LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015
Story contributed by Brodie Swisher
Thinking back over some of my proudest moments in the deer woods, I often stumble across those cold, mid-November moments in the treestand when I’ve stuck it out with archery tackle and found success. I remember one year in particular, when I had been somewhat scolded for continuing to hunt with my bow, despite the fact that the General Hunting Season was now in full swing and I’d be “competing against the gun hunters.”
Shortly after dawn, as the first shots of the morning began to echo across the countryside, I remember for a brief moment questioning my sanity in packing a short-range weapon when the opportunities to reach out further were wide open. I thought about the scoffers. I thought about those that had said, “You’re an idiot!…you oughta be hunting with a rifle!” And at that moment, while soaking up the beauty of another cold and frosty morning in the deer woods, I was reminded of why it is that I continue to return to the woods with my bow in hand…even in the midst of a general hunting season.
I thought about the fact that for me it is a passion…not an obsession. I bowhunt because of the challenge to get “closer”. I don’t want to become an obsessed and out of control hunter that will do anything, at any cost, just to make a kill. I love the method in which I choose to punch my tags. There’s a satisfaction that comes with my bowhunting success that I’ve never felt when hunting with a firearm.
Does a requirement to choose a bow or gun helping or hurting the future of hunting?
There’s an intimacy with God’s creation that can only be experienced when you get up close and personal with that animal. When an animal is within range of the top pin, you see, hear, and smell things you never knew existed! That is why I bowhunt. That’s why I grow increasingly alarmed when I see and hear discussion from hunters pushing for bowhunters to be booted out of what some would choose to refer to as “firearm season.” I recently had the question presented to me, “Should archery equipment be allowed during firearm season? Is it fair?
When I first encountered this question, I’ll admit, it was difficult for me not to pounce on the obvious answer that best relates to the way I choose to hunt. I tried to think about the pros and cons of such a decision. How would such a ruling help or hurt either party? However, the glaring issue that continued to surface was the question of “what is to be gained by such a decision”?
Many firearm opportunities around the country coincide with the whitetail rut. And while there are plenty of diehard bowhunters that are committed to hunting strictly with their bow, there are countless others that, if required to make a choice, would lay down the archery gear and join the ranks of the rifle hunters during the rut to increase their odds of scoring on their trophy or putting meat in the freezer. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as a rifle hunter, wouldn’t you be at more of an advantage if you had bow-packin’ hunters in the woods with you as opposed to rifle hunters?
Mike Ellig, owner of Black Gold Sights, says, “It is purely an issue of jealously when a person has a problem with a bowhunter out hunting during rifle season. If you don’t like bowhunters out during gun season, you are saying, ‘the same guy can sit in the same stand with a high powered rifle, but I don’t want to see him there with a bow’. This defies logic. You should always be allowed to hunt with a more primitive weapon than what the current season states. Who the heck should care if I choose to use a less effective weapon than what the law allows? Same goes for muzzleloaders as well.
Few things are as rewarding as bowhunting success during the whitetail rut…even if you do have to wear an orange vest.
If you want a greater challenge by having a weapon that isn’t as effective as what the law allows, go for it! Anybody with any common sense should love it if guys choose a bow over a gun during a gun season. Look at it this way, if you were a gun hunter and everyone except you decided to hunt with a bow during the gun season, don’t you think that would be giving you a great advantage? These guys should love it when a person chooses a weapon that is good to forty yards instead of 400. It just means there will be more game out there for them!”
Management in Tight Places
One would also have to consider the effects of eliminating archery opportunities in areas that are not suitable for rifle hunting. Let’s face it. Some of the best deer hunting opportunities out there can be found in the small pockets and tracts of land close to homes and highways. Big bucks and countless does make these honey-holes their homes, and the results can often be increased vehicle collisions…and the death of many of grandma’s flowers and garden veggies. These deer need managed as well. And archery equipment is the only safe and effective way to do so.
My friend and fellow bowhunter, Amy Sawyer, lives in Idaho where hunters have an “A tag” for archery season and a “B tag” for rifle season. Amy says, “I hunt with both bow and rifle. It just depends on where I am going and the mood I’m in. I prefer archery and like the extra challenge. Plus a lot of landowners will allow archery hunting, but will not allow a rifle to be shot on their property. That gives me and the kids an advantage to some prime spots where rifle hunting is not allowed.”
Sharing my passion for bowhunting with my son, Aidan, is something I consider priceless.
Across the plains and much of the west, river-bottom units and lands where whitetail deer herds thrive are often open only to archery equipment due to safety requirements. These lands must be managed properly…and archery equipment is the means by which to make it happen.
Sharing the Woods
So can archers and gun hunters share the woods in a single season? Absolutely! Consider the setup for bowhunters versus rifle hunters. Rifle hunters will typically be on the edge of wide open places with room to roam. Bowhunters, on the other hand, can often be found tucked into tight places, close to cover and bedding areas. Famous outdoor writer Bill Winke says, “I can understand that some gun hunters want to keep the number of hunters down during their season, but I doubt the bowhunters impact their hunting much as the strategy is so much different. They aren’t really competing for the same setups.” Winke also says, “In some states the rut takes place during the firearms season and in those states bowhunting can be tough outside of the rut, so having access to that season with a bow is a definite advantage for bowhunters. “
The Way It Was
My buddy, Troy Ruiz, reminds us, “When our forefathers walked this earth with the Indians there were 2 means of taking game for consumption…bow and arrow and Flint Lock. For me, either way, dead is dead and meat is meat. Why can’t firearm hunters and bow hunters share the same passion at the same time as long as all the safety requirements are met? If we judge one versus the other, then we’re picking sides.”
As fellow hunters we should unite with one another rather than pick sides over the weapons we use…….shouldn’t we?
In the woods, back at camp, or on the streets, hunters must work towards being united. Shame on us for allowing our thoughts on a compound bow, longbow, crossbow, recurve, or rifle being superior to another. Such views and opinions will divide us and tear down the tradition of hunting we cherish. I want to see more hunters in the woods. I want to see new hunters in the woods. I want my children…and their children…to continue to have ample opportunities to hit the woods with the weapon of their choice for many seasons to come. We must share the woods…we must share the passion. What do you think? Let us know your feelings on this topic.