Bouncing Back from Injury: The Mule Deer Draw
Posted on August 7, 2013
The second part of this featured article brings you a look at how this bowhunter discovered that the path of difficulty can sometimes lead to the greatest reward of all. Find out what happened when the draws for Western deer tags were due. Check out Part 1 if you missed it and be sure to stay tuned for more!
Mule Deer Draw
Around this time, the draws for Western deer tags were due. Could I climb mountains? Was it safe to go into the wilderness? Would I shoot well enough? Everything was still a big question mark. However, I assumed that by early fall, I might be good enough physically to get by. So I applied for my usual Colorado and Nevada mule deer permits.
I entered Colorado’s draw with my friend, Ryan. We thought it was a sure thing, given our status in the preference pool. Nevada, however, was different. I had no bonus points, and this year, no hunting partner. I decided to be safe and put in for two hard-to-draw “truck camping” units. But for my third choice, I didn’t know what to do. I thought about a wilderness unit I had hunted years back and wondered if I should put in there.
After days of contemplating, I still struggled with what to do. Then, I heard this quiet, inner voice telling me, “You should do it!” I thought about what I had been through, where I was, the risk, how I had failed to find success there years ago and everything else. But in the end, it felt as if this was what I needed to do. After all, challenge was becoming my middle name.
I didn’t draw Colorado, but as fate would have it, I did draw Nevada—and, you guessed it, my third and last choice!
This unit was nearly all designated as wilderness and extremely remote, so I began my research. I worked eagerly but felt patient about the process.
Where I hunted years ago, I saw lots of big bucks, but the country was too dense for good stalking. I wanted something different.
I talked to a couple of local packers and the area’s game biologist. I also listened to what other hunters had to say about the unit and studied topo maps intently; daily, in fact. One packer was extremely helpful. Time after time, I’d call him, ask the same questions and he would give me his honest opinion.
The sensible thing was obvious: Have him take me into his wilderness camp via horseback, so as to eliminate the 8-mile pack-in and risk hurting my knees. He would also know of my exact whereabouts for safety purposes. I knew my wife and family wanted that.
But the small voice was still there, this time prompting me to seek the road less traveled. I did remember the biologist telling me about a more remote area, mentioning “hidden big bucks, cliffs and very few hunters.”
I called my packer friend again and told him of my idea to backpack in. Surprisingly, he was supportive and said he would come in and pack me and my deer out if I got one. He also said to get a satellite phone, since there was absolutely no cell reception for miles. Things began to fall into place.
With my plan in motion, my excitement began to grow.
Of course, negative thoughts of total disaster began trying to creep in, too. Is this really a good idea? Carrying a big backpack, all alone, with a bum knee—come on! Will all this end with a rescue chopper? You must be stupid!
Around this time, I was dealt another unexpected curveball. A few weeks out from opening day, I began experiencing a slight pain in my shoulder region about 6 inches from my armpit. I was beginning to shoot a little bit more at this point, but I had my bow backed down as a precaution to help my tennis elbow. I thought, There’s no way this could be from shooting! A rotator cuff injury? Come on! I wasn’t even shooting very many arrows. I have had plenty of sore shoulders in the past, but this little quarter-sized soreness was different than any other.
My massage therapists (yes, I even tried that) indicated that I probably strained it somehow. But it felt pretty minor, so I just kept shooting my bow, walking, throwing the ball to my dog and even did some light weightlifting. It got worse, and in time, it began to disrupt my sleep and my shooting.
Identifying the strain as rotator-cuff related, it probably happened by using my shoulder region more in order to protect my elbow joint. Armed with sound medical advice now on how to strengthen and heal it, I went into opening day shooting very little. I couldn’t believe it. I was falling apart, literally.
Stay tuned for the rest of this feature!
By Joe Bell