Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Archery season! Archery season!

© Joshua Stark 2010

It's time, again.  The seasons roll around, and although my life has changed dramatically the past couple of years, and continues to do so, the seasons still roll around.  What season is it now?  Well...

I read many hunting blogs and magazines this time of year, and I also break out two very important books, one by Fred Bear and one by Chuck Adams.  Both of these books were given to me when I was a high-schooler, and I've read them and re-read them almost every year since.  They are books about archery, and about bow hunting, in particular.

Archery is my favorite hunting season in California.  I know that sounds weird, because I read about how horrified people get at the prospect of hunting in 100+ degree weather, but that has always been my experience.

I didn't grow up in a hunting culture, and so I've rarely been successful at big game.  Four years ago, then, when I bought a recurve bow and decided to pare down my gadgetry and gear for archery, I was very surprised to take a doe with it.  Archery, and in particular "traditional" archery, had taught me valuable lessons.

I've blogged about archery gear over at my Lands on the Margin blog, if you are interested.  I hunt with a cheap, 55 lb. draw recurve I named Versorger (German for "bringer" or "provider"... basically, a caterer) that pinches my fingers bad and stacks like a beast (stacking is bad, if you don't know archery).  But it has provided, and I shoot fair-to-middlin' with it.  What I do when I hunt with it is hunt better.

In archery season you at least see bucks sometimes.  In California, with very few exceptions, you can only shoot forked-horn or bigger deer (for you over-compensating whitetail hunters, that would be a "three pointer" or bigger), and for many years I thought the notion of deer with antlers was a myth perpetuated by the Dept. of Fish & Game to sell tags.  But in archery season, buck sightings are more common, probably because the hunters are quiet, unlike during rifle season, when shots occasionally roll across the canyons and valleys, and many, many more people take to the "field" (meaning, drive up and down logging roads).

Archery, itself has a great quality about it: it is a deeper brush with our connections to the wild.  I enjoy shooting guns, for sure, but every aspect of archery provides me with a deeper meaning.  The symmetry of the bow, the speed of the arrow, the finality of the shot, the ultimate reliance on one shot, and the need to get closer all appeal to me.

Ethically, I have the same problem with archery season that I do with most people who think they can shoot past 100 yds.:  Many people don't practice enough, and when they are in the field, they aren't honest with themselves about the range and opportunity of shots.

Some animal rights people are concerned with the wounding danger of arrows, but they haven't had enough experience with a bow, either.  Poorly shot arrows do wound game animals, and that is a shame.  However, an arrow-wounded animal that gets away has a much better chance of surviving and thriving than does an animal wounded by a gun.  Arrows kill by slicing clean, often passing completely through.  Guns kill by opening holes, too, but also by shock.  A gun hits with a blunt force.  An arrow, as Chuck Adams states, has less kinetic energy than the smallest pistol, a .22 short.  Yet, with an arrow, a person can kill bison. 

Archery also teaches one how to hone skills, not just acquire them.  Everything about archery, from the actual honing of the broadhead to the need to improve tracking skills, read the wind, and know your prey, thrives on betterment.  Above all, archery rewards accuracy, and it can be practiced in a relatively small space. 

This year, I hope not to put down the bow with the end of archery deer season.  California has an early season archery quail hunt in August, and I hope to get up into the mountains after them.  I also hope to get family out with bows for stump-shooting after pinecones and the like.  It's a great sport just by itself, and it teaches a lot without preaching.  Something I could learn...

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Jessica said...
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