There is no denying that becoming a bowhunter brought me closer to nature and the outdoors. I think that’s part of the draw to hunting -- and bowhunting in particular. Being out in nature brings an inner peace that cannot be found anywhere else, and a big part of what keeps us coming back to the woods day after day even when we don’t fill a tag. Breathing the fresh air into your lungs, surrounded by the trees and mountains, it just feels good to be alive.
I started bowhunting at the age of 16 after years of being a gun hunter. Bowhunting was a whole new game and greatly expanded my hunting season. I enjoyed that bowhunting brought a different challenge for me, and I threw myself into it wholeheartedly. Yet, in my early twenties, I felt my passion for bowhunting starting to wane. I didn’t understand it completely, but felt that the challenge had disappeared.
I had always been fascinated with the idea of hunting with a traditional bow. Being familiar with Fred Bear, I knew that there was a “coolness” factor that came with shooting a stick and string. I had always been swayed by the idea that traditional archery would be too difficult for me, but at this turning point in my life I felt the need to set down the compound bow and pick up something different.
And so a new relationship began.
I have been hunting strictly with a traditional bow for five years now, and it has given me a whole new perspective on bowhunting and the outdoors.
Although it was the simplicity of the stick and string that drew me in, it was the level of difficulty and the challenge that kept me coming back for more. I had far less opportunities and shots on wild game, and thus found myself taking a deeper appreciation to my surroundings. It forced me to slow down and pay attention to details I would never have noticed otherwise. Knowing that I would need a close shot, I would setup in areas that I otherwise would have overlooked; I hunted in spots that put me on eye level with my quarry. There is nothing quite like watching a whitetail feed 10 yards away and not being able to move a muscle to take the shot, knowing that any movement will blow your cover.
Many times I would watch deer feed in front of me, just yards out of my shooting range. It was a front row seat to a wildlife exhibit and I became ever more familiar with the habits and body language of the game I was hunting. I began to feel more respect for the animals that continued to elude me and appreciation for the journey that I was on.
There have been no “easy” or textbook hunts for me since I started hunting with a traditional bow. Quite the opposite, I have had to work hard for every deer or turkey taken with stick and string. There is always a good story behind it, and I’ve discovered that the harder the hunt, the more you appreciate the end result.
Sitting in the woods with my back against the sticky bark of a pine tree, or nestled against a rotting tree stump with swamp muck seeping into my knees, I have often pondered the history of the traditional bow and all of the hunters who came before me. At one point there was no traditional hunting…it was just hunting. Hunting with a stick and string was how everyone bow hunted. When hunting with my longbow or recurve, I feel connected to Fred Bear, to Ishi, to Howard Hill. To my dad. It may be a thing of the past, a dying art to some. But for me, the spirit of traditional archery is alive and well.