Self bows and Savannah River swamp Rooters

©Dean Torges/The Bowyer's Edge™

I’m a close personal acquaintance of Bowhunting Adversity. Heck, I usually don’t go out the door, bow in hand, without him or some of his brood. They move in my company freely and often take turns directing me, like my own native guides.

There’s Swirling Wind and her brother Lost Chance. They follow me west for each elk hunt. Blown Stalk feels more comfortable staying around Ohio. Awkward Movement, the spastic family outcast, shows up anywhere when I least expect him. (I’ve never made my peace with him and he knows it. Still, we tolerate each other, like old adversaries at a high school reunion.) There are others. No doubt you know them as well as I.

Imagine my surprise when I looked around for them at Milbury Plantation and they were nowhere to be found. I was all alone. Six hundred miles from home. Walking around in budding Spring growth, in sunshine and shirt sleeves and Southern swamps while late February temperatures dropped into the teens at night at home. Just me, my favorite bows and arrows, and free range of 10,000 game and fish rich acres for three full days. With good food and new and old friends to boot. Talk about Spooky. Whew!

I’m still not sure when everything started going right. Best I can tell it must have been from the very beginning, when Cliff Huntington invited Lew and me down for a feral hog hunt with a description of Milbury that had me counting the days til we got there. Everything he said sounded attractive, yet it all had the strange ring of truth to it as well.

“Lew”, I said. “We have to go.”

“O.k. with me.”

“I mean this place sounds like something else. It’s like some rich man’s plaything. Cliff says there’s nothing but timber, swamps, lakes and a few ag fields. That’s it. Deer and turkey paradise. Feral hogs to hunt to our heart’s content.”


“Just the kinda place the Thompson brothers hunted a hundred years ago. Cliff says Maurice wandered parts of South Carolina just a few miles from where we’ll be, in swamps just like the ones we’ll hunt. Listen, Lew, I can tell when a guy’s blowing smoke. Most of the time anyway. I been conned before. But I think this is the real stuff.”

“Sounds good.”

“Cliff is friends with the guy who owns it. They went to college together. It’s a bonafide, actual, honest-to-goodness Southern Plantation. It’s all private property. Won’t be nobody on it but you and me and Cliff. Maybe his brother Brad, and maybe Robert, the guy that owns it. He bow hunts too. That’s it. Us and feral hogs to hunt till we can’t take it no more. And a lodge to sleep in with a kitchen and bath. And a screened-in butchering shed with a walk-in locker to hang our meat. Can you imagine all that?”

I don’t know why I spend time trying to get Lew excited about going hunting. For one thing, he’s as unflappable as any man I’ve ever known—his emotional highs and lows probably look like EKG flatlines. For another thing, he’d hunt craws in the creek behind the house with little encouragement. And hunt them hard, too.

So why did I tell him all these good things about Milbury? Maybe I was just talking to myself and he’s kind enough to listen. Or maybe I was using him for a sounding board, waiting for him to tell me what was wrong with the picture I was getting. Or maybe I simply like thinking and talking about things that make me happy. Whatever the reason, the result was that while I fed Lew each new bit of information I’d get from Cliff, I kept getting more excited myself. After all, my emotional EKG reflects my Mediterranean Greek bloodlines. But all the while Lew never looked sideways, Cliff kept giving me good reports, and me, well, this time I actually worked hard getting pressing obligations out of the way before departure day came.

Yup, it must have gone right from the beginning.

* * * * * * *

Lew and I pulled into camp on a late Sunday evening. Cliff and his brother Brad had arrived earlier and were just returned to camp from scouting, brimming with promising reports of hog sightings in the short winter wheat fields. They’d also stocked the refrigerator with a sampler of venison sausages and salamis and Cliff had a huge stock pot simmering of venison Welcome Chili. Lew and I brought a larder as well. We wouldn’t be rationing meals on this hunt. Besides all that, we were still unpacking and making acquaintances when the conversation turned to self bows. Can a man stand more prosperity than having his passion embellished with abundant food, good conversation, new friends, an allotment of carefree days and the prospect of game aplenty?

Almost as soon as our gear was in place we started uncasing the self bows we’d brought. Some for hunting, some for inspection. Among others, Cliff brought the Fat Lady with him. I was anxious to see this bow but not looking forward to giving the appraisal Cliff requested. I’d heard of her from her joyful beginnings through to her colorful christening and beyond. She was very special to Cliff and he did his best but failed to blood her during the remnants of deer archery season in Louisiana. Recently, however, he expressed doubts about the Fat Lady’s tiller and concerns that she was deteriorating and might be short lived.

Such are the emotional joys and hazards of making your own equipment. You work for that one perfect bow—balanced, quiet, quick, smooth and reliable. Excitement grows as a beautiful lady takes form and promises you everything. And then, soon after the honeymoon, you come to discover she is either a vegetarian or wears creme facials and hair curlers at night.

I looked the Fat Lady over carefully before asking Cliff to brace her. The overall impression was favorable, deriving from slight string follow and a flat belly carefully formed. Wide of beam in relation to her length, she seemed aptly named, too. I liked everything about her except that the dips were a little too abrupt. Again and again, however, Cliff’s attention to construction details caught my eye. You just can’t overlook a bow meticulously made. The nocks were balanced and pleasantly formed and the grooves cut in crisply. And she was clean, with no trace of mill marks under a smooth satin varnish finish.

The Fat Lady was a straightforward, unpretentious bow. When Cliff braced her and brought her to full draw several times, it was obvious that he had fastened his eye to a tillering ideal during her creation. Nothing but smoothness showed in her lines as she arced to compass, from her broad and abundant hips to her narrow and pleasant tips. No flat spots. No hint of hinges. I couldn’t help but wonder aloud what he saw that I didn’t that made him fearful for her life.

I knew a hobby orchardist once who pruned trees so severely he as much as issued them a challenge to survive. Treated his garden tomatoes the same way. Even his son. Cliff, on the other hand, revealed himself through the Fat Lady as the kind of parent who would worry about whether a son graduating Phi Beta Kappa got enough education.

“Tell me what you think of Robert’s bow when he gets here. I made it before the Fat Lady. He’s killed seven hogs with it so far. First thing he’ll tell you about—he’s the only man who’s ever killed anything with a Cliff Huntington self bow.”

“Rubs it in a little, huh?”

“Every chance he gets. He might tell you several times. He’ll make sure to do it at least once in my company.”

“Well then you just have to do something to silence him.”

“I know. I want to kill a hog bad this trip. But I’m still gaining confidence with self bows. Making and hunting them. I just didn’t hunt enough with the Fat Lady last fall. Went to fiberglass at crunch time. But that’s going to change. I feel better about my bow building now, a little more critical for the right reasons. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll stump shoot a little. I’ll get to see your bows shoot.”

“Lew’s only been hunting them two or three years and he don’t feel handicapped,” I offered, by way of encouragement. “And in that time he’s killed elk, a caribou, and half a dozen or more whitetails. Then again he’s killed game with recurves, fiberglassed longbows and compounds and he’s equally proficient with all of them. Matter of fact, he’s backing up Thumper on this trip with a 70 lb recurve. Maybe when it comes to penetrating hog shields, maybe he’s still building confidence too.”

Lew smiled and said nothing, as was his wont. But I did prod him into telling a few stories, one in particular about a stalk he made on a bedded Ohio doe, waiting in position until she stood, rear legs up, completely relaxed, both front legs bowed forward, stretching, while Thumper authored a perfect pass through.

“That builds confidence,” Cliff observed. “Now Robert only hunts hogs with his self bow, so far anyway. No deer. For them it’s a compound. Same for his elk hunts. But I’ll tell you, he’s gone out to Colorado six times on his own, and done ok for a ‘swamper.’ His own scouting and calling and everything. Come back twice with bulls and once with a Pope and Young mulie he entered in the book. That gets my attention.”

“Mine too,” I added. “Especially since it’s obvious he could go on about any kind of guided hunt about anywhere he wanted to.”

Even as our conversation turned to our host, he pulled up to the lodge. It was bed time by then, but we still sat around anyway, buoyed by the prospect of the morning hunt, eating more Welcome Chili and salami snacks and talking turkeys and hogs.

Robert Pollard is my size and almost my age but looks 10 years younger. He has a full head of unruly wavy black hair, quick eyes and the hint of a mischievous grin, all creating an impish school boy appearance. His voice heightens the impression; it’s almost a whisper, suggesting that you pay close attention or risk missing the prank he’s hatching, the one that keeps him constantly amused. While we talked, I almost expected the Headmaster to come in at any moment, scold us all and send us off to bed.

After we’d grown to some familiarity and were wrapping up the night, I couldn’t help but prod. “So, Robert, what will you be hunting with tomorrow? What kind of bow you hunt hogs with?”

“Tomorrow I’ll be using a self bow. Cliff made it for me. It’s a nice bow. I’m still growing used to it. But I’ve killed seven hogs with it. In fact,” he whispered, as though he didn’t want anyone beyond our group to hear, “I’m the only person who’s ever killed anything with one of Cliff Huntington’s bows.”

Broke us up.

* * * * * * *

Come morning, Brad headed off to a series of fields distant from us. He was packing a scope-sighted Winchester lever action .308. Lew and Cliff teamed up for some swamp hunting while Robert and I headed for a group of nearby wheat fields.

Typically a cluster of wheat fields lay four or more together, averaging about eighty acres each, separated one from another by a band of shelter belts running their length. Mornings found hogs feeding in them, then retiring to bed in the switch cane swamps and hardwood timber stands that bordered them, until evening, when they fed back out again.

“My wheat fields,” Robert chuckled, as we approached our cluster and the hog damage became apparent. “I don’t get much wheat out of them. They’re more like food plots for the deer and turkeys. Hogs too. Come back here the end of April early May when the wheat’s high. You can wade right out where the hogs are feeding. Everything’s open and clear now this time of year. Brad should kill a few. We need to thin them down a bit. As you can see, they’re pretty destructive.”

Robert’s “wheat fields” were in reality large free-range hog lots. Where they weren’t grazed down they were rooted up in large patches, and looked as though some father with an excavating business left his son on a backhoe in their midst with instructions not to come home before learning how to run it.

We walked along a timbered edge and by the third field found the one the hogs had chosen for breakfast. Three large sows with piglets rooted around in the middle while four other hogs of good size grazed along the far edge. As we looked them over to figure the direction of their movement, a single pig of about 30 pounds came angling our way from the side. I braced Sundown. With a little maneuvering I could intercept him, but Robert had his glasses on larger consequences and waved me off. Even as the pig angled within a long bow shot of us, we headed out for the distant band, sending him scurrying back into the timber.

A shelter belt screened our approach. Four hogs fed along its edge and away from us on one side, while we closed up on their rear quickly from the other side. The biggest of the bunch, a black boar with a great deal of white on his head and neck, lagged behind the others. We motioned each other forward for the shot, but Robert insisted I move in, so I stalked halfway into the belt and a little behind my quarry, in almost perfect bow position.

I must confess that this all happened too quickly for me. Twenty four hours earlier we were still in Ohio, I’d never seen a feral hog before, and Bowhunting Adversity was often a few rapid heart beats away. Now here I crouched, the flick of an arrow from a 175 pound hog, screened only by a few tall grasses, waiting for my fangs to come out or for one of my old companions like Snapping Twig or Swirling Wind to show up.

A chance was there. I just wasn’t mentally prepared to take it. Instead of trying to clear the tall grass, I decided to get closer yet, like a cat does when prompting its prey to spark the pounce. His back was to me, the wind stayed right and my movements were nimble enough, but I got so close he sensed my presence and intention, like a deer sometimes does, and took back the offer of a shot.

I shrugged. Robert grinned. Neither one of us minded much, yet a tinge of regret let me know I’d be ready next time. We looked toward the sows in the middle of the field, but as we retraced our steps they spooked and headed for timber.

* * * * * * *

Robert and I spent the next few hours touring the plantation, driving the loamy clay roads that parceled it up, sneaking into a field now and then to check for hogs and then stump shooting our way back out.

Milbury exists primarily for its timber. Indeed, the Pollard Lumber Company owns it and its president, Robert Pollard, hunts it. Somewhat like me owning the tools I play with that make the furniture I sell. Somewhat.

Cliff described it to me as “a game rich environment.” It’s that too. Turkeys like New York pigeons fled our approach from great distances. And almost every field held deer. Once, when I was driving with Cliff, a field stunned me with its numbers. When I think of a herd of whitetail, I think in central Ohio terms of 20 animals, 30 tops, yarded up in late winter (such numbers as I have not seen for a while). The herd we startled wheeled and scattered like veldt antelope from the front of the field to the back, in a wave. Why they gathered there to graze that morning I don’t know. I could guess their number and still miss it by 30.

We found our way eventually to an old Indian campsite situated on a sandy loam hillock on the banks of the slow-moving Savannah River. Aided by a galvanized pipe thrust into the ground, an artesian well spouted a fountain of sweet sparkling water straight into the air, and everywhere the ground lay littered with pottery shards, flint flakes and mollusk shells husked out long ago. A more idyllic setting I couldn’t imagine, and it tugged at me prompting the same deep longings for the savage life Maurice himself described not so long ago.

Robert found a curiously formed arrowhead, one bent at a 45 degree angle in its middle, as though it were intended for shooting around trees. I wondered over these discards—the hatch mark designs on the numerous pottery shards and the ghostly white shells from meals past—and poked about for flint as though I might spark from the place some remnant of life. We found several more arrowheads before drinking deeply and resuming our hunt.

Back at the Lodge for lunch, the four of us found Brad in the screened-in butchering shed skinning one of four sows he’d killed. Cliff rolled up his sleeves and winched one up on a second gambrel. We got a close view of the cartilaginous shield surrounding the rib cage—pig armor—that we’d heard so much about. I didn’t poke at Brad’s hogs but it seemed to me, at least, that a heavy arrow and a sturdy two-blade broadhead could take on a medium pig broadside. However, if I had another opportunity at a mature animal, I decided I wanted the same kind of angle forward I had earlier.

* * * * * * *

That evening, Brad headed back to his fields, Lew and I went to Lew’s section of swamp, Cliff decided to catch some pigs where Robert and I had been, and Robert, poor guy, returned to town to answer business obligations.

Lew had found a band of pigs mixed in size, from shoats up to half grown, that rooted circles around him all morning. He’d singled one out with odd markings, and had enough fun and excitement trying to get an arrow after it in thick cover that I was lured to try this version too.

I’ve had a longtime culinary interest in feral hogs, but never before the opportunity to hunt them. When our four daughters were children, Mary and I did our own small-farm version on several occasions, ringing a shoat and timing it to fatten on mast crops in our woods. The results were always delectable and flavorful pork, something quite different from the greasy commercial hog meat in vogue 20 years ago, pushed to reach a 250 lb. market weight in less than six months. Besides that, I’ve many times been responsible for a holiday Torges family feast of roast suckling pig (scalded, scraped and served whole), butchering it at my mother’s request and for her oven. So I was hopeful of comparing those versions with one of the swamp rooters that had engaged and entertained Lew. Large or small, size was not a consideration.

We weren’t in the swamp too long til the same wandering band came feeding our way, signaling their presence in the dense undergrowth by wiggling switch cane and palmettos, like submerged carp in shallow weed beds. The hunt was on.

Once again, everything went smoothly. We made several stalks, working patiently for clear shots, until finally Sundown sent a hickory arrow through a shoat. It’s a testament to the durability of hickory as an arrow wood that the shaft remained unbroken. First, the broadhead anchored briefly in the ground when it exited, causing the pig to spin about. Thereafter, in the short flight preceding death, the protruding shaft bounced off every port side snag while the yellow and barred fletching slapped against every starboard obstruction the pig ran past. It wasn’t the most reverent vision I’ve ever had after taking a life, but when we came upon skewered little pig, I couldn’t help seeing shish kabob.

* * * * * * *

The next morning, I accompanied Cliff as we headed back to those first fields Robert and I hunted. Besides the Fat Lady, Cliff brought with him Bad Move and Pick-a-Spot while I turned spectator. I’d have been more amused by the events if I hadn’t recognized the resemblance between these latter two companions and long-time associates of mine.

Half a dozen pigs of average size rooted near a junction of woods, field and shelter belt. We argued which of us should press the attack. I’d killed a pig and flat refused to go after these, insisting that Cliff take the opportunity to blood his bow. Cliff flat refused my refusal, insisting that I add another to the cooler. Eventually I won, eventually Cliff lost.

He was almost within effective bow range of pigs thoroughly occupied with their rooting when one froze to alert just as Cliff gathered himself to move a little closer. I watched things unravel over his shoulder.

They no sooner scattered, when we saw large pigs heading from the fields to the woods we occupied, and ran to intercept them. My attention went to a pig still in the field. I didn’t see the one Cliff had his eye on already in the woods, and I almost ran over them both before stopping myself.

A large boar wandered slowly toward Cliff. It came close, turned perfectly and held the position for a moment. Cliff drew and the Fat Lady cleared her throat, sending a strong arrow across the hog’s withers. If Cliff was compensating for a failing bow, there was no arc in that arrow.

To date, Robert Pollard remains the only man who’s ever killed anything with one of Cliff Huntington’s self bows.

* * * * * * *

Lew brought a half grown pig in that evening, and Cliff was distant spectator to the affair. They returned to the fields Brad hunted the first day , where Brad killed four more on his evening hunt before packing up and returning home the next morning (but not before looking over my little pig and deciding he’d better leave a large hog hanging in the locker for the Yankees).

Cliff’s version of the story related how Lew put a lengthy stalk on two pigs feeding in a wheat field, using a spur of weedy cover that projected part way into the field. Finally, at the point of the spur, after he’d run out of cover, the pigs apparently spotted Lew because they broke off at an angle toward the nearby shelter belt. On one knee Lew sent an arcing arrow from Thumper that converged on the trailing pig as precisely as a Kenny Anderson spiral once hooked up with a Chris Collinsworth post pattern. The pig crashed in the shelter belt, and Lew ran up with an insurance shot.

Lew’s version of the story and his justification for taking a long and difficult shot was not as colorful as Cliff’s but equally revealing. “I wanted him,” he explained.

I hunted a section of swamp too flooded for hog traffic, but the budding trees and the new spring growth were like rehearsal studios where songbirds practiced serenades they’d soon sing in earnest. Their theme was an old favorite of mine, “Surrender to this Sweet Season”, and one particular yellow and gray warbler with a rufous belly streak played his version of “Listen to the Music in the Air” over and over again. After it became obvious that there were better places on Milbury to hunt hogs, with no effort of the will I leaned against an old swamp oak and listened to the evening come, more than pleased to think I’d hear a variation of this attraction coming to Ohio two months hence.

Back at the lodge that night with a cleared head, I called Robert to offer him Sundown. After our first morning’s hunt, before he went back to work, Robert had asked to buy her. My answer came as a reflexive response. “Oh, no, not Sundown. That’s my bow. My special bow. The one I carried to Alaska. The one I killed deer with this winter. No, not Sundown. I’ll make you a bow. I’ll make a beautiful bow for you, but I can’t sell Sundown.” Words to that effect, perhaps more diplomatic, perhaps not, but certainly no less ambiguous.

Although reluctant at first to accept my change of heart, Robert agreed to come back tomorrow afternoon, have lunch with us, and stump shoot a little with his new bow before we headed back to Ohio.

* * * * * * *

I walked past Sundown and barely looked her way when the new day dawned the third and last morning of our hunt. What could I do? The bond was broken. I reached for a new bow, for Little Sister. Sixty-one inches between nocks, and 63 pounds at 27", she sported a quarter-sawn osage belly and a bamboo backing which drew her into a reflex/deflex shape, finished off with a sunburst dye pattern. Short, stocky and tough as nails, she cast a heavy arrow with a deadly combination of speed and silence. She wasn’t the elegant Sundown, but I liked her.

The three of us went separate ways, Lew and I in different directions in a new section of swamp which Cliff recommended. Field hunting provides good visibility and stalking opportunities, and chances for success are probably equally good either place, but I think we all preferred hunting swamps.

I like wading across stretches of water, prowling along hummocks and timber edges, reading swamp stories in damp game trails, rootings, turkey scratchings, and old deer sign still visible from the last rut. I like the dense cover and the uncertainty of what lies 20 yards ahead. It’s the time of the hunter, when breathing becomes voluntary and ears and eyes and taste and nose merge to one purpose. Sounds are more than heard, movement more than seen. Feet see by feel, and the breeze guides the face, informs the nose and wipes across the tongue. Body and spirit, mind and matter all move to that single purpose. I like being the predator at work. And the swamp is a good place for it.

After moving along the marshy edge and finding little encouragement, I took an easterly heading across the water, detouring toward tree root systems for shallows when I needed to, wary for game. Some good ways into the swamp, critter noise slogging up from the south and heading across my backtrack made me realize just how inflexible my position in water was. Try as I might, I couldn’t get back in front of them noiselessly and quickly enough to intercept them. Two nice black hogs kept splashing north.

When I finally climbed a hummock, it took a minute to realize I’d cleared the swamp. Wondering more where I was than concerning myself with what I was doing, my unfocused movement startled two hogs just enough that even with turkey yelps I couldn’t reassure them. Soon after I gave up on them I caught the movement of three little pigs, mama-less, rooting about in the leaves. Roast suckling piglet brown and moist from a slow oven, I thought to myself, and set out after them.

If I underestimated my quarry, consider that they couldn’t have weighed 15 pounds each, and that as they fed, a little red one rooted with such abandon that it sometimes stood levered on its head, back legs airborne and outstretched, nose and eyes completely buried in duff. Cute, but I wasn’t buying it. I didn’t walk up to them with malevolent intent. But I didn’t exactly stalk them, either. That same red one, with markings along its back suggesting some Russian blood, picked me before I closed to bow range, and off they went. (Even the band of wandering pigs that Lew and I hunted proved that feral hogs are equipped for an early start on their own.)

However, I’d entered a stand of large mixed oaks containing a thick understory of scrub brush, palmettos, and switch cane, along an edge where timber turned to swamp. You didn’t have to be a savvy hunter to go on full alert in this combination of sightings, sign, food and cover.

Sometime later I saw a shapeless black form bedded inside a thick clump of hawthorn. Even with 8x24 optics, I had to get up fairly close to make out what was what and where and how many. Two large hogs lay on their sides in a shallow bed under the canopy of this bushy brush, with their feet toward each other, one’s head swapped for the other’s tail. I’d crawled up on the back of the boar off his butt and needed to arc my way 90 degrees to his other end for a look into the underbelly of the sow.

The hazard seemed greater backing out and reapproaching my quarry than simply keeping my space, because I’d be backing out in view of the sow, under her chin. So I crawled around across the boar’s back and got into position before closing in. Several times the boar lifted and held his head for a long look in my direction as I worked around to his snout, but always he settled back down. I took it slow. Hogs being hogs, I knew his eyes were set better for looking across and down rather than up, so even if he kept them open as he rested I gambled he would not pick me. The wind stayed steady and Awkward Movement was off guiding someone else that day.

Once I had the look I wanted, I moved in very close. From my knees, Little Sister sent a hickory shafted broadhead through an opening in the brush, across the boar’s snout, angling from the underbelly into the ribcage of the sow. She jumped up running, out the back and around the hawthorns before stopping, still within bow range. I didn’t have an insurance arrow nocked by then, but the first arrow was up to the fletching and on the mark. Besides, discretion suggested watching the boar as well. He jumped up confused and chased after her, but when she took off running again he stopped where she had stood and watched her go. Before bolting into the brush, he posed to offer a classic shot. I thought about it but held off. One was enough.

When he ran, she stopped again, dead on her feet, not yet realizing it, at least 60 yards away. Little Sister came up and I watched astonished as the best long distance arrow I have ever loosed at game found an open lane toward the sow and disappeared into her ribs, a pass through. She didn’t go much further. I never recovered that second arrow, but I can still see yellow hens pinwheeling across that expanse, and then swallowed in her darkness. I guess I wanted her.

* * * * * * *

Life only got better the rest of that afternoon. I put a plump and tender 6 lb. home-grown CornishxRock broiler to roast in an oven bag with onions and potatoes for supper, and Lew and I set to work on the hog. By the time we’d finished, Cliff appeared with a stringer of 10 largemouth, anywhere from a pound and a half to two pounds. (I accused him of having them stashed on a stringer, but he admitted guilt only to being in a hurry and horsing them in.) They were no sooner filleted when Robert pulled up and the stump shooting began in earnest. Ah, supper in the oven, a locker hanging with fresh hog meat, fish on ice, judos flying high and low toward every challenge near the lodge, and one more evening to hunt before heading home. My single regret today is that not everyone has the good grace to live as a human being, if only by glimpses, if only for a few days at a time.

I’d like to go back to Milbury some day. I’d like to be there when the Fat Lady sings and a friend adds to the list of people who’ve killed something with one of Cliff Huntington’s self bows. I’d like to cast a bait into one of those lakes—maybe find out if anything swims in there that doesn’t want to be horsed. I’d like a chance to fill a cooler with lean pork again. To stump shoot with Robert and call difficult shots for a new bow that can’t miss. To share some Welcome Chili with my Southern hosts. To wade a swamp.

Truth is, if they insisted on coming along, I wouldn’t even object to the company of Bowhunting Adversity and his spawn. They might learn a few tricks. At Milbury, there’s room enough, and game, for all of us.