I’m old enough to remember when practicing for deer archery season meant shooting wooden arrows into a bale of hay upon which you had fastened a homemade target.
Fast forward to 2021 when wooden arrows are pretty much museum pieces and you can write a three-figure check for a bow target. Oh, and the modern bows shoot really, really fast. That too.
Whether you are a traditional bow hunter, still toting a recurve or a longbow, or a modern archer who puts what amounts to a small machine-shop broadhead on the end of the arrow, the season is here in Maryland and almost here in West Virginia.
The Maryland bow hunt began Sept. 10 and the hunt in the Mountain State gets real on Sept. 25.
Make no mistake about it, bowhunting for white-tailed deer can be very good in these parts and it doesn’t matter if you are on private or public acreage.
In West Virginia a season ago, archers checked in 31,564 deer and not just a few of them were dropped in the Potomac Highlands and Eastern Panhandle.
The No. 1 county in the state was Preston where 1,742 deer were taken by bowhunters. Other harvests in the northeastern part of West Virginia were Berkeley, 857; Grant, 492; Hampshire, 561; Hardy, 447; Jefferson, 535; Mineral, 481; Morgan, 378; and Pendleton 537.
Archers did well in Maryland’s two western counties, too.
In Garrett County, an impressive 1,553 deer were harvested. Bucks accounted for 940 of that total. Allegany County hunters checked in 567 bucks and 424 antlerless deer for a total of 991.
Both of those harvest totals were significant increases from the tallies during the 2019-2020 season. During that hunt, 1,394 deer were bagged by Garrett County bowhunters, including 846 bucks. There were 831 bow-killed deer in Allegany County, including 463 bucks.
If you like hunting during the very early portion of the Maryland season, the extended weather forecast looks favorable. Through Sept. 21 it is expected to be dry with low temperatures in the 50s and 60s and highs in the 70s and 80s.
Mid-September is a decent time to take a nice buck. Those animals are still on summer patterns and are creatures of movement habit at this time. If you’ve been watching a nice buck or two in recent weeks you could be in very good shape. I’ve seen a number of nice bucks while I bowhunted in September, but I haven’t been able to put any of them on the wall, although I have tagged a few standard 8-points.
Crossbows continue to be popular and effective. Of the 831 deer taken in Allegany County in 2019-2020, crossbows accounted for 526 (63%) of them. In Garrett County, 929 (66%) of the 1,394 deer checked in were killed via what my friend Dave Long calls “flat bows.”
In West Virginia, the most recent archery totals show that more bucks fell to crossbows than to vertical bows. That has been the case there for four years.
I got a 5-point buck with my “flat bow” in November 2020, otherwise the Allegany County count would have been only 990. Squint-eyed, laughing emoji goes here.
In any event, the sliver flipping seasons are here or imminent. I encourage you to hunt often and always safely.
Mike Sawyers retired in 2018 as 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.