Corsicana Daily Sun
I trekked for hours, following minute droplets of blood for hundreds of yards but never came out with meat in the freezer. As one with a conscience would do, I filled my tag out; more than that, I even called the local game warden and explained what happened – the shot, the trailing, all of it. He was pleasantly sympathetic but his summation gnawed at me like a tick.
“Sounds like you found No Man’s Land.”
I didn’t want to listen but he fed me enlightenment anyway.
“No Man’s Land is a little ol’ spot between the spine and upper lobe of the lungs that hollows out when the deer’s lungs deflate. If you hit him there on the exhale you’ll never find him, not dead anyway.”
For many, deer season is the sweet spot. Like vitals, it’s that spot of time that gives us our greatest rewards whether arrows find their mark or not. So antlers don’t take their place among aging relics of hunts gone by, the memories do. The truth is that if deer season is vital, where does that leave our off-season? Three words – No Man’s Land!
Few walks are longer than the one back to your truck as the last breath of deer season howls through silhouetted treetops. Our natural tendency is to wallow in our off-season void – there are no vitals in No Man’s Land, nothing to look forward to – stuck in that obstinate pause while we wait impatiently for next season to fill our proverbial lungs.
Breathing, in most regards, is involuntary. Even at rest and amid our deepest slumber, we breathe. Understanding that physiological truth is also key to understanding where we, as hunters, go from here. Sleep and you miss much – I can’t help but consider how much the sleepy town of Bethlehem missed in its slumber. What a breath of life they could have embraced!
I don’t get much rest. Most of my breathing is intentional… and fast. To sum my hunting life in contextual words I might choose “happily hyperventilating”; pitched in ensuring No Man’s Land is a physiological descriptive for deer rather than a life half-lived in our great outdoors.
Considering a game warden’s explanation of No Man’s Land, what can you do to end those bowhunting blues and breathe life into back into your season? Hunting itself is a journey, one of self-discovery, continual learning and challenging moments, good and bad. The coming months offer great opportunities to hone your deer hunting skills; don’t be in a hurry. Spend the time necessary to make ethical decisions, take ethical shots and treat our wildlife with that same level of ethics that make our heritage honorable. Practice often when you’re not in the woods. Every hunting experience and every arrow in your practice target improves your chances of avoiding that troublesome spot.
A few days after my call to the game warden I did see that buck again but the season was coming to a close and truth be known, I had little interest; I decided a deer that lucky should remain upright. Scores of trail camera photos confirmed my shot was indeed a little high and, in my estimation, perfectly placed to validate the officer’s explanation although the memory of his words still sicken me. Whether you’re talking about deer or our hunting life, No Man’s Land is indeed a real place. While we can scarcely consider a deer’s breathing cycle at that moment of truth, we certainly can intercede to breathe life into our hunting lives. Breathing happens whether you’re awake or not.
Kevin may be reached for questions, comments and suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.