"A hunt based on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be...time to commune with your inner soul as you share the outdoors with the birds, animals, and fish that live there." - Fred Bear
I love this quote by Fred Bear as it is a lot of the reason why I bow hunt. I always remember growing up and the goal was always to see who could shoot the biggest animal. As I continue to hunt year after year my view on hunting changes. Not that I was ever a true trophy hunter, but I always wanted that 180 in. mule deer, 160 in. whitetail, or 350 class bull elk to determine my success. I haven't attained those goals, but have grown into a great hunter.
Over time I have come to love what I believe hunting is for. That is to purely enjoy the outdoors and what it has to offer in terms of nature and family. I have grown closer with my friends and family through the outdoors and continue a healthy habit that has in recent years over taken a lot of my time. To this day that 180 in. mule deer, 160 in. whitetail, and 350 class bull elk are still some of my goals. I have learned through bow hunting, however, to lower my standards and appreciate what hunting has to offer.
I now take pieces from every hunt I'm on and turn them into memories, experience, and knowledge. If I could get paid to hunt for the rest of my life it would be a dream come true. Growing up I always told my best friend Stephen that every day we were out hunting or fishing I could do it the rest of my life everyday. As life goes on it seems that it's harder and harder to get out and spend as much time as I would like out in the field. I still manage to make time to get outside and pursue my passion. I am also blessed to have family that realizes my passion for bow hunting and is gracious enough to allow me to continue my pursuit.
One of the main reasons I bow hunt is the amount of time that is allowed in most states. Fred Bear said it best about the difference between rifle and bow hunting. He said, "With a gun you can hunt deer an average of 3 weeks a year. With a bow you can hunt an average of 10 weeks more depending upon the state you hunt in." With the chance of spending more time in the woods comes more opportunity as well. Montana has a very long season both archery and rifle, but growing up in South Dakota you only really had three weekends with a rifle. The archery season there lasts much longer, which is more appealing to me anymore. I may have a better chance at a larger buck with a rifle, but I feel much more accomplished and rewarded if I can close the distance on an animal down to under 30 yards rather than 200 yards with a rifle.
Although my standards have decreased since strictly taking up with bow hunting, I still try to go after that dream buck or bull. I have passed on many smaller bucks to try and get to the bigger one. It can be frustrating at times, but with persistence I know one day I will kill the big one I'm after. Also with each stalk or attempt I learn something new. With more and more experience each year I begin to have more and more opportunities. As each year passes my play book gets larger. There will never come a time when that book gets filled, but the more plays I have in the play book the more successful I will become. Some people get lucky and can pick up a bow and have a giant bull land in there lap. I would venture to guess though if you talk to most hunters there is way more failure than success. This past season is a very good example of that. I went out and filled my tag in the first few minutes of the hunt, my Brother Todd and I both told each other it's not supposed to be this easy. I count that success to majority of luck. Now if you look at the previous season I had multiple encounters with some great bulls, and cows, I was just never able to close the deal. It was a few days filled with experience gained that I will never forget, and has made me that much better of a hunter. It will always remain one of my favorite elk seasons, because of my encounters. I learned a lot that year. Had I been hunting with a rifle I most likely would have filled my tag on the first bull that came in and gave me a broadside shot at 140 yards, but I wouldn't have learned as much as I did. Not only was he a nice bull he was that 350 class bull I dream of. Had I filled my tag I would have missed out on 3 other encounters with elk in the very same afternoon. Although my tag went unfilled it was a successful season in terms of gaining experience.
The reasons in a nut shell that I bow hunt is the following:
I didn't always know that bow hunting would be something I would be so passionate about, but I can't thank my brothers enough for instilling that passion into me. I have learned the majority of my knowledge directly from them. From there I have gained the confidence to venture out on my own and have now become more and more successful. If you think you can just pick up a bow and go start killing things, think again. It took me over 10 years to finally get my first kill. The reason I attribute to it taking that long is not having the persistence or drive to only hunt with archery equipment. I also did not practice near enough. After deciding to concentrate on my bow hunting the success began to follow. I also upgraded my equipment, which in today's world of bow hunting it is pretty much limitless. It still comes down to knowing your equipment and becoming proficient with it.
I have learned over time that bow hunting is the most rewarding sport you can take up if you put your mind to it. Be prepared to also become the most frustrated you have ever been. Bow hunting can take you on a roller coaster of emotions in just minutes. If you have ever wanted to begin bow hunting take it up. You can also just shoot archery for fun by joining a league or simply go out and shoot small game. Archery is pretty much a sport you can take up for the rest of your life. Just remember the important things, it's not the kill it's the adventure and memories made.
I will end this with one more quote from Fred Bear. "A downed animal is most certainly the object of a hunting trip, but it becomes an anticlimax when compared to the many other pleasures of the hunt."