April 27, 2021
By Jeff Johnston
Already in his young life Shane had accumulated a mountain of accoutrements designed to make the hunter more comfortable and more successful afield.
He had more knives than a steakhouse and a closet full of camo. He had treestands, blind stools, calls, scents, scent eliminators, decoys, broadheads, backpacks, hats, handwarmers and just about anything else he could buy, borrow or convince his friends and family to get him for Christmas or his birthday. Shane dreamed of the day when he’d have a good-paying job, just so he could buy the best gear to make bagging big bucks easier.
One morning during bow season, Shane, his father and his father’s friend, Jack, planned to hunt together at a nearby WMA. Jack Blackburn worked down at the plant with Shane’s father. He was three-quarters Native American whose family hailed from the Chickasaw Nation.
More interesting to Shane, Jack was legendary around town for being a keen bowhunter who'd taken many great bucks. When Shane's father stopped outside his friend’s house, Jack opened the truck door, put his bow and a plastic grocery-store bag containing his lunch on the seat and stepped in. Shane noticed he didn’t have a backpack or much else besides an antler-handle knife on his belt.
"Mornin!" said Jack.
"Mornin'," said Shane’s father. "Don’t forget your bino," offered Shane, trying to be helpful.
"Aw heck," said Jack. "I’m not much of a trophy hunter, so I don't really care for studying every last burr on a buck’s horns. If I can't see what a deer has on his head with my own eyes, he's too far to shoot."
Shane nodded as if he’d never thought about it that way.
"What kinda bow you shoot?" asked Shane as he peered over the seat. The bow leaning beside Jack looked ancient. Its string was frayed, and much of its camo paint had been worn off so it was mostly a dull gray color.
"That's an old Golden Eagle I got before there was wind or snow," Jack replied with a grin. "I don't even think they make 'em anymore."
"OK, but what do you think is the best out now?" asked Shane. "I've been reading a lot about parallel limbs and the new cams with 80 percent let-off. It's like holding air!"
"Well, bud, a wise man once told me that the best bow is the one you can hit with. And since this one ain't broken, well, I haven't looked at new ones in a coon’s age," Jack said. "What do you know about 'em?"
Shane launched into a long soliloquy about the advantages of high arrow velocity, drop-away rests, single-pin slider sights, mechanical broadheads and cam lean that’s said to ruin accuracy. Jack humored the boy and listened. He could tell Shane was a student of bowhunting and was thirsty for knowledge, just like he'd been when he was that age.
"What about camo?" asked Shane. "I see you're wearing green fleece, but surely you believe in camo that looks like trees and leaves, right?"
"I've found that the best camo out there is called 'Sit Still,' " said Jack. "It's been around forever."
Shane did his best to hide his growing frustration with Jack’s over-simplification of everything, when he was hoping for hard-core hunting talk. Meanwhile, Shane’s father hadn't said a word, but his smile hinted he was enjoying the conversation.
Soon after arriving at the WMA, the three hunters took off in different directions with plans to meet at the truck at 11 o’clock. Shane marked the location with his GPS before walking into the dark woods.
At 10:40, Shane arrived back at the pickup to find Jack lying in the grass under the shade of the tailgate. A heavy 8-point buck lay in the truck’s bed, neatly field-dressed. Shane, amazed, began asking all kinds of excited questions that continued during the ride home.
"I can't believe it!" said Shane. "You didn’t have anything the magazines tell you to use. No camo, no climbin' treestand, no bino or rangefinder. Heck, you smoked a cigarette before you walked in!"
"Shane," said his father, finally joining the conversation, "what Jack has been trying to tell you is what I've been saying all along. It's the secret of hunting."
"Well, what's that?" asked Shane.
"It ain't the arrow that matters," replied Jack with a wink, "but the Indian."