Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
The Ohio bow season opens next Saturday, September 28, and runs for the next four months give or take. That’s a long season for bow hunters and crossbow hunters to enjoy their sport. I’m not too sure how many arrow slingers are sitting in tree stands in late January, but I imagine there are a die-hard few who are so addicted to the sport that weather is of little concern. Regardless, from what I’m hearing in this neck of the woods, there are a decent number of deer around, plenty of acorns, and enough bugs to keep hunters from falling asleep in their tree stands. That’s a good way to start a bow season.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for good bow hunters. They’re a special breed with special skills, some probably not by choice but by necessity. Bow hunting provides challenges that the occasional gun hunter will never face. First, bow hunters need to become proficient with their equipment. Becoming a good shot with a bow requires dedication, practice, strength building, along with range and distance skills. I was good friends with a bow hunter that started practicing right after the spring turkey season ended. He shot from his garage roof every day, rain or shine. By September, he could put an arrow in a coffee cup at 25 yards without any effort. Actually, he could shoot a group tighter than that because he taught me that you never shoot at a paper plate. You shoot at the dime-sized spot you put in the middle.
Bow hunting is usually done at much closer ranges than gun hunting. That means hunters have to develop a skill set that includes stealth and determination. It takes a special hunter to sneak into a woods without spooking a whitetail. It takes determination to climb 25 feet into a tree, plant your fanny on a tiny seat in a flimsy stand, and position yourself for a shot. Deer aren’t stupid, besides that, they have super powers that hunters have to overcome. Deer can smell a hunter better than any animal around. They can spot movement of any sort and pick up on the slightest noise. Hunters tell me that if a deer is tense, his reflexes are quick enough to even dodge an arrow. Evidently, it’s wise to let the animal relax before taking the shot.
Unlike gun hunting where the shock of a slug is enough to drop a deer, bow hunters have to rely on proper shot placement if they want the same result. Consequently, many times the bow hunter can expect a wounded deer to run off before dropping. This means that a bow hunter must be skilled at tracking and finding wounded game. Many bow hunters hunt alone and don’t have the usual groups found during the gun season to assist them. One person searching for a downed deer needs to know what to do. Being patient and persevering are difficult, especially at the end of the day when you’re alone and darkness sets in. There is no doubt that some hunters aren’t up to these challenges. Then there are some who get a high by facing the tests that seem to show up during any hunt. Bow hunting creates a life-long learning experience. It’s both satisfying and enjoyable to develop the skills needed to be a successful bow hunter. Also, the more time bow hunters spend in the wild, the more emotional the experience becomes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a serious bow hunter who wasn’t excited when talking about hunting deer.
Compared to gun hunting, I imagine bow hunters find their time spent in the woods to be therapeutic. Things are quiet and peaceful, there are no gunshots to break the silence, and deer aren’t frantically on the run dodging hunters. Gun hunters are generally on a mission. They have nine days to get their deer and are not only in competition with the animals but with their fellow hunters. Imagine how frustrated a gun hunter would be once the deer he was chasing decided to hide out in a standing corn field. That might be the case this year with harvest delayed because of late planting.
I always threatened to bow hunt for deer, but at this stage of the game, that isn’t going to happen. First, I’m not very proficient with my bow any more. I can’t pull the thing back without a moan and a groan. If I did happen to shoot one and it took off running, my lack of tracking skills would almost guarantee a lost deer. Also, there is no way I’m going to climb a tree and sit in a stand for hours on end. That might happen if the stand was three feet off the ground, but that’s the limit. So, I’m not qualified to bow hunt, and I know it. Gun hunting might be the answer if I’m so inclined. I’ve got a picnic table looking over a woods that might be comfortable. Regardless, any type of deer hunting I do or don’t do will be therapeutic, and therapeutic to me requires a good nap. Napping and deer hunting aren’t compatible. I learned that from past experiences. Besides, any deer hunting requires getting up in the middle of the night and arriving at your stand before daybreak. That’s not going to happen on my watch.