“Failure is only an option if you quit.” This is something I tell myself often, and especially when I’ve set a goal that to some may seem unattainable…even to myself at times. I’m frequently asked if there is anything I cannot do. First of all, I am no Wonder Woman, or even close to being perfect, I am simply stubborn, and when I put my mind to something I WILL figure out a way to accomplish it. So with that said, I guess I haven’t found anything yet I cannot do. Other than, as my husband Adam would say, “pee standing up.” Like I did with bow hunting nineteen years ago, I simply decided one day I wanted to hunt with a bow. I didn’t really know anyone at the time that was a bow hunter, and absolutely knew little to nothing about bows, or hunting with one, but it appealed to me on many levels. I was really getting tired of the rat race of rifle season in Central Nebraska. After I picked up the bow I had a ton of help from many different people for which I am forever grateful. The spear however has been a completely different story. As with the bow, about a year ago I just up and decided I wanted a spear. I enjoy throwing knives, so why not try a spear? Adam took it in stride just like he does everything with me and simply said, “Lord, have mercy,” and then promptly put a homemade spear together, a broom handle with a spear head screwed on the end of it. Now you might ask as I did, “what should I use for a target?” It would be the first of many questions I had about spears, and no one to ask the questions of. I had a thin section of a cotton wood tree that I used for throwing knives, so that’s what I used.
The next few months I threw that broom-handle spear thousands of times at that piece of cottonwood. Thankfully it came fairly natural for me, and was pretty easy to throw. So the idea of actually hunting with a spear started to creep into my head and consume me until one day I finally blurted it out. I don’t remember Adam’s exact response, but I’m sure it involved laughing. However, he is fully aware after nineteen years of marriage, to know that I wasn’t joking, so the very next day he brought the loader tractor into the yard, parked it over the top of a round bale and said, “Get your spear. If you think you’re going to hunt with one, it’s going to have to be in a stand, so I want to see if you can hit something from an elevated position.” He raised me up in the bucket, placed a corn leaf on top of the bale, and then apparently thinking I was going to throw like Wonder Woman, positioned himself at a safe, very long distance from the bale. I threw ten times and connected on all ten throws. He sighed, and noted that I was probably “good” enough to hunt with a spear. Then he walked away mumbling something about crazy. I have no idea what that was about. A few weeks prior to the loader tractor “practice” I ordered an actual spear. When I ordered it I asked the salesman several questions to which I really didn’t get any answers. It was pretty clear he was merely a salesman, and really knew nothing about them.
So I researched as much as I could, and ended up ordering a spear I felt would fit me. When it arrived and I lifted
it for the first time, I knew had picked the right one. The weight and balance made it feel like an extension of my arm, it felt great in my hand, and threw so beautifully I knew I had developed another strange addiction as Adam calls my many hobbies. I was having some issues throwing it into wood. I followed up my ordering of the spear phone call with an email and not a lot of hope for answers, and didn’t get a response. I followed that with another email begging for information and proclaiming I was not an anti-hunter, but a girl who really needed to have some answers. This time I got a response and the answer I needed. The most important being, do not throw a spear into wood! This explained why my spear was loosening around its wood center. Adam brought a round bale into the yard for me, and I started throwing at that daily. Practicing with a spear can garner lots of attention, even out in the country. I’m fairly certain that over the years our mailman, UPS, and FedEx drivers had probably become used to my many strange hobbies, but I think the spear spooked them a bit. The deliveries have never been faster!
Strange looks could not however diminish the fact, my confidence was growing by leaps and bounds, and I knew I was ready to hunt. My first hunt I took all three spears. One for practice, and two for hunting. I got in the stand early enough so I could throw a few times. My first throw I almost threw myself out of the tree, and realized instantly I could no longer step and throw. It was just way too much movement, and the stand made noise. And yes, I always wear a safety harness. I knew I wouldn’t hunt that night, but I stayed on the stand anyway to practice standing up and getting the spear ready…major learning curve that put my bow hunting days to shame.
I also realized I needed to be practicing from an elevated position instead of on the ground because of the angle of the throw. I spent several days trying to figure out how I could practice from an elevated position when Adam wasn’t home to raise me in the loader. It finally occurred to me we have a barn with a hay loft. I moved a round bale in front of the barn, climbed up into the hay loft and started throwing. Something to note when you’re a girl throwing a spear from a hay loft, you need to be prepared to answer questions from the bewildered silage crew that makes an unexpected stop in your yard. They’ll think you’re crazy! The loft proved to be great practice. While it’s not terribly fun to go up and down the stairs and retrieve the spear every throw, it was definitely a necessity if I was going to be successful with the hunt. And I at least had a cheering section. The four bottle calves in the pen next to the barn bellow loudly every time the spear smacks the bale and I climb down the stairs. I rewarded them with cake cubes each time I finished practicing…which of course has nothing to do with why they cheer for me. Nothing at all. The next two or three hunts amounted to me psyching myself out. I simply could not make myself throw, and I had plenty of opportunities. Mind games are a terrible thing and I was letting my mind control me. I had a talk with myself and just simply said, you’ve got this Angie. Stop being a sissy and throw the damn spear already.”
The next few hunts didn’t offer a shot. But on the night of the tenth hunt, it happened. This night in particular was very warm, the sun was radiating down, and I could feel the sweat
starting to run down my back. An open pasture to my left, and trails mowed strategically along a tree line to my right, where just beyond the river was quietly making beautiful swooshing sounds was about to offer up what I had been waiting for. Three does appeared out of the tree line and began an agonizing slow walk up the trail towards me. I stood, and tried to steady my breathing and pounding heart. Hefting the now comfortable and familiar weight of the spear over my shoulder helped calm me. Everything felt right. With hunter instincts on full alert I watched their every movements, and paid particular attention to their eyes (or so I thought) for seconds that turned into minutes, and into what felt like hours, until my arm ached…and then I threw! The release was exhilarating! The spear hit exactly where I aimed, unfortunately the doe saw it coming and simply stepped to the side of it. When the spear stuck in the ground right behind her shoulder it wobbled back and forth to the extent that it actually slapped her in the side. I missed, but I had cleared the demons telling me I couldn’t hit a deer. I knew this was going to happen now. I came home elated and told Adam it was the most perfect miss I will ever make. I also learned that unlike an arrow flying, a spear didn’t spook the deer. They hung around long enough for me to try and reach my second spear under my feet…another lesson I learned. The second spear has to be somewhere easy to grab, yet out of the way, and unsheathed. Needless to say, I got busted trying to reach it. If I blinked, moved too fast, or breathed too loud,it was enough to blow them…and I had three little white tails flagging in the wind as they scurried away, flipping me the bird. The next evening I was given another opportunity with the exact same scenario, three does. This night however, I not only stuck one spear in the ground, I stuck two in the ground, right where I threw, and right into the space the deer no longer occupied. Learning experience number 10,098. This time I discovered I was proficient enough I could throw one spear, keep the deer around, pick up the second spear and throw again. This may sound easy, but trust me, it’s not. The most important thing I learned took a little longer for me to realize. Why on earth were they moving when I’m not making any sound while throwing? Ding, ding, ding, it finally hit me, like my spear wasn’t hitting them. Even though they weren’t looking at me I could see their eyes, and if I can see their eyes, then they can see my movement and subsequently “jump” the spear. The rest of the hunt was spent sitting spearless up a tree while the deer frolicked and played as they came from being bedded down and headed to the fields. Not wanting to get busted again, I was stuck. So I sat in the tree and pouted for the last hour, and read texts from Adam poking fun at my predicament. They went something like, “The great hunter is up a tree without a spear, lol” and “Are they laughing at you?” Or, “Maybe you can get one to toss them back up.” Real funny, honey! He is however fully aware that these little pokes are like gasoline on a fire when I’m on a mission, and I was basically explosive at this point. I was beyond determined, but beginning to doubt that it might happen this year, and I had basically become worthless in the wife department, so it’s a great thing Adam understood my crazy and allowed me the freedom to pursue it. A couple more hunts resulted in either no deer, or no shot…until it finally happened! I
got on stand early and settled in for the wait, but that night there was no wait. Within fifteen minutes I could see a deer coming from the east, out of the corner of my eye. I let it make its way to my stand. Then behind the first came another. I let the first deer cross the fence directly below my stand, and let the other one get behind a tree before I stood up. I readied the spear and shifted my eyes to see the rear deer had thankfully put her head down under a branch. Shifting my gaze back, the lead deer had turned broadside and at the same time turned its head completely away. No eyes! I didn’t think, my heart didn’t pound, I simply reacted by letting the spear fly, and then watched it hit perfectly and I knew immediately it sank in. Penetration had been another weighty concern and it had been laid to rest. As the deer jumped and ran off, I could see that the spear had gone clear through the chest and stuck out on both sides. I watched as it went about forty yards, turned west for another fifteen yards, and then quietly went down. My emotions were rolling, I had speared my first deer!
While I had been calm with no nerves whatsoever prior to throwing, I now started shaking so violently I thought I may bring the tree down. I texted Adam with my news, and then waited until I was sure the deer had passed before crawling out of the tree. I thanked the Lord, and walked to the deer. For a moment I thought, wow, I’m a spear hunter! But then I realized no, I am simply a hunter who lives for the challenge of the hunt. I’m not into easy, and the spear has definitely provided me with a challenge. I’m not a hunter filling tags, I am a hunter challenging myself to be better every single hunt! Nothing is impossible. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to be determined, and willing to put in the time and effort, just as with any form of hunting. And most importantly, learn from your mistakes.
Written by Angie Kokes, Guest Blogger