George A. Bowers Sr.: The archery buck that wasn’t
Fall is finally here, bringing with it the long anticipated hunting seasons! Squirrels have been legal since September and we’re already a week deep into archery.
The fall was always an exciting time around my father’s taxidermy shop because you never knew what someone would carry through the front door. White squirrels, antlered does, and large bobcats were just a few of the unusual critters that folks would bring in to have mounted. And this excitement always grew with the fall seasons.
Since it is considerably more difficult to take a deer with a bow and arrow than with a rifle, archery season always precedes that of firearms. This gives bow hunters an opportunity to pursue the deer before they are spooked and provides a safer environment for camouflaged bow hunters as well. The flip side is that these archers are limited in the type of weapons they can employ, which also restricts shot distance and shot placement. While most sportsmen respect the established game laws, there are a few unscrupulous souls who give others a bad name and take advantage of wild game. Let me describe one such individual.
During archery season several years ago, a customer brought an enormous whitetail buck into Dad’s shop. It was a beautiful rack and one that would compete well on the state level for awards and trophies. Since Dad usually got in just the head and a small portion of the hide, he couldn’t normally tell where the animal had been shot, unless there was a telltale “x” of a broadhead somewhere in the skin. Nor did he normally care. In this case, however, the truth came out without any digging.
After the hunter left, Dad was skinning out the neck of the buck and he found a large fresh wound like that from a rifle. Not only did he suspect this by the appearance of the meat, but he also found a large caliber bullet buried in the animal. While it is possible for a deer to survive and recover from a high powered rifle blast, the placement and severity of this shot left little doubt as to what ended this buck’s autumn antics. He was obviously taken illegally with a rifle during archery season.
Since Dad’s task was not enforcement, his approach was a little different. He simply saved the lead bullet, drilled a small hole through it and tied it around the buck’s antler. Ten months later when the hunter returned to pick up the finished mount, imagine his surprise to find this seemingly inexplicable hunk of lead dangling from a monster rack. Mom had made the trophy plate with the information he supplied that indicated an archery kill, but the hanging bullet certainly indicated otherwise. He tried to assure his puzzled friends he had brought with him how he didn’t realize someone had already wounded this animal since it didn’t appear sick. Dad just grinned and finished the transaction.
I’m sure the hunter cut the string and tossed the evidence before entering his illegal trophy in the state game show a few weeks later, but deep down he and Dad and God all knew the truth. How often we try to cover up a lie thinking that no one will ever know. But someone always does. Even if no one else ever finds out, we know and so does God. And sooner or later, others usually find out as well since the truth has a way of working its way out into the open regardless of how deeply we try to bury it.
Before attempting the pull the wool over someone’s eyes with deception and dishonesty, remember the words of the Bible, which say, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” They always do. Instead, act within the law in the first place, and then tell the truth to avoid embarrassment and possibly worse later. Remember the archery buck that wasn’t.
George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books including his latest book of poetry, Holy Verses. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.