A. J. Windless
A group of four arrows shot by photographer A. J. Windless
Shooting Rabbits
When I was in 7th grade I got a paper route. Every day except Sunday I would wake up early, ride my bicycle a mile into town, and at 5 a. m. start delivering the "Bradford Era". Not counting prep time, the deliveries took about an hour and a half after which I would ride my bicycle home and get ready for school. I delivered all year round, rain, sleet, snow, and even when hell had frozen over, and did so on my own without any help from mom or dad. While other kids got an allowance from their parents, my parents never gave me an allowance, so having the paper route was huge because it gave me some spending money and a chance to buy a few things.
That's how I got my first bow and arrow. I don't even remember what got me interested in archery since I didn't know anyone with a bow, but I was delighted and set up three bales of hay on the far end of our garden. I would stand on the grass out by the road and shoot the length of the garden with the hay stacked up near the fence at the other end of our property.
There were always cottontail rabbits hopping around in the yards in town, so a couple of times I even took my bow with me on my paper route and shot a few rabbits. What kind of trouble I could have gotten into I am not sure, but at five o'clock in the morning no one was awake to complain about it, and of course I was discreet about it if someone was around. (Still just a kid, this was before I became the kinder, gentler photographer that I am today.)
After about a year I quit delivering the paper, but then saw an ad for people who were interested in creating their own TV Guide route so I knocked door to door and built up a route of 60 customers. This was outside of town near my home so the route was spread out much more than my paper route had been, but I only had to deliver once a week, and I didn't have to wake up early in the morning every day before school. About a year later when I was ready to start high school I sold my self-made route for a nice handful of cash.

Behind the bales of hay that I had set up was a cow pasture and on the opposite side of that lived Ernie and Bertha Baughman. Bill Ehrnsberger had married their daughter, Peggy,  and about the time I started high school they bought a trailer and moved in across the field with their three young children. I was pretty excited that Bill not only was an archer, but he went bowhunting. We moved my bales of hay into the field and began shooting together. It wasn't long before he promised to take me with him and teach me the art of bow hunting for whitetail deer. However, my mother wasn't so easily persuaded. It wasn't until I assured her we were only bow hunting and there were no guns involved that she allowed me to go. Funny enough, I already owned a single shot .22 and the state of Pennsylvania classified chipmunks and blue jays as pests, so I was already shooting them out of the woods around our house.
For two picture perfect Septembers Bill took me with him out to Geotz Summit where we spent many a fall evening deep in the maples and oaks of the Pennsylvania forest. There was a underground pipeline all covered with grass that ran through the forest and merged with the power line creating an open corrider cutting through the trees. Covered with camouflage, I would hide in the bushes, while Bill continued down the powerline, eventually veering off to an open meadow with a beautiful little pond. Here he would climb a tree and wait for deer to walk through the meadow to the pond for a drink of water. At the end of the evening he would return and we would walk back to the car together discussing the evening's events.
We hunted together for a few seasons, then Bill responded to a higher calling. He moved his family to Georgia where he enrolled in a school to become a minister. A year or two into his studies a dam broke in Georgia flooding the valley below it. Bill and his family happened to be living below that dam and had gotten struck by the flood waters, all of them dying except for one of his sons, who at the time had been staying with his grandparents across the field from us.

The meadow and small pond where Bill waited for deer.

I made little six inch cardboard circles out of my dad's empty bicycle boxes. In time I would get tired of cutting out cardboard circles and just created six inch circles out of wire. The bicycles arrived with red plasitc protectors on the axles, so I would place one of them in the center of the circle for something to aim at. Shooting four arrows per round, from 20 yards I could put all four arrows in the circle, from 30 yards usually 3 arrows, and from 40 yards usually 2 arrows. A few months after I graduated from high school, just prior to the opening of archery season, "The Bucktail Archers" had a shoot. Their course was always fun because bales of hay were set up at different locations in the forest and we would go for a little stroll as we followed the trails from target to target. I used a recurve bow (the old wooden kind) and shot "bare bow" or "instinctively". That means that I had no mechanical assistance on my bow, I would just pull back, aim according to feel, and then release. On the other hand, Joel Lecker, a standout in "Freestyle" archery had every mechanical aid I had ever seen on his bow, including a stablizer, a peep site, a mechanical release, and a clicker. Later he would try out for the Olympic team and he may even have gotten as far as the finals. I entered the barebow class and when the shoot was over they awarded me a silver trophy for first place. I was a bit surprised and wondered how many people I had competed against. They told me there were 60 bowhunters in my division. The trophy had a figurine of an archer with a drawn bow on top, a little plastic string running from one end of the bow to the other.
In a peculiar twist, when I was younger, a man named Lynn moved in just a few houses away from us. I was visiting him with an older boy one day when we looked at his trophies. As we left the house the older boy exclaimed, "Wow, he's really versatile!" a word I had never even heard before. I had to ask him what "versatile" meant. He said that Lynn was very talented in several different areas. As
the years went by I kept my archery trophy on my fireplace mantle with my  running trophies, chess trophies, and the two trophies that Tecumseh had won. I guess that meant that I was, as he said, "versatile". But the punchline is that the trophies weren't even worth the space to keep them in. When I moved to Thailand I rented a storage place about the size of a garage and moved eveything into it, including what was left of the 10,000 note cards I had printed and tried to sell. Rent was $55 a month, and when I stayed in Thailand much longer than I anticipated I could feel the weight of that $55 every single month, adding up to over $3,000 in five years. Then they raised the rent to $75 per month. The next time I came back to the states I emptied out my storage unit. I took a lot of it out to the dump, but some of it, like the trophies, I gave to Deseret Industries, a Mormon thrift store. I thought that maybe someone would buy them for almost nothing and use them in a fund raiser or something of the sort.

To read a very well written version of my hunting experience and how I tranformed from hunting with a rifle and bow to hunting only with a camera  (click here)

(Top photo: A round of 4 that I shot from 60 feet when I got my bow out in later years while I was in Salt Lake City.)
(Center photo: The meadow and pond where Bill climbed a tree and waited for deer. Notice that the ferns in the foreground are not in focus. This photo was taken long before I bought a professional camera and long before I knew how to get the entire image in focus.)
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