WARRENSBURG, Mo. – Is it time?

How often, and in how many situations do we ask ourselves that question?

There’s no need to get overly dramatic or philosophical, but certainly turned pages of the calendar have an impact on us, sometimes in ways we ignore as long as we can.

As I approach my 70th year, it seems time presses on with ever more urgency and the questions get more serious.

At one time, I wondered: “Is it time to open Christmas presents? Is it time to get up for school?” At this latter stage of life, the questions are: “Can I still do what I used to do? Is it time to ask for more help? Is it time to find an easier way?”

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Yikes! That sounds like Old Guy talk.

As a hunter, dreams of pursuing wild things in wild places have been in my mind since I was young. Why and how I practice archery has its roots in childhood. An illness at age 9 limited me to only the least demanding activities of youth. Baseball and bike riding were out; being drafted into service as the referee of the town’s little league games was in. Being judge and jury of my former teammates did not win me many friends; thus, I spent most of those years alone.

It was hard for my parents to see their little boy dejectedly kicking stones in the driveway. They knew I needed something. Although my dad was not an archer, he was a dedicated hunter. He bought me a bow and arrow set; it was love at first draw for me. I shredded many cardboard box targets, and in short order, most of my wooden arrows were simply sharpened sticks with a wisp of turkey feather for fletching.

I read about grand and daring hunts in an outdoor magazine at the local barber shop; in the backyard and on the banks of the Red River, I stalked polar bears and African Cape buffalo.

In my teen years, I graduated to a recurve bow. Compounds came along in the 1970s and I traded through my fair share. Archery was a great way to extend the hunting season, and in those early years, very few people in the Red River Valley hunted with stick and string.

But it also leveled the playing field with the animal. With a scoped rifle, any deer within a couple hundred yards was venison for the freezer. But with archery, that gap needed to be closed to 25 yards. And even small twigs, or an errant gust of wind turned the odds in the animal’s favor.

I liked that. It seemed fair to me; I was proud to be an archer.

Hot topic

So, to the question at hand: “Is it time to use a crossbow?”

The use of crossbows is a hotly debated topic among archers. Some view a crossbow as cheating. Mount it with a scope and spend an afternoon at the range, and it’s accurate out to 50 yards. On the other hand, being proficient with a compound or long bow takes months of practice, and then years of experience actually hunting to begin to turn the odds in the archer’s favor.

In some jurisdictions, one is required to prove a medical disability to use a crossbow during the archery season. Here in Missouri, crossbows are permitted for any archer, of course much to the chagrin of the archery purists. I know one such traditionalist, who uses feathers from his spring turkey hunt and “flakes” his own arrowheads out of rocks that he personally gathers from the Kansas Flint Hills.

For myself, I have noticed the occasional “flyer” in my archery practice sessions. A flyer is a shot significantly outside the usual grouping. Again, it’s a medical problem pressing the issue. A neurological condition has weakened the muscles in my hands, and I compensate by gripping the bow handle more tightly. This puts a torque on the bow and causes the occasional left or right flyer of as much as a foot, sometimes even more. With a broadside deer shot, this results in either a miss in front of the chest or a hit too far back.

Archers know the latter shot as the worst thing that can happen, with the possible exception of falling out of a tree stand.

That settled it. In an effort to put the odds in favor of a quick ethical kill, I visited the local archery shop, where I bought a Ten Point crossbow for about $500.

By the way, I also picked up a new safety harness so I won’t tumble out of my tree stand this fall.

Postscript: In preparing this story, I found that first bow and arrow set in the basement. Is it time to pass it along to the next generation? Fortunately, we have a grandson who is just the right age to start his archery career.

Dahlstrom grew up in Oslo, Minn., where he learned to hunt along the banks of the Red River. He is a semi-retired psychologist, who lives, hunts and fishes in Missouri.