2001

Baptism Photo, 2001

The reason I shared these details, was not be morbid, but to be authentic. I didn’t put the best shot on this animal, but when it was all said and done, as a 16 year old, I had just killed my first animal with a bow and an arrow and that’s all that mattered to me. I can’t even describe the feeling that I got when I put my hands around those antlers for the first time in amazement and with satisfaction. My wife to this day thinks I’m ridiculous about how excited I get when I tell stories like this, but it meant a lot to me then and it still does. She should be thankful in my opinion, as his shoulder mount now hangs in our stairwell, which she has the honor of looking up at him every single day of her life!

I’m so glad that I didn’t give up, and so glad that I finally connected with this beautiful animal that re-ignited my confidence and passion for bow hunting whitetails. While I wasn’t able to hunt every season through college, I got out enough times to get my fix. I also tell this story to encourage you if you are just getting started in bow hunting or any other hunting or fishing pursuit to stay motivated, keep learning, and the dots will connect. One day I hope to break my snake bitten curse of this beautiful 9-point that was my first buck and kill a bigger buck than him! Lord knows I’ve had the chances, but that just means I have to stay hungry, and keep getting after it. Keep shooting straight, hunting safely, and bragging humbly!

My wife's favorite decoration

My wife’s favorite decoration

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Jonathan Fassnacht

About the Author:

Follow me on Instagram @BowHuntCulture - I am Jonathan Fassnacht! I have been married to my amazing wife Ashley for 5 years and have two beautiful children, Reed and Lillian. I am an active duty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and originally from South Central Pennsylvania. I give credit and thanks to my Father who always ensured that my brother and I grew up with wholesome experiences in the outdoors both hunting and fishing. My roots as a child were lake and pond fishing for bass and bluegill, and small mouth bass fishing the Susquehanna River on summer nights while battling the emerging evening insect army. Those electric experiences of watching the sun setting and having a massive smallmouth bass attack my top water lure hooked me for life! My early field/woods adventures included dove hunting in September and white-tailed deer hunting in the beautiful Pennsylvania woods. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to travel a bit and have been able to hunt and/or fish in Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, and Montana and pray that list keeps growing! Oh I forgot, I caught a catfish in Argentina! My true passion is archery hunting whitetails and most recently chasing big urban bucks around the Wilmington, De suburbs. I take pride and find great enjoyment in introducing others to experience the joy that I do while experiencing God’s special gift of the great outdoors. I’m so happy to be a part of the MHAF team!
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