Mackenzie Walters ~ Courage ~ Featured Huntress October 2015

My nice sling I wore for about two months. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Walters

My nice sling I wore for about two months. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Walters

Finding the courage to get back on a bicycle after you fell off can be hard but that is exactly what I had to do; get back on. My “bicycle” was shooting a compound bow. Never did I think I would be able to shoot a compound bow after a pretty serious shoulder surgery. With some encouragement from a close friend, I decided to take the chance and get back to doing what I love.

In January 2014, I noticed some shoulder pain after cocking a crossbow. I had shot a nice doe but wasn’t sure of the shot so I cocked the crossbow in case I had to shoot again. I ignored the pain until playing a snowball softball tournament. In my first at-bat, I had a meat pitch come in so I cranked on it. A line shot directly at the third baseman who caught the ball. I screamed in pain and knew at that point that years of athletics and wear and tear had finally caught up to me.

Training during the spring. Photo credit: Mackenzie Walters

Training during the spring. Photo credit: Mackenzie Walters

Off to the doctor I went yet a couple months later after my shoulder never healed. An X-ray and MRI revealed what my doctor called a “nightmare.” I should have known when the tech performing the MRI asked what surgeon I would be going to. I had a torn labrum in my right shoulder. Of course we had to try physical therapy and some medication but it did not help. My physical therapist said after several weeks it was time to go back to the surgeon.

The surgeon felt he could go in and clean up the damage in a simple procedure. In a sling for a couple of days and a couple weeks of rehab should have been the ticket. He did however say before the surgery there was a ten percent chance he would have to do more than expected which would include about two months in a sling and six months of rehab. My luck held true and the damage was more than my surgeon

First time shooting after my surgery. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Walters

First time shooting after my surgery. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Walters

anticipated.

As silly as it seems, I went though a grief process thinking I would never play softball or shoot my bow ever again. To make it worse, I had bought a brand new bow prior to the surgery as motivation to get through physical therapy. Honestly, I was depressed not doing what I loved. It was rough. After being discharged from physical therapy and cleared to begin activity, I was still apprehensive to shoot my bow. The bow stayed in the box until May, 2015. Turkey season and a hog hunt were over and I needed something to do.

My good friend Nancy Jo and I had several conversations about shooting my bow. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I did not want to have to go through surgery and rehab again but one day I decided to give it a try. My husband and I went down to our local bow shop to get my brand new Mission Flare set up. The owner Bill cranked the bow all the way down and handed it

Summertime practice building strength. Photo credit: Mackenzie Walters

Summertime practice building strength. Photo credit: Mackenzie Walters

 

to me. This was the moment of truth. Was I going to be able to pull the bow back or would my shoulder snap in two like I worried about? I pulled the string back with no problem. It was the greatest feeling in the world. Something I had been missing. It felt like hitting a home run.

I worked for several weeks over the summer building up strength and was satisfied when I was at 46 lbs of draw weight. This is about ten pounds less than I used to pull but knew 46 lbs would be effective. Not only did I have to build up strength, I had to work on my form at different distances. It was a long process but I was able to hold steady at 30 yards with no problems before heading to Double Deuce Ranch in Missouri.

One my second afternoon hunt, I watched as deer began moving through the soybean field. I waited patiently for a shot opportunity to present itself. A deer quickly walked down a well used path but I didn’t have time to shoot. A couple of shooter bucks walked about forty yards behind me but never close enough to get a shot.

Success! Photo credit: Ben Helbing

Success! Photo credit: Ben Helbing

I watched as a doe come walking down the same path the first deer had traveled. I was expecting her to keep walking out in front of me but she turned and stood at twelve yards broadside. I was already standing and had my bow in my hand. I pulled the string back, found my pin through my sight, and let the release go. I smacked her good and watched her run into a thicket.

My arrows was stuck in the ground and I could see the white fletchings were now pink. When I got down from the treestand, I observed instant blood on both sides of the arrow. It was an easy tracking job and I went ahead and tracked up to the thicket where I saw her enter. I waited for my guide Ben to help me through the thicket. She had only went another five yards in, about fifty yards total.

It was quite the experience. She wasn’t the biggest doe but she would be good eating. I had successfully overcome a fear and was back to bow hunting. It was a rather large accomplishment after everything I had been through. The hard work and dedication from physical therapy and my own bow conditioning training paid off and was well worth the effort.

I don’t plan on playing softball anymore but I plan to hunt as much as possible with my compound bow. I know eventually I will probably have to give it up and switch to a crossbow but until that time comes I will have the satisfaction of shooting and hunting with a compound bow. Going back to hunting with a compound was in fact just like riding a bicycle. It all came back to me as soon as I got back on.

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