bulls and bowsArchery has changed over the years. In the beginning, I made my own bow from Osage Orange wood, sinew of deer, feathers from a turkey, and napped flint for the points. This rig was slow but did the job. Later I graduated to a Ben Pearson recurve and thought that I was Fred Bear! Later, I jumped to a vertical compound bow. Now I am trying a cross bow.

Each bow has its challenges and perks. The old handmade bow is simply awesome to hunt with. It is like going back into time to hunt like the Native Americans. This bow is slow and small but I am amazed how effective it can be. The act of putting a sharp rock on a stick and sending it through a critter is just amazing.

A recurve bow is still “Old School”, but speed is improved. Accuracy is still based upon hand and eye coordination. Wooden shafts with real razor points and natural fletching made each shot more consistent. Fred Bear never had a problem using this rig, so it was good enough for me.

My first compound bow changed everything. The speed was now even faster. The trajectory was flatter and accuracy was also improved. I still practiced “instinctive style shooting”, which meant that there were no sights or shooting aids. “Bare Bow shooting” meant fewer things to go wrong and less excuses.

Upgrades in compound bows increased speed, range, and accuracy. What did not change was the need to practice and maintain my perishable shooting skills. Shooting a vertical bow requires muscle memory, strength, and a smooth release that only comes from practice. When the moment of truth arrived, I needed to focus on the target and not how to shoot it.

Crossbows offer a fast food effect to archery. Once the bow is sighted in, the routine of shooting stays the same. Shooting a crossbow is easier than shooting more traditional archery gear. Less skill and practice are needed. Shooting a cross bow over a legal bait pile is even less fulfilling. Just because you can does not mean you should.

Crossbows tend to wound more critters. Longer and more challenging shots are taken. Optics can cause crossbowman to misjudge distance. The shorter bolts of a crossbow often fail to exit the target. This produces less of a blood trail resulting in a loss.

Arrow placement, and range, are the two most critical factors for all bow hunting. Every critter that I have harvested was at 20 yards or less. Practice allows me to accurately hit a target out to 80 yards. At longer ranges, the kinetic and killing power of a bow greatly dissipates. Sure, the arrow or bolt will hit the mark, but pass throughs are unlikely. Archers must also stalk or select natural stand sites that allow them to get closer. Scent, camo, sounds, and woodsman skills are also needed. No one thing, is more, or less important.

Archery is the most intimate form of hunting. Stalking or calling a critter into close quarters is exciting and requires practice and skill. Long range shooting requires long range skills. “A metaphor may be, “Do you want to make love at close quarters, or have sex at long range.” Harvesting an 800 pound Bull elk at 7 yards is way more intimate and sacred task, than at 100 yards. The stalking, calling, effort, and desire to accomplish this task, is why we bow hunt.

Bow hunting the Missouri Breaks in Montana is a good example. Herds of elk travel down coulees to water every day. The elk will call but rarely respond to calls. Bow hunters try to guess their return route and ambush them. One lucky hunter finally tagged a huge bull. Sadly, the bull had several other broad heads in its body along with his 3 from 85 yards. Other “long range bowman” had hit their mark on other occasions. The festered meat was wasted, but he had his antlers!

Many hunters may argue or disagree with me. The real question is, “Why are you bow hunting?” Is it for meat? If yes, then go to the store and buy your meat. It is way cheaper and easier. Do you bow hunt for a challenge? This means you need to get as close as possible. Don’t shoot long distances to prove you can, get closer and use learned hunting skills to prove you can. You chose to bow hunt because it is more challenging. That’s the point!

Shot placement is vital! Will Primos, a world class archer said, “if you double lung a bull or buck, they will lay down like babies!” This is wise advice. I have tracked too many elk and deer because an excited or impatient archer took a long or badly angled shot. Know your wild game anatomy and limitations. When done correctly, the critter never knows what happened. This is both respectful and humane.

Aim for the exit! Once you have this mindset, you will think about the angle that the arrow will pass through, rather than a spot it will hit. Arrow kills are the result of bleeding. You need to hit a vital vascular organ, artery, or lungs.tree stand archery

Longer, traditional shafts store more kinetic energy than shorter bolts. At close ranges, this is not a problem, but at longer ranges, shorter, lighter bolts loose energy more quickly than longer arrows. Mechanical broad heads can fail, deflect, or hook a bone. They are accurate and create huge wound channels, when everything works correctly. Multi-blade razor broad heads will be more reliable and do the damage needed.

Cross bows are certainly popular. A well-placed shot, under 20 yards, will handle your business. Somehow, for me, crossbows seemed too easy. A lifetime of filling tags with vertical bows required more skill, patience, and hunting time. Crossbows are perfect for a hunter with a handicap, that may need an edge or crutch. They are not the answer for a healthy hunter that wants to hunt with a more traditional vertical bow. The truth is, if the gear, limit, and laws are observed, the harvest is ethical and sporting. Ultimately, this is a personal choice.

Crossbows and liberal archery seasons/limits are generous in many states where deer are a road hazard. Insurance companies lobby the state to allow for higher deer harvest to reduce automobile strikes and improve highway safety. Less deer means less insurance claims. This does not manage the game populations, just the wallets of insurance companies.

Archery hunting is a pure hunting skill. The magical flight of the arrow is amazing. The learned skills and practice required extend the hunting seasons. The filled tags are a source of pride and satisfaction. You will never master this sport! Archery hunting is hard, that’s the point!

Practice makes perfect!

Montana Grant

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