This thing we do, hunting deer and sometimes taking deer with a bow and an arrow, is one of the more amazing chapters each of us can write in our personal hook-and-bullet biographies.
The idea, of course, is to get within a close distance of a deer and then be a good enough shot to kill that animal. It is easier said than done and perhaps it is that challenge that makes it all the more appealing.
I am about to tell you the approximate number of deer I have bagged in that manner. I don’t have an exact number, because, unlike with spring gobblers, I don’t write all of that stuff down in a diary. I’m going to tell you that number not so you will say “wow, he has gotten a lot of them” or “shoot, that’s not very many deer.”
I’m going to tell you that number simply so you will understand the other things I will write here are based upon that sample size.
Using three different compound bows and one crossbow I’ve killed about 40 deer. Only a few have been taken with the crossbow, but that’s basically the way I hunt now. And I like it.
Bow hunting has changed dramatically during the decades, but then what hasn’t been altered a considerable amount in the hunting world.
I need to get a deer at 40 yards or closer before I will pull the trigger of my horizontal bow, an Excalibur Ibex. But I’ve never shot one that far away, although I did get an 8-point Maryland buck that was at 35 yards when the Wasp 150 grain Sledgehammer broadhead was sent his way.
My biggest bow buck was an 8-point from Dan’s Mountain that many hunters would pass up nowadays in the trophy hunting mindset that seems to have enveloped the activity. It was a 15-inch spread with nice tines, but nothing that would make the pages of a deer hunting magazine. It fell to my first bow, a Browning that never did fit me, although somehow I managed to figure it out and tag 17 deer with it.
That was 1995 and it was only the second deer I had arrowed and tagged. I got into the bow thing late compared to many hunters, but I’m in it for good now and spend a lot of time patiently waiting for an appropriate animal to appear.
I am astonished when I watch a television personality deer hunter launch an arrow at a deer 80 yards away. The hunter always kills the animal at which he or she shot after fiddling with some sort of distance setting on the bow. I suppose they shoot at some they miss or at some they hit but don’t recover, but that sort of thing isn’t usually shown.
I’m thinking that if you want to shoot a deer that far away just get a nice rifle. Bow hunting to me should be an up-close-and-personal experience. The closer the better, I say. Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes of the whiskers on their chins. The closer they are the greater the chance for an accurate shot and the recovery of a struck deer.
The Maryland season always opens the Friday after Labor Day. This year that was September 11. I’ve been out for four sits, but have yet to see a deer. That’s why the lengthy season is so nice. There is plenty of time to get that opportunity to connect. The West Virginia season begins September 26.
I would really like to see Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service go to regulations that would allow us to take our two bucks and two does in any fashion we desire, rather than limit us to one of either gender in any of the hunts (bow, muzzleloader, modern firearm).
I am not a fan of baiting for deer, but I am not opposed to it where it is legal. I don’t look down on someone who hunts in that fashion, but I do contend that it is more shooting than hunting and I get a little concerned that younger hunters have never hunted any other way.
If you hunt in that manner, I wish you many deer and the blessings of Fred Bear upon you and your offspring.
Archery hunting does provide one aspect of hunting more than other forms. Bowhunters need to learn how to track deer. That is most simply and effectively done by following the blood that has spilled from the animal. Sometimes, though, that blood flow ends and the deer has yet to be found. That’s when skills such as finding hoof prints or dislodged rocks and moss and rearranged weeds come into play. I know one hunter who recovered a deer he had hit on a warm day by seeing flies gathered on clear body fluid droppings from the deer that he would not have noticed without the help of the insects.
I find the tracking aspect to be particularly rewarding, especially when the result is positive.
Here is something I have noticed since taking up bowhunting. A deer that is struck while standing broadside, will most usually flee in the direction it was pointing when hit. That’s not always true, of course. And, topography and woodland obstacles could change that scenario.
Bowhunting requires a great deal of responsibility in choosing appropriate shots. Those shots should be taken within your established range of confidence, whether it is 15 yards or 50 and only at an animal with vital parts of its body exposed. Practice, practice, practice.
If you have not yet hunted with a bow and arrow, either a vertical bow or one that is horizontal, I can tell you that it is an enjoyable way to seek backstraps for dinner. Local rod and gun clubs will be happy to help you get started, as will those local business people who sell archery equipment.
There’s a whole lot of the 2020-2021 bow season remaining. Give it some thought.
And consider this. Our ample public hunting acreage in these Maryland and West Virginia counties are not heavily hunted during the bow seasons. I get that information from reputable sources.
Mike Sawyers retired in 2018 as the outdoor editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His column now appears every other Saturday. To order his book, “Native Queen, a celebration of the hunting and fishing life,” send him a check for $15 to 16415 Lakewood Drive, Rawlings, MD 21557.