Today's Bowhunter: Have We Lost Our Way?on Jan 28, 2013
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.
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.
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.