Bow season opens Sept. 28, and hopefully the thousands of archers who will be taking to the woods haven’t waited until the last minute to start practicing.
With a gun, most hunters who haven’t fired a shot in a year can still shoot well enough to bring down a deer. It’s more difficult with an arrow.
That increased degree of difficulty is what appeals to bow hunters. But with that greater challenge comes a greater need for accuracy.
Every archer who looses an arrow at a deer has an ethical obligation to make as humane a shot as possible. Most do, but some don’t.
I once heard a bow hunter joke about “firing away” at any and every deer he saw, no matter how difficult the shot. His theory was that he had plenty of arrows, so he’d just keep shooting and hope that he eventually hit a deer in a vital area. He didn’t seem concerned about the wounded deer that ran off to die a painful, lingering death.
When it comes to wounding a deer with an arrow, I speak from experience. As a teenager, one fall I shot a forkhorn buck, and hit it exactly where I aimed, right behind the shoulder. The broadhead-tipped arrow buried up the feathers.
Instead of falling, the stricken the deer bounded away. I spent hours futilely searching for it, crisscrossing a swamp where its tracks disappeared. That’s when I hung up my bow. I had made a perfect shot, and the deer still got away.
I couple of years ago I was muzzleloader hunting on a farm in Giles County when a doe came limping across the field in front of me. When she got closer I saw what was causing the limp – an arrow was imbedded in her flank.
I realize that gun hunters also wound deer, but the ratio is much smaller. The impact of a rifle shot, even if slightly off-target, will usually drop a deer or leave a blood trail that can be followed, while a good shot with an arrow may not – as I can attest.
The late Bob Steber, nationally-prominent outdoors editor for The Tennessean, was opposed to bow hunting. He called deer archery season “pin cushion” season.
I don’t go that far. I have friends who are proficient bow hunters. One, Barry Stricklin, hunts with a primitive bow and flint-tipped arrows. He, like all ethical hunters, spends countless hours practicing, then waits for a perfect shot. He dropped the single deer he has shot at with his primitive weapon.
Modern compounds make it easier for the average archer to be accurate, and cross-bows even more-so. But even the best-equipped archers need to practice and know their limitations.
They owe it to themselves – speaking from experience, there’s no sicker feeling than seeing a wounded deer run off – and they owe it to the animal that they’re hunting.