I recently saw a guy walking down the road one evening in Ridge, MD who caught my eye. I assume he was on his way home from hunting but he was surely not your typical hunter. He was carrying a bare-bones Recurve bow that looked like it had had countless arrows slung off the string.
A dark flannel shirt and jeans were his camo of choice. I silently hoped he had shot a deer and was walking home to get his truck, and I guess I’ll never know.
This man surely knows how to hunt, and in the off chance he’s a novice, he soon will be among the best. I’m not an old-timer, but have spent a lot of hours in a stand holding onto a cold bow. Every year I am more distraught at the way hunting has become commercialized to the point where many hunters find themselves with thousands of dollars tied up in their gear.
My first vehicle was an Oldsmobile Cutlass I inherited from my Gram. It was also my first hunting vehicle, with a Fred Bear Kodiak Recurve, a brown wool jacket, boots, knife and a blue tarp in the trunk.
My Mom pulled her hair out every bow season with the inevitable calls from the principal at Great Mills High School about me skipping class or showing up late to school….Often with a deer wrapped in that blue tarp in the trunk.
As I got older, got a job and had some money to burn I got tangled up in the marketing ploys of the outdoor industry. I got rid of my Recurve (a huge mistake), and bought a state-of-the art compound.
Along with that came sights, a stabilizer, a release, new arrows and all the bells and whistles the magazines touted at the time. I traded my jeans and sweater for expensive camo that would block my scent, and make me all but invisible.
It wasn’t long before hunting became more of a chore than a passion. Leaving work and putting on boots and a jacket before hitting the woods turned into showering with scent free soap, dressing myself in my superhero hunting suit and spraying myself and everything else with scent blocker. It was more akin to prepping to enter an operating room than hitting the stand.
My equipment became more of a hassle as well.
I tune my own equipment and build my own arrows, which I enjoy…but it takes precious time away I could spend slinging arrows. Every time I dropped or banged my bow I got a knot in my stomach worrying something moved in my sights. Man, that simple old Recurve was looking good.
My dad and brother are just as passionate about bow hunting as I am. Probably more (Sorry guys..I still shoot better) and have made some changes in their hunting methods in the last two years.
My dad started hunting like I did with bare essentials and got to the point where he too was spending so much money on new technology that it was his most expensive hobby. Two years ago he went back to traditional archery and began hunting with a bare-bones stick bow.
My brother on the other hand had never hunted with traditional equipment and made the decision this year to sell every piece of archery equipment he owned and go back to hunting like the Indians did.
My dad has done well in his transition, as it was just a matter of knocking the dust off his old skills.
He even managed a Pope & Young buck last year in Leonardtown. My brother on the other hand has had a difficult time. He had a hard time trusting his natural instincts and forgetting his sights, releases and range finders. He had several misses this season and became frustrated quickly after talking with dad he realized even though he was having problems connecting with a deer, he was becoming a better hunter.
Shots he would take at 30-40 yards with his compound were no longer an option and he would have to wait until the deer was 10-15 yards before taking a shot. With this came the necessity to consider wind direction and noise control carefully. It wasn’t long before he realized that having to wait that extra time for a closer shot was enabling him to see many more deer.
Deer that would have never come in after they heard that first 40 yard shot. This week he finally connected with a clean shot on a nice doe, and he was ecstatic. That little Doe meant more to him than any of the countless other animals he has harvested. Congratulations Nick!
Dad, Nick and I get together whenever we can to shoot. Sometimes its foam targets, other times its groundhogs or a 3-D tournament.
As time progresses I find myself missing the easy, care-free hunting I enjoyed as a kid, the kind of shooting that tests your ability and not that of your equipment.
I have decided to build myself a Recurve over the winter and ditch the compound next year. I know I will find myself in the woods more with more money in my pocket and a challenge like no other. So whether you are a seasoned archer, or just looking to get started, give traditional a try. You’ll be a better hunter for it.
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