Mike's car is in the driveway but there is a garbage can full of blood next to the house. Two bows lay on our boat, both covered in the same life-sustaining substance. My knees buckle as images of The Hangover start swimming in my mind. Waking up in such a state, I'm keenly aware that art can imitate life because not only am I failing to remember what happened but Mike is gone, there is blood all over our hunting implements and my body feels as if a giant used it as his plaything. I swore to whoever I could swear to that if I find Mike with a baby in Las Vegas, being chased by cops after marrying a very nice stripper, I would first reprimand him for being such a movie cliche, then proceed to kill him in the most inhumane way possible.
It was only when I looked through my camera did the night come rushing back...
* * *
Mike has been spending a lot of time with his buddies recently. He comes in at all hours of the night, times of morning that any rational person stops seeing after leaving the walls of their chosen University. Now, I'm a really understanding domestic partner but enough was enough. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to see where he escaped to while I slept. It was this decision that led me to a new-found love for fishing.
Bowfishing is a relatively new sport, then again people have been throwing spears at fish for quite some time now. [The sport combines fishing with the fast-paced target-shooting-esque atmosphere of archery. While our forefathers waded out into deep water, spear in hand, to catch their dinner, nowadays the process is a little bit more technologically inclined. Doing away with standing in the water or using canoes, john boats are the chosen method of flotation. These boats are outfitted with a series of lights positioned at the bow which illuminate the opaque, swirling waters below. Archers stand atop a platform overlooking the lights, taking quick shots at whatever fish scoot by. The whole shebang occurs at the deep hours of night, when fish are most active or later when they are ambushed in their sleep. What I found the most interesting was the setup of the bows. Given that I shoot archery a lot, I did not understand how I was going to kill anything, lest of all bring it back. The bows used for fishing have extremely simple set-ups and even easier poundage to draw back. The poundage needed to kill a deer is a lot heavier than spearing a ten pound carp. Hence, recurve and simple compounds with small but efficient cams work best. There is no whisker biscuit or drop-away rest, only the archer's finger or a small groove keeps the arrow up. The arrows are specially designed. They have a string which attaches to the bow and generally goes into a plastic reel in order to effectively bring the speared fishes back to the boat.]
Nevertheless, bowfishing was new to both Mike and me. He began it just as he begins any venture, something to do after 9pm when I fall victim to the clutches of an obscenely early bedtime. One of his buddies was putting together a bowfishing team which Mike was requested to join. I, a retired hockey player who is fully aware of the positive reinforcements that goes along with team membership, praised him for this decision and congratulated him when the troop, aptly named the "River Assassins", clenched second place in their first tournament. But now, it was my turn. After weeks of declining to go, either because the book I was reading at the time was too good to put down or an interview was looming the next morning, I finally told Mike that tonight was the night. I wanted to go bowfishing.
I had a couple reservations, however. Staying up until 3am being one of them and my arm another. The bow before my magnificent Hoyt did not fully fit me properly. Unfortunately when I went to the new bow, an injury began reappearing. A muscle in my back has been a ball of angry tissue for almost a year now. But given my lack of job and therefore insurgence, I have been self-medicating, taking a ton of fish oil, icing, and attempting to not make the muscle in particular angry. Hence, the afternoon prior to the hunt, I took all my vitamins, retreated to bed then rounded the afternoon out with a great book and a small glass of wine.
I met Mike's teammates at the launch. The boat was packed up and the speedy thing flew across the flat water. We settled in a spot known as the "hot hole" moments later. Once the generator flared to life, six bright lights followed suit. Bows were brought out as the trolling motor started its creeping of the coastline. The liquid looked the consistency of yellow-green pudding in the light, our boat in the thick of it. Fish darted behind the boat in a frantic pace. Small ones followed big ones and big ones were targeted by our weapons. Overcome with it all, I stood back, watching my companions for tips. I noticed that their draw lengths were short, making shots quick. Turning back to my water, my eyes were glued to the surface. After three shots unanswered, I figured I was doing something wrong. Until I made the fourth shot.
The gigantic shad was just asking to be my first so I pulled back. My line started disappearing after the hit. I stared, spellbound at the bow until I remembered that reeling it in was the next step. Cheers and congratulations followed my hit, his fishy body flopping helplessly in the boat. My adrenaline pumped just as it had when my black duck fell so I jumped back on the platform for more.
More than two hours later, I was comfortably back in bed; shocked that I had lasted as long as I did. Before succumbing to slumber, I realized that bowfishing is not only an intense sport but one that succinctly brings together the tough nature of archery with the beautiful tradition of fishing.
* * *
The pictures told the story of the night and as each image flashed across the camera pane, I became more an more relieved. No, there was no kidnapped baby named Carlos, a botched wedding or stolen police car. Just a brightly lit boat, cruising the shore, in search of the next big one.