Saturday, September 7, 2013

Setting the scope on a Jackal bow

    What is an authentic person? And why does someone who lives in the woods, drives a rusty blue Chevy pickup truck with various pro gun decals, a half dozen empty beer cans rattling around in the back and a "NO WOLVES" bumper sticker, someone who works as a jack-of-all-trades, seem more real than, oh for instance, someone who lives in the suburbs, drives a silver Honda Odyssey van, and writes stories for a living?
    Friday I stopped by the house of Moonshine Mike Guzek in Ontonagon, Michigan—he works as the handyman for my pal Rick, and in general has the lay of the land here. We had the pleasure of sitting in his garage/woodshop, talking about stuff. I don't talk about "stuff" much, especially the stuff Moonshine Mike, 73, talks about — bow hunting, wood chopping (that's his winter's worth of maple firewood above, stacked by his girlfriend Susan who, alas, I did not meet), women, chainsaws, the unexpected connection between the two (later in the day, trying to start a chainsaw that took a long time to get going, he'd say, "I knew a girl like that") property sales, and various other UP topics.  He told me a story about hunting a deer with a buddy's crossbow in snow (much better to hunt them in the winter, when you don't have to worry about refrigerating the results), shooting it through the heart, a shot that — he later learned, dressing the deer — cracked the fifth rib, cut through the deer's heart, then through the fifth rib on the other side, and out. I wish I could replicate his description of the blood in against the snow, but I would not do him justice.
     Mike was quite excited about his new Barnett Jackal crossbow—a bad shoulder makes drawing a composite bow tough— and let me test it out while we calibrated the scope. You pull the bowstring back using a rope with two handles on it, and while it took all my strength, I could just do it. Firing was easy after that, and I got quite good at it. I don't know if I could shoot a deer—probably not—but a big yellow foam cube target is another matter. The arrows travel at over 300 feet per second, and after pulling back the string, the hardest part was pulling the "Headhunter" brand arrows out of the target.
     Mike is a craftsman—he built the cabins on my buddy's place here, and is a reminder that artistry comes in a variety of forms, and that skill and refinement is not always obvious. Maybe that is why he seems more real—because the ability to butcher a moose seems more of a genuine life skill than the ability to, oh, polish a sentence.  There was also an unapologetic quality to him. His pickup had a sticker that showed a wolf, howling at the moon, in a rifle crosshairs, that said: "HUNT HARD, SHOOT STRAIGHT, KILL CLEAN, APOLOGIZE TO NO ONE." That seems like a life philosophy, and as a person who is always explaining, nearly apologizing, I told myself: don't do that so much.
     Our skills sets do not overlap, but I still appreciated his wisdom, and though he was initially puzzled, by my repeatedly turning down a beer (later, when we cut down some trees that were threatening a barn, he saw me and said, "Where's your beer?!" with alarm, as if I couldn't breathe without it, and only then remembered. I of course apologized—old habits die hard—and he said, "No, it's a good thing.") I even suspect he enjoyed talking with me, or at least appreciated my help setting the Jackal's scope, three green dots which skewed up and to the right, at first, but seemed dead on and true by the time we were done with it.



  1. I think that people can be "real" no matter where they live or their choice of occupation. However, it's a lot easier when you don't have to deal with the social expletive deleted that fills the room when you are dealing with people who want to get ahead at any cost.

  2. I have read your post. This is a fantastic post. Sounds like the crossbow is the Alabama rig of the archery world. Lots of hype for something that may give you a slight advantage in some situations.
    John Hillman

  3. His real seems related to whar we consider basic survival. Works of the hands that provide shelter and food. But no more real than a Chicago person riding four buses before dawn to get to a job in order to feed her family or Neil's real that is related to intellectual survival but is a must to likewise feed his family. Real persons. Lots of different kinds. None more real than another. All desiring the same basic things. All with a story maybe more interesting than we might think.

  4. These off the beaten path dispatches from the UP are somehow calming to me. They remind me of how a simpler lifestyle out in the elements of nature can put the anxieties of our more hectic world in a more hopeful perspective.


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