Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way?

Posted by: Patrick Meitin on Jan 28, 2013
Page 1 of 3

In my most cynical moments I look on the modern American bowhunter (and understand I include myself in this harsh assessment) with something approaching shame.  I say this because it sometimes seems archers have allowed modern outdoor media to completely infiltrate their existence and sour bowhunting for them.

The Early Years

Early in life archery and bowhunting became my way of looking at the world.  I remember those years in the late 1970s fondly, bowhunting with simple recurve bows, the graceless, clattering compounds of the day yet failing to move most of my coterie of friends who shared my bow-and-arrow passions. Those were certainly simpler times owning a completely different climate.  It was a world in which pursuing small-game or bowfishing were considered wholesome pastimes instead of foolhardy child’s play.  More pointedly, way back then, the smaller pleasures of bowhunting were approached as a way of earning your stripes before graduating to bigger stuff.  It was an era when bowhunters seemed content in pursuing average deer close to home while bowhunting a generous neighbor’s small farm or stalking through a marginal swatch of ranch property accessed after a knock on a door and friendly chat.
 
Back in those days it was true we talked wistfully and at great length of someday arrowing bigger bucks (or any elk or pronghorn or black bear; exotic game on par with African Cape buffalo to a group of aspiring tyros).  Occasionally one of us would kill a big buck (cause for whooping celebration) but we certainly didn’t pass shots at – or fail to brag about – a basket-rack eight, or a forkhorn or spike, or even a legal doe.  We lived by Fred Bear’s mantra that any animal taken with bow was a trophy; furthermore, taking smaller animals as they came better prepared us for encounters with bigger prizes we assumed lay in our futures.  In the big picture all of us were simply happy in the pursuit, to be outdoors, to occasionally fill a freezer with healthy venison chops. 

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Archery icon Fred Bear certainly arrowed his share of big animals, including some world’s records, but always insisted any animal taken fairly with bow and arrow was a trophy.  It would be interesting to know how Bear would view today’s ultra-competitive bowhunting atmosphere.

Modern Times

Today’s bowhunter wants to start at the top, to kill only the biggest antlers possible or not at all.  Bowhunting has come to represent another form of arbitrage, of unconcealed conquest.  And why not?  The modern bowhunter watches fist-pumping outdoor television stars killing an endless succession of behemoth bucks, bulls, billies, bruins and rams.  Bowhunting magazines are chock-full of ads and article lead-off photos of bucks wearing antlers of dimensions seldom witnessed at a distance, after a lifetime in the woods, much less beneath our stands.  Average bucks and meat does are no longer enough to make us happy; to provide a sense of contentment and well being.

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Patrick Meitin

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13 Comments on "Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way?"

Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
I would have to agree with the late Fred Bear. We are too hung up on other things in the bowhunting world. Every year we have to have the newest bow or gear, because we can't kill a deer with what we had last year lol. I tell my son that it's not always about killing an animal either. It's the hunt, the time in the woods, watching other critters play. Yes, it is about harvesting a doe now and then. Just hunt folks, just hunt. Spend some time alone with nature and unwind from this very hectic world we have. If we are not careful we will have found out that we missed life.
Posted by Todd Browning on 1/28/2013 6:56:24 AM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
This article is so true I live in Missouri and bowhunt every year with the hope of taking even a doe. Leasing ground in MO has gotten so expensive that the average guy can't afford it. With all the hunting shows on TV showing these celeberties killing monster after monster it has taken the luster off of taking any animal with archery equipment. Fred Bear was so right taking any animal with archery tackle is a trophy! I think our sport is in danger of becoming the rich man's past time I hope that this trend will slow down or reverse before it is to late. I for one will just keep on enjoying the peace I find when I am out there whether I take an animal or just watch them play! And encourage my family and friends to do the same
Posted by Scott Anderson on 1/29/2013 1:30:22 AM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
I loved the article! The author is right on the mark with his comments about the bowhunting majority. The majority of bowhunters either don't have the time or they especially don't have the money to trophy hunt. Most of us hunt lands that would be last resorts for trophy hunters. Taking a decent buck on public land or in the backyard is the prize within itself! Show me someone who can regularly take big-woods bucks and I'll show you a bowhunter!
Posted by Jeremy Yancey on 1/29/2013 8:53:35 AM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
"Average bucks and meat does are no longer enough to make us happy; to provide a sense of contentment and well being." For myself, I disagree. I have been hunting for 5 years, including 2 seasons with a bow. I am familiar with success, but I am not enticed to pursue a trophy. Of the few friends who are hunters, only one pursues trophies, although not exclusively. We all enjoy the outdoors and take pleasure in what we are blessed to harvest. I watch Todd and Justin on Roku and believe they do a decent job promoting the sport and not just the pursuit of trophies. The success of harvesting trophies is entertaining, though. Time spent with my family is far more important than the amount of effort it takes to pursue trophies.
Posted by Chad Rothert on 1/29/2013 12:30:04 PM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
as a begining bow hunter this was well worth my time to read.
Posted by jason on 1/29/2013 8:09:51 PM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
As someone who is interested in entering the sport and hungry for knowledge, this provided a great perspective as to what it is really all about. Thank You.
Posted by Jason on 1/30/2013 10:49:21 AM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
Excellent read and all so true and a bit sad to see this fantastic port turning into an obsession for the "Trophy". I can only dream about the trophy because i am that back yard and public land hunter waiting, just waiting one day to see a trophy. I hunt for the meat first and enjoy taking that one buck that might pass my stand. Again, thanks for the article and I look forward to reading the more.
Posted by Shouper on 1/30/2013 12:51:44 PM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
Good article -- very thoughtful. Bow hunting is a sort of therapy for me. I am lucky to have Wisconsin woods and farmland near me with private access. What originally drove me to bow hunting was the damage to gardens, trees and of course our cars near our home -- deer/varmint control. Once I get out a a stand or in the woods, I have complete solitude and I am happy to just sit there and watch for hours. I will not shoot deer that I consider too young, but will take a doe or smaller buck any time. The expectations for some hunters are "out of whack". They micro manage their properties and hunting gear to a point where I am not sure it is a sport any more. Prepare for success, but hunt for enjoyment, not obsession. Thanks for a good "read".
Posted by Craig on 1/30/2013 4:06:56 PM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
Excellent Read. Though I am one of those guys that has a blistering fast rig, I haven't forgot why I got into bowhunting.I don't take long marginal shots and I acess the herd each year through a trailcam program so I don't over-harvest.
Posted by Montec on 1/30/2013 5:05:28 PM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
This is a really insightful essay. It's one thing to promote improved hunting weapons that permit one to make humane kills. But when frills and innovations are promoted, mainly for creating hollow images of what it takes to be a real hunter, that eliminate the need to develop real skills that test a person pursuing an animal in the wild (powerful scopes, bow and firearm systems so powerful that a hunter doesn't even have to learn to stalk prey to within normal eyesight distance to kill, etc.), one is a 'hunter' in name only. Not only does this erode true hunting culture that promotes a deep bond with nature by requiring the development of certain important disciplines and skills and a real proximity with the living thing being killed, hopefully to give sustenance to someone; it also risks making the best genetic specimen too easily accessible to be killed by someone who, without all the technological innovations driven by a shallow desires for excessive profit from folks with diso
Posted by Leon on 1/31/2013 8:18:21 AM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
This is a really insightful essay. It's one thing to promote improved hunting weapons that permit one to make humane kills. But when frills and innovations are promoted, mainly for creating hollow images of what it takes to be a real hunter, that eliminate the need to develop real skills that test a person pursuing an animal in the wild (powerful scopes, bow and firearm systems so powerful that a hunter doesn't even have to learn to stalk prey to within normal eyesight distance to kill, etc.), one is a 'hunter' in name only. Not only does this erode true hunting culture that promotes a deep bond with nature by requiring the development of certain important disciplines and skills and a real proximity with the living thing being killed, hopefully to give sustenance to someone; it also risks making the best genetic specimen too easily accessible to be killed by someone who, without all the technological innovations driven by a shallow desires for excessive profit from folks with diso
Posted by Leon (incomplete posting previously) on 1/31/2013 8:37:57 AM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
Yes, sadly most have lost their way. I was one of those until last summer when I quit every prostaff I was involved with. I too worry about the hunting industry and what they have created. I am back to "Hunting for the fun of it" again. And I am having fun again.
Posted by John Mueller on 2/4/2013 10:24:17 AM
Re: Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way? #
Great article and insight. I went on my first Elk hunt last September in Idaho. We saw a really nice bull the day before the season opened, but never saw another the next 6 days. My friend that invited me was disappointed that I never got a chance to get a shot off, but I had one of the best hunts of my life. I enjoyed the new territory I was hunting in and learned some lessons....That is what bowhinting is all about for me. I agree that the industry has hyped us up to expect nothing less than a trophy....Give me more Fred Bear, because that was the best example of what hunting was all about. It shouldn't be about the harvesting, it should be about the pursuit. The only programs or DVDs I watch now are Public Land/D-I-Y hunts.....Those are the places and way I hunt.
Posted by Cordell Hanson on 2/9/2013 6:04:12 AM

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