This awareness is at the heart of bowhunting, and why practitioners love it so. It’s thoughtful. It’s natural. Hey, venison is one of the original organic foods. While some envision the so-called start of “hunting season” as when the pumpkin-colored crowd hits the woods during the regular firearms deer season, the quieter archery-only opportunities are often unnoticed. That’s ok.
To those of us who notice, a pickup truck, ATV or Side-by-Side parked along the side of a rural road near a woods that encloses a swamp and game trails near a stream or two often means that somebody is bowhunting deer nearby.
I routinely note this activity, as you likely do, with an interested observant glance or two, wondering perhaps if that bowhunter has had luck there before, and why they chose that spot. It’s a good feeling, knowing that bowhunter is out there.
Not to everyone, I suppose. In so-called multiple-use areas on state-owned lands a hiker may be alarmed to come down a rugged trail to look up and see somebody in camouflage sitting there. The bowhunter might be surprised to see the hiker. In this case, respect and tolerance is needed on both sides. I know. I’ve been there.
Bowhunting is perfectly legal, but often shrouded in secrecy. You rarely see a guy dragging his tagged buck or doe to that roadside four-wheeler, but sure enough, the harvest statistics indicate the activity yields many successes.
This too has always fascinated me—the silence and stealthy nature of the pursuit. Bowhunting is a contemplative activity. The hunter often sits aloft in a treestand, watching the wild world beneath that perch.
A coyote may pass by, and certainly red and gray squirrels. Maybe you’ll see some turkeys. Curious songbirds that they are, a black-capped chickadee may land on the branch nearby. Much of the activity includes sitting, watching, waiting for deer to move into range. Often the shot will take place at close quarters, say 15-20 paces—or less. This close interaction is unrivaled.
There’s a deer, and it’s coming. The hunter’s heartbeat quickens. All muscular memory gained from shooting that bow in the off-season comes into play. The archery tackle must be drawn silently, and surely. Blow it, and the quarry will hustle right out of there.
As specialization goes, some guys likely go in the direction becoming bowhunting enthusiasts for another reason. You can often do it much earlier than the firearms deer offerings.
For some, taking a doe with a bow is different than doing it with a firearm. It’s tough, so the either-sex filling of a tag (perfectly legal) doesn’t involve issues of ego that come with taking a big buck. Well, most of the time. Some guys hold out for that trophy, and sometimes eat their tags when the archery seasons end, but that’s ok too for the guys who enjoy it all.
Often, the bowhunting game favors the game animal, and that’s good. In a world that measures success as scoring and winning in the numerical sense, this is different. The pleasure is in the pursuit. The winning is in the doing.
Yes, when it all comes together, that is surely a cause for celebration. Why? Because it’s so difficult—if you succeed, you’ve done so the hard way.
So do it.