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Published by archerchick on 09 Feb 2011

The Buck And The 120-Pound Longbow~ By Richard Palmer

August 1981

The Buck And The 120 Pound Longbow ~ By Richard Palmer

DUSK WAS fast settling in, as I stood perched on a limb, fifteen
feet off the ground. My eyes strained the dim light looking for the movement
of big game. Suddenly, like a wrath from the mist, an approaching deer.

Moving farther out on the limb, I got in position to shoot. I could barely
see the spikes the deer carried. The buck drew closer and stopped broadside
about fifteen yards away. With a mighty surge of muscle, my shoulder
pulled back the 120-pound longbow. My string fingers touched the corner
of my mouth, releasing death and destruction, as the mighty longbow lunged forward.

I have been involved in archery since the age of 4, and have been an
avid bowhunter since the inception of legalized bowhunting in my home
state of New York and neighboring Pennsylvania. For fifteen years I competed
in archery tournaments, retiring when the era of gadgetry came into
being. I shoot a 120-pound longbow of my own design and manufacture. I
use this heavy bow for hunting, as well as in my practice sessions. I use heavy
three-eighths-inch shafts tipped with 160-grain two-blade broadheads when
hunting. This combination will penetrate even the heavy bones of a whitetail deer.

To date, close to thirty deer have bitten the dust.
Halloween dawned bright and sunny, the traditional day when witches and
goblins and wily critters roam. I’d been bowhunting steady for two weeks,
and hadn’t seen hide nor hair of a buck. There were plenty of does around, but
I was holding out for one of those horned critters.
My hunting territory for deer is located about fifteen minutes drive from
where I live in Elmira, New York. The land belongs to Mount Saviour Monastery, where live
a small group of brothers dedicated to a religious life of self-sufficiency. They allow public hunting
by permit only and charge a small nominal fee. Of the many areas in New
York state I’ve hunted, this has to be the most productive for deer. Over the
years I’ve bowhunted there, I’ve managed to garner eleven of the wily creatures.

The monastery property comprises over a thousand
acres of rolling cultivated fields and timbered off woods;
just the type of terrain in which the elusive whitetail flourish.
The deer sometimes are so thick that the monastery
will return part of the permit fee if a bowhunter takes a deer.
The reason is that the deer get into the cornfields,
reducing the corn production considerably. The brothers use
the field crop to make silage to feed their milk cows.
one of their few sources of income. So you can understand
their anguish, when they find thirty or forty deer in their
cornfields every evening. From talking to Brother Bruno,
who issues the permits, I understand that they sometimes
help in doing the driving for the gun hunters who come up later in the season.

When purchasing a permit to hunt on their property, a map
and instructions are issued. The detailed map shows
property boundaries and terrain features. Areas of no
hunting are written in, so there can be no error on the part of
the hunter, as to where he can and cannot hunt. Portable
tree stands are preferred, as they cultivate their woods for timber.

I managed to leave work early and get over to my brother, Ken’s, house, a
few minutes past four in the afternoon. He was there already, having just arrived
home from work himself. We left for the monastery a few minutes later,
full of expectation. It was a beautiful fall day, with the sun shining and the leaves in all their
varied colors; the kind of day that makes you want to be in the woods.
While enroute, we discussed what area we would be hunting that afternoon.

Upon arrival, we each headed for our own preselected spot. Ken headed for
an old logging road in an area the deer cross frequently, on their way to a
large lush green field. I headed for a large shaggy bark tree, located in a
small clearing. This tree has a deer run on each side and is used primarily late
in the afternoon. During the day, the deer bed down in a deep gorge nearby.
Toward evening, they head uphill using the runs in the area of my tree,
as they head toward their various feeding areas.

I already had seen does come by on the different afternoons I had sat in
this tree, but I had resisted the temptation to shoot one, waiting instead for
a buck. Over two weeks had gone by and I decided that this afternoon I
would take what came: buck or doe. It was peaceful sitting in this big
old tree, contemplating thoughts serene. Occasionally looking up at the
sky, I’d count the numerous vapor trails left by the big jets on their way
to strange places. I thought to myself, what a life this is, to be able to go out
on a fabulous day like this and commune with nature.

During my reverie, I would look around occasionally. Sometimes I
found even this too much effort, as the sun and warm day tended to make me
feel lazy. A day like this should be enjoyed to its fullest. Looking to my left,
I suddenly was awakened from my lethargy. Standing broadside about
fifteen yards away, was a large doe. Slowly I got up from my comfortable
resting position and carefully inched out on to a large limb. I had my bow
in hand, nocked with a 700-grain wooden arrow, tipped with a Hill broadhead.

Moving carefully into shooting position, I started my draw. The upper
limb of my longbow hit a branch that I hadn’t noticed, so I moved farther
out on the precarious limb. I looked down and noticed I was quite a way off
the ground. I really wasn’t aware of the height, though, concentrating only on
the deer. Starting my draw again, I caught something on the bottom limb this
time and, in trying to carefully extricate the situation, I made some noise
that caught the standing doe’s attention. She looked up casually at first
and as I got the lower limb free, I caught the upper limb on the loose dry
bark of the tree. Exasperated, I tore the upper limb free; anything to get
the shot, but this was too much for the doe. and with a bound, she was into
the safety of the pines.

I couldn’t believe it. After two weeks of continuous
hunting, a perfect opportunity presents itself and I
blow it. I was standing there on the tree stand, mumbling
to myself, when I noticed brown movement coming
down the same trail the doe had used. As the deer
drew closer, I could see horns.
Moving farther out on the limb, I knew what it’s like
to be a tightrope walker. The limb I stood on was only
about six inches in diameter and here I was shooting
a 120-pound longbow that’s heavy enough to down an
elephant and takes two average men and a boy to pull.
What if in pulling the heavy bow I lost my balance and fell?

These thoughts were running through my mind. as the deer approached.
The buck drew broadside to me and stopped only fifteen yards away, about
where the doe had stood. All thoughts of falling from the tree vanished from
my mind. replaced by a dream state, as I saw the buck standing there. Perched
on that limb high off the ground, suddenly cool and methodical, my only
feeling was one of intense concentration as I prepared to make my shot.
With a smooth yet powerful pull the heavy longbow came back and my
fingers released the shaft. The heavy three-eighths-inch arrow hit the buck
in back of the left shoulder just below the center line, completely penetrating
the deer. The buck bounded away into the safety of the pines, only about fifty
feet away.

I gathered my gear from the tree and climbed down. Walking over to where I
had hit the buck, I found my arrow lying on the ground. It was saturated
from end to end with blood. I knew I had made a liver hit, which is always
fatal. Having shot close to thirty deer over the years, many of them with this same
identical hit, I knew my deer would be only a short distance away. Here’s
where experience comes into the picture. Hitting the deer is the easy part; finding
them is another story. I learned long ago that if the shot is good, the
search should be short and easy. Score a poor hit and you’ll be on your hands
and knees all night long looking for blood.

In addition to big game hunting, I enjoy hunting squirrel and pheasant with
the longbow. I have managed to shoot these difficult game species using only
the bow and arrow. Using heavy blunts, I am able to knock pheasants out of
the air. In 1978 I competed in the World’s Flight Championships held at the salt
flats in Wendover, Utah. Shooting a 133- pound flight bow, I came in second in
the professional class with a shot of 890 yards, one foot, one inch. Again in
1979, using a heavier flight bow of 145 pounds, I managed to garner a second

I have been training to break the bow pull record and hope to make an attempt
sometime in 1981. My training includes pulling on heavy bows up to 220 pounds
in weight. This tied in with weight training, has made me, I believe, one of the
strongest archers in the world. I met my brother at the car, and told
him I had made a good hit on a buck, showing him the bloody arrow.
“I figure the buck will be lying some-where in the pines, not far from where
I hit him,” I said.

We stowed our hunting gear and got out the searching and deer cleaning
equipment. We usually take everything so we don’t have to bother coming
back for something we might need. This usually consists of lights, toilet
paper, a sharp knife, small saw, drag rope, a plastic bag (for heart and liver),
and a pencil and string for filling out and attaching the deer tag to the carcass.
By this time, dusk was well on its way, so we turned our lights on and returned
to my tree. I had marked the spot where I had found the arrow, with a piece of
toilet paper. So it was only a matter of minutes to line out the direction the deer
had headed. We then walked into the pines and started looking for
blood. Side by side, we moved forward slowly, scanning to the front and both
sides. I had just moved to my left, when my brother yelled out, “There he is up
ahead. Moving to where I could see, the spike buck was lying on the pine needles.
He appeared to be peacefully asleep, but I knew it was forever. He had traveled
only about a hundred feet before expiring.

I gutted out the deer, placing the heart and liver in the plastic bag I had brought.
With the small saw, I cut through the pelvic bone to better open up the lower
cavity and allow it to air out. After we had drained the carcass and I had cleaned
my hands and cutting equipment, we started dragging deer back into the car.

Driving home with a deer always gives me a certain feeling of elation
that only a successful hunt can <—<<<

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Published by archerchick on 09 Feb 2011

The Magic Bowhunt ~ By Jim Dougherty

Bow And Arrow
April 1974

The Magic bowhunt ~ By Jim Dougherty
The Shooting Of An Unidentified Record Trophy And The Making Of A Man

IT TAKES, I guess, a longish
time for the process of completely
growing up to run its course. One way
or another you’re at it for a long time.
With kids it seems a phenomenon that
takes an uncommon amount of years.
There’s always something you can’t do,
’cause you’re not old enough yet.
I imagine Kelly has felt this way for
quite a few years, but he seemed to
accept it with grace and went about
doing the things he was old enough to
do, biding his time. Not that he hasn’t
done a fair amount for a lad who, just
as bird and deer season came in this
Fall, wrapped himself around year
number 14. Anyhow, it was exactly
then that Kelly reached a growing-up
stage and got himself trundled out of
school, onto an airplane and off to
Texas for his first real big game hunt.
Looking at it from a parent’s point of
view, it was just as much a growing-up
situation as a matter of turns based on

As camps go it was my favorite
kind, set tight in a clump of sprawling
oaks that offered both shade and wind
protection, built neatly around a giant
center fireplace kept company by a
week’s supply of aged, fragrant wood,
tended constantly by a fine Mexican
lad named Chano. It bordered a deep
creek bed, gouged deeper by late summer
flood-stage rains, and at night
around the centerfire you could see
green eyes flicker and hear the clickty- clack o
f whitetail hooves on the rocks
as they slipped up the draw.

It was nice to be there, balanced on
your heels around the fire with a plate
of pepper—spiced pinto beans on your
knee, in the company of men who
would let a boy join right in. We were
all tuckered from the day’s activities.
Kelly and I had made a double connecting
flight that coordinated perfectly
in that all airlines were operating an
even hour-and-a-half late. The others
had spent the day attempting to waylay
the wily buck who, in spite of
impending rut, seemed to be pretty
much up to par in the mental
mechanics department — save one who
chose the wrong time and place to
run afoul of Brad Locker.

Locker’s encounter with the buck
was tonic for enthusiasm. Prior to the
sashay, Locker had never loosed an
arrow at a whitetail buck or any other
four-footed beast. He was acting as a
guide-transportation service, an
apprentice for a forthcoming stint as a 4
full-fledged leader of hunting clientele
on the Y.O. Ranch during the gun sea-
son. Locker was promptly and reasonably tagged “Rookie.”

The rookie had deposited others of
the band at spots they felt held the
key to personal success, and in the
pink turquoise, late Texas afternoon, .
he took a reconnaissance bump around
the landscape, checking out. gamey
little pockets for- present and future
operations. He was filling his memory
bank with the information that guides
need when he ran into the buck.

Locker’s first arrow caught the
buck cleanly, depositing him neatly on
the grass within a double handful of
paces y— a tidy piece of work for which
he was toasted soundly around the
snapping fire.
In the waning light, as Locker was
solidifying his step into the world of
bowhunting, Kelly and I were bouncing
furiously across the landscape with
Wally Chamness, seeking an appropriate
location to hunt at dawn.
lt was dark when we finished putting up stands.
I feared we were too
hasty in selecting a location, though
there was sufficient sign to indicate
good possibilities and enough visibility
to read the situation better at dawn,
when movement should be at its peak.

Texas has an uncommon amount of
deer. The Y.O. Ranch, which lays but
a short ride out of Mountain Home in
the Texas hill country, is stacked with
them. There’s a respectable smattering
of black buck, axis and fallow deer, a
goodly number of sikas, several types
of sheep, the biggest Spanish goats I
believe I’ve seen, and more turkeys
than the state of Texas probably consumes
on Thanksgiving. And that’s
only a partial list of the exotic game

It’s difficult to remember where
you are when a pass through a draw
kicks up a band of aristocratic gentle-
men turkeys or an onyx, and not even
in Africa did l get chased by a belligerent
ostrich. Looking up into mean,
steely eyes bracketing an armor piercing
beak has a tendency to put
things into new perspective, like the
worm’s point of view in the robin

The business at hand, though, was
hunting. The overcast morning had
brought a chill. The swirling clouds
held a hint of rain that passed as the
morning grew into day. The blinds
were not much better than such hasty
organization could provide, but the
morning’s observation gave hints to
patterns that could be exploited, and
by mid-day we set about the job of
turning this information into an action

Our concern was Kelly, and we
selected a spot at the center of a
wagon wheel pattern of deer activity,
placing his blind at the hub in a moss
and lichen-covered oak that provided
as comfortable a position as any tree is
likely to produce.

Youth most often is marked by
impatience. Time never passes quickly
enough when one is encumbered with
classes and books, minding younger
brothers or taking care of the yard.
Concentration and total attention are
traits that oftentimes, if not always,
you are convinced are not possessed
by any junior member of your house-
hold. Yet, give a kid a rod, reel and a
place to use it; put him in a blind over-
looking a carefully laid set of bobbing
decoys he helped get in shape, accompanied
by his own shotgun and dog,
and y0u get the total attention and
patience of a Cheyenne buffalo scout.
Kelly is the calmest of the brood
that Sue and I attempt to ride herd on.
Few things get him excited or uptight.
In reflection, l can only recall two
times when he appeared nervous.

Twice in 14 years ain’t too bad, but
maybe he’ll get human as he grows

There were five hours ’til dark
when we finished the blind, and the
calm one announced he would just as
soon stay there as do anything else.
Optimism once beat as strongly in my
breast, but that was so long ago it’s
hard to remember. Chamness and I decided
to bounce to the far end of the
Y.O., shortening our spines in order to
look over a new piece of land that
might contain a lonesome exotic.
That the vehicle made it to that
distant pasture is worthy of note,
testimony to the sturdiness of modern
machine, since neither of us could
stand full upright for days to come.

Somewhere in that desolate stretch of
ground, that the Schriener forebears
would have been well advised to leave
to the Comanches, we ran afoul of a
strange critter that observation convinced
us was a one-of-a-kind specimen
and therefore a world record, providing
it was real and didn’t eat us.

After a stalk of infinite skill, aided
by a substantial wind and enough
cover to hide the entire Rose Parade, I
knocked the beast colder than a peeled
egg, after placing a forty-five yarder
six inches over his back. However, one
is entitled to be nervous when collecting
an unidentified world record. In
case you are curious, it was later established
to be a cross between a Spanish
goat – notorious lovers — and a
Corsican ram.

In the pure black of an October
Texas night, we beat our way back to
camp with the feeble help of one head-
light. Ah camp, with its generous, life-
giving warmth snapping crisply from
the social fire. I announced that I had
destroyed an Unidentified Walking
Object, modestly tossing in that it was
also a world record since there was
only one. Then I noticed that the
sprawling oaks were festooned with

four antlered whitetail bucks, cooling
nicely in the gentle breeze. –
I uttered something truly keen,
“Did someone get a deer’?” Those who
had pointed out their possession with
pride, recounting bits of the drama as
they did. Simple arithmetic, the most I
could ever handle, proved that one
more buck than was being vigorously
claimed hung in the shadowed oaks.
Then Wally and I noted that everyone
was looking our way with varying degrees
of cat-that-ate-the-canary expressions
and that he who batted .500 and
learned to net his own bass had a large
smear of blood, presumably not his
own and therefore ceremonious, neatly
centered on his forehead and running
down the center of his nose. Of
my number two son I inquired, “Did
you get a buck“?” Always articulate, he
replied, “Sure.”

It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment,
properly done up to jazz the old man.
The show was put on by a bunch of
folks who were every bit as pleased as
the boy, who was enjoying one of his
finest and forever most-treasured
moments. The celebration was worthy
of the occasion, not only for him but
for the others who had taken their
first deer with a bow.

In the friendly light of the great
fire, while steaks sizzled merrily in
their seasoned juices, Kelly recounted
how the buck was the third that came
by his stand in what seemed a mass
migration of does and fawns. The first
he “just blew up on.” The second,
which came some time later, was
missed because he missed. The third, a
sleek four-point, came close after the
second and he “really concentrated?
The result was a stone—dead deer at his
feet and he, not sure in a positive way
what to do next, sat in his tree, the
deer there before him, until his ride
arrived in the purple shadows some
time later. He seemed surprised when I
told him my knees shook, too, and
that when they no longer shook, I
would give it up to those whose knees
properly did.

We left the Y.O. a couple of days
later, Kelly with his buck, I with mine.
It was a wonderful place and special
people. In the company of men, in
that friendly oak—covered camp, a boy
learned some and grew up some. It was
a magic time for a boy, the kind that
makes growing up worthwhile. <—<<<

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Published by archerchick on 09 Feb 2011

Capricious Caribou ~ By Jay Massey

Bow And Arrow
April 1974

Capricious Caribou ~By Jay Massey
An Alaskan Education On Stalking Whimsical Beasts

single animal, the small band of caribou bulls bolted for-
ward and sprinted across the rolling tundra for a quarter-
mile, only to pivot abruptly and trot back from whence
they came. leading this sea of antlers was an old, white-
necked fellow with a rack four feet high.
Watching their curious antics, Dick Hamilton and I
agreed they were displaying all the fickleness one comes to
associate with these magnificent, but seemingly stupid creatures.

That’s where we made our first mistake. The caribou
may be many things, but he isn’t stupid. After numerous
long and exhausting stalks, we were beginning to get the
picture; What appears to be the caribou’s weakness is
actually his greatest strength.

That strength is his utter and total unpredictability. One
moment a band of caribou will move along at a fast walk,
grazing on reindeer lichens. Then, suddenly spooked by a
raven flying overhead or even by their own movements,
they suddenly will bolt forward and run for half a mile.
Just when you’re about to predict where they’re headed,
they inexplicably veer off and trot away in the opposite

The caribou is moving constantly. The trouble is, he
seldom moves in any direction you want.
Hamilton, my frequent hunting partner, and I were beginning
to get an insight into the ways of the barren ground
caribou on this week-long hunting trip in the high, rolling
Mulchatna River country of Alaska. For several days we’d
been trying to get within good bow range, but the caribou
were refusing to cooperate.

There was nothing wrong with the country we were
hunting. The mountainous country between Stony River
and Lake Clark is a caribou hunter?s dream during late
August and September. Flying over the area by float plane
several days ago, we’d seen scattered bands of caribou on
nearly every range of hills.

This country lay to the west of the Alaska Range, 175
miles from Anchorage. It is typical summer caribou habitat
— open, sweeping ridges and rolling hills, thinly clad in
black spruce and carpeted with a lush growth of caribou
lichens and blueberries. There are also good numbers of
black and brown bear and occasional concentrations of
moose along the river bottoms and in the willow draws of
the higher country.

This was the summer home of the Mulchatna caribou
herd which, during the recent years, has produced some of
the finest trophy caribou in the north country.
To reach the area, Hamilton and I flew out of Anchorage
with Charlie Allen, an Alaskan air charter operator, bush
pilot, trapper and guide for over twenty years. Our plans
were to land on Turquoise Lake, float down the Mulchatna
River in a twelve-foot Avon raft, and have Allen pick us up
a week later downstream.

However, after flying a stretch of the Mulchatna which
flows through a treacherous gorge on its way through the
Bonanza Hills and seeing what looked to be one helluva
ride, we decided on an alternate plan.
Therefore, we had Allen drop us off on Whitefish Lake,
a body of` water five miles long by two miles wide. Circling
the lake going in, we saw numerous cow moose in the low,
swampy hills two miles from the lake. Swooping low over a
ridge northeast of the lake, we spotted several black bear
and a large, lone brown bear not far away.

As the drone of Allen’s float plane faded in the distance,
we set up camp and spent the next hour picking blueberries
on the knolls nearby. Then, armed with our fishing tackle,
we walked several hundred yards to the mouth of the
Hoholitna River, which flows out of the lake. The
Hoholitna upheld its reputation as a prime grayling stream,
giving up several eighteen-inch fish.

The menu that night called for grayling sauteed and fried
to a golden brown in blackberry brandy, topped off with a
big bowl of blueberries and cream. Relaxed and contented,
we finally snuffed out the campfire and turned in.
We were up early the next morning, splitting up to
quickly scout as much country on the south side of the lake
as possible. This four-hour scouting expedition revealed
only one bull caribou and several cow moose in the vicinity
of the lake.

However, setting up a spotting scope to focus on some
low hills three miles from the lake, I immediately located
several caribou silhouetted on the skyline. In late August,
the flies, mosquitos and no—see-ums are almost unbearable
in the lower, swampy country. We were correct in guessing
that most game would be at the higher elevations where
wind helped keep the insects away.

Our course was obvious. If we were to hunt caribou,
we’d have to pack up and go where the caribou were,
We dismantled our comfortable lakeside camp and
motored the raft to the far end of the lake. Loading our
packs with enough gear and food to last four days, we
began a painful overland trek across swampy spruce logs
amidst hordes of flies and mosquitos. lt was easy to see
why all the caribou were on the higher, wind-swept

We arrived at a bench approximately five hundred feet
above the lake in the early afternoon. About the same time,
a rainstorm blew in from the northwest, and we hurriedly
established a spike camp. By the time we finished, the
clouds broke. the sun came shining through, and on a hill
half a mile from camp stood a lone bull caribou. It was a
beautiful sight and held great promise for the next day.
We were up early the next morning, heading out to the
south across the open, rolling hills. This was typical caribou
country, which means there is little cover for good stalking.
The Mulchatna caribou herd normally doesn’t begin grouping
for the annual autumn migration until September, and
we were confident we would find small bands of caribou
scattered throughout this range of hills. Our plans were to
range far and wide over this country, not concentrating on
any one area.

After traversing a mile and a halfof this high tundra, we
spotted two nice bull caribou bedded down about a thou-
sand yards distant.
“l’ve seen easier stalking conditions,” moaned Hamliton.
There appeared to be no vegetation within several hundred
yards of the bulls, except for the knee-high willow which
grew along a shallow watercourse two hundred yards west
of where the caribou were bedded.

For lack of a better alternative, we split up. Hamilton
crawled along the watercourse, while I circled wide, hoping
to find an approach from the east.
Circling to the east, l spotted a shallow gully which
appeared to run within about eighty yards of the bulls,
which were now facing in my direction. Caribou are near-
sighted, however, and by moving slowly, I was able to crawl
unnoticed across one hundred yards of tundra. Out of sight
in the gully, l quickly made up for lost time and soon was
poking my head cautiously out of the ravine to locate the

The larger bull was about severity five yards away, now
on his feet, feeding with his back to me. Easing up further,
I looked for the smaller one. but he was nowhere around. I
headed out of the gully. nocking a shaft to the string of the
homemade take-down bow. I had designed and built the
bow that Summer, and it was now about to be put to its
first and ultimate test.

It’s amazing how well camouflaged an animal can be
even when on the Hat Alaskan tundra! Suddenly, off to my
right, the smaller bull — which to now had been bedded
behind a small bush — jumped to his feet. Facing me, he
flicked his head forward several times. In caribou language,
this means, “Halt! Who goes there?”

Not knowing the secret password. I stood there like a
redhanded thief while the now-frightened sentinel wheeled
like an old cow pony and. taking the larger bull with him,
disappeared over the hill.
Feeling not too bright. I half-heartedly followed them,
thinking we might make another stalk. However, after going
about two hundred yards. [ arrived at the crest of a hill
overlooking the Mulchatna River. Down the hill looking up
directly at me was one of the largest Alaskan Yukon moose
I’d ever seen.

I quietly backpedaled out of sight, motioned to
Hamilton and advised him of the situation. The moose
wasn’t spooked and was in an ideal situation for stalking.
What worried us were the implications of shooting this
l200·pound critter six miles from the lake. Both Hamilton
and I hold the philosophy that if we can’t pack out an
animal, we don’t shoot it. Because of this, I’ve had to pass
up good bulls for two years standing. ~
“Oh, for the joy of having a pack horse!”
I cried, wringing my hands in despair.

It was an agonizing decision, but we decided to shoot
this moose with a camera. If we shot him with the bow, our
hunt would be over, as it would require several days to pack
out the meat. We’d then have no chance for one of those
magnificent bull caribou.

With Hamilton behind me with the camera, I carefully
sneaked up to where the bull moose was lying next to a
patch of alders. I closed to within thirty-five feet before the
bull heard me and stood up, staring for a moment in disbelief,
then wheeled and tore off down the ridge as if the
devil were after him. Hamilton and I were practically rolling
on the ground with laughter.

A month later, during the rut, we’d never risk a stunt
like that, for fear of being ground up into people-burger.
During the next two days, Hamilton and I pulled off
numerous stalks on caribou bulls, but each time something
went wrong. The caribou moved so much that, by the time
we got to where they’d been, they’d already departed for
places unknown. We agreed that getting a bull out in this
open, rolling terrain would probably involve more luck than
skill. When caribou feed, they move along at a pace faster a
man can walk, and a stalk has to be planned accordingly.

Another consideration we took into account was that
any shots we took were going to be long ones, perhaps up
to sixty·five or seventy yards. This is twice as far as I
normally like to shoot, but we’d have to take what came
along in this open country. Another problem is that caribou
tend to jump at the string, much like a whitetail deer. A
caribou can cover that first twenty or thirty feet about as
fast as any animal I’ve seen and to attempt a shot while a
caribou is looking at or quartering to you is senseless.
Three of our four days in the high country were gone,
and so was most of our food. If we failed to connect soon,
we’d have to head back to the lake three miles away to get
more food.

Rationing our food that night, we decided to hunt the
high country one more day.
The next morning we split up, each of us making a
couple of unsuccessful stalks on moving bands of caribou.
Hamilton was holding out for one of the big busters, but I
was beginning to lower my sights somewhat. Late in he
afternoon, I spotted three bulls high on the skyline. My
approach led me directly to a cow caribou which, after
winding me, took off up the mountain, alerting the bulls.

I continued up the ridge and on reaching the summit
looked down into the valley below. Two somewhat smaller
bulls were feeding away from me, so I worked along the
ridge, thinking there probably were more animals around.
My guess was correct. After going another three hundred
yards, I saw two young bulls top the ridge only sixty yards
in front. I crouched down, letting them pass unaware. I
looked down the ridge and saw another medium-size bull
coming up behind the two smaller ones.

I was crouched down in the open. and when the bull
topped the rise he immediately saw me. Instead of bolting
forward, he kept walking, but was looking directly at me.
This made a good, clean-killing shot almost impossible.
Satisfied that I was only a rock. he turned his head. At
that moment, I released.

The arrow sped out and through the caribou with the
sound of ripping canvas. I began counting…”one, two,
three, four …. ” The bull bolted forward. spun around twice,
and when I had reached twenty-three. he went down.
The four-blade Black Copperhead shot from the seventy-
three-pound bow had done a devastating job, entering
squarely in the lungs on the right side and exiting through
part of the shoulder on the opposite side.

He wasn’t a world record. Nevertheless. he was a respectable
bull, earned the hard way and put down quickly and
efficiently. I couldn’t have been happier.

That night, after packing the entire boned-out animal for
three miles, Hamilton and I eased our tired bodies into our
sleeping bags, after first dining on tender. succulent caribou
steaks. In Alaska, many cheechakos. newcomers, entertain
the notion that caribou meat has no food value.

Apparently these people have neither eaten caribou meat,
nor have heard of inland Eskimos who have subsisted
entirely on caribou for a thousand years. In my opinion, a
good caribou steak is hard to beat.

The bag limit on caribou in this part of Alaska is three
animals, but after hunting without success for one more day,
Hamilton and I decided to call it quits. We packed our gear
and the caribou meat down to the where the drone of
Allen’s Cessna 185 awakened us early the next morning.

Flying back to Anchorage. we realized we were leaving
one of the most beautiful parts of Alaska and some of the
most fantastic trophy caribou country either of us had ever
Seen. <—<<

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011

Fine Tuning The Compound ~ By Roy Hoff

Bow And Arrow
August 1975

Fine Tuning The Compound ~ By Roy Hoff
At First Glance, One May Feel Only A Graduate Engineer Stands A Chance, But Here’s The Step-By-Step Technique!

requests on how to tune a compound bow. Upon receiving this writing
assignment, a thought occurred to me that often is expressed in race horse
parlance: “If you want to know if a certain horse is going to win a race, go
to the horse and get the dope straight from the horse`s mouth.”


This is exactly what I did! Only, the horse was Jennings Compound Bow, Incorporated.
If the owners, Tom Jennings and John Williamson, do not know how to tune a
compound bow, then there just is no way! As we seated ourselves in comfortable
chairs in Tom’s immaculate office of their new manufacturing plant in
Castaic, California, I recalled an embarrassing incident I experienced during our
Alaskan hunt.

We were warming up prior to taking to the hills. I shot a practice arrow and my
bowquiver shed a sharp broadhead that, in its fall to the ground, severed my
bowstring. This was years ago, when I was shooting a conventional bow. At
that time it was hardly worth mentioning. I had a spare string in my pocket, which
put me back in business in a minute or two.


Suppose this had happened to my compound bow. How would I or you ~ have
been able to replace the string and fine-tune the bow back into the condition it
was when received from the manufacturer? Following are the answers, as told
to me by the aforementioned partners of Jennings Compound Bow, Incorporated.


Step No. l: Loosen jam nuts on weight bolts. Most archers keep jam
nut only finger tight so it may be loosened in the field without a
wrench. Apply counterclockwise force on the nut with fingers of left hand
and simultaneously turn the weight adjustment bolt — using allen wrench
supplied with your bow — counter- clockwise and jam nut will loosen. Do
not, at this point, loosen or turn tuning keys.


Step No. 2: Before you go hunting or attend a tournament, you should
mark the limbs along the side plates at your favorite draw weight. This is in
case you lose count of the end-bolt turns, or the end bolts come all the
way out, Loosen end bolts approximately eight turns — will vary some
depending on the draw weight of your bow by turning end bolts counter-
clockwise. Cables and string should be loose, but not out of the tracks in the
end wheels.


Step No. 3: Lay the bow on its side with string facing you and sight
window up. Turn right eccentric end wheel clockwise until it snugs the
cables, then drop your allen wrench in the lighting hole in the wheel that is
closest to the back side of the limb. Turn left eccentric counterclockwise
and drop a pen, pencil, small stick, nail, etc., in the lighting hole nearest
the back of the limb. This will keep the eccentric wheels from turning and
letting the cables tangle on the tuning keys or come off the idlers. The string
should be loose at this point and come unhooked easily. Unhook the string,
noting double—loop hookup on S hook. Replace new string in the same manner
on the S hooks.


Step 4: Remove allen wrench and other pin from the eccentrics. Make
sure cables are in the tracks. Take up end-adjustment bolts approximately
half the number of turns you let off. Examine end wheels to make sure
cables are in the tracks. Examine cables at the idler wheels. Examine
cable at the tuning keys to make sure the cable is not crossed. Cable must be
laying even and not overlapping at any place on the tuning key. Cables should
be easy to move into correct position; however, if they are too tight, loosen
end bolts enough to take off tension. When cables are right, take up end
bolts to line on limb or the correct number of turns.


Step No. 5: Replace nocking point, kisser button, peep sight, etc. A bow
square is necessary for this job if you want to do it right. Hunters should
have a prepared string, complete with nocking point, with them in the field
at all times.


How To Change A Cable

Step No. l: Lay bow down with sight window up and string facing you.
Measure tiller height. Measure both.

Step No 2: Loosen lock screws in tuning key of cable to be changed. Turn Grover-type
key counterclockwise to loosen and cap screw—type of key clockwise to loosen. Loosen
key until all wraps are off the reel.


Step No. 3: Grasp cable one-half-inch from hole in reel and push cable
into hole and keep pushing until stop swage comes out the end of the reel.
At times. it is necessary to probe with a thin instrument ice pick, scribe,
etc. — into end of the reel to dislodge stop swage. Snip stop swage off cable
with sharp cutting pliers. Pull cable out of reel. Unthread cable off idler
and out through the slot in the limb. Turn eccentric wheel until set screw in
center of the wheel is opposite end of limb. Remove this set screw completely.
Use small, round pad to protect cable from being cut by set screw.
Save this pad.


Step No. 4: Unhook string from S hook. Remove cable from eccentric.
You might have to out—shrink tubing from cable to pass through hole in
eccentric. Your replacement cable will come with S hook installed, new
shrink tube and new stop swage. Drive a finishing nail into a board. Hook the
old cable and the new cable on the nail by the S hooks. Make ninety-degree
bend in the new cable exactly the same as the old one. The factory does
not pre—bend the cables, because this varies with the size of wheel, draw
length, etc., of your bow. Feed new cable into eccentric wheel in the same
direction you removed the broken cable. Replace round pad in set screw
hole. Screw set screw in until it makes contact with cable. Make one—quarter
turn more.


Step No. 5: Slip on shrink tube and feed cable back through idler in the
same direction as you removed broken cable and into the hole in the reel of
the tuning key. Pull cable out of end of reel and pull until eccentric stops
turning. Measure four inches from the end of the reel and cut cable with
sharp cutting pliers. Slip on copper stop swage and swage with tool
supplied. Pull swage back into reel as far as it will go and bend cable slightly
to hold. Turn the Grover tuning key clockwise until you have two turns on
the reel. Cap screw tuning key counterclockwise. Re—hook string,
making sure cable with S hook. extending out of eccentric, is wrapped
around eccentric through slot in limb before you hook up string. Take up
several turns on end-bolt adjustment screws to take slack out of cables and
string. Note; If your limbs are not marked. be sure and keep track of
turns so you can return to your favorite draw weight.


Step No. 6: Take up on new cable tuning key until eccentrics balance
with each other. Do this by observing the distance between the cable near
the S hook in relation to where the cable goes into the eccentric. Take up
only the tuning key where you re- placed the cable. Do not turn the
other key, as it should stay in original position for a single-cable change. Fine
tuning is done by feel. Shrink the shrink tube with a match, torch or any
other movable source of heat.


Fine Tuning Your Tournament
Compound Bow


l. Check the tiller heights. To re-fresh your memory, the lower-limb
tiller should be one-eighth—inch less than the upper.


2. Test draw your bow to check roll—over of the eccentric cams. lf they
don’t roll together, adjust by means of the tuning keys mounted on the side


3. Install a handle center—reference point. To do this, place a two—inch
piece of masking tape between the upper side plates on the inside of the
handle so you can see it when bow is held at arm’s length. Mark an accurate
center line between the two side plates that can be seen from five or six feet.
This will be used as a visual center reference.


4. Install a squeeze-on nocking point, do this gently, as you might
be moving it later. Locate it five- eighths of an inch above ninety
degrees from the arrow rest. This set-up is for nocking point over the
arrow, one-fourth-inch Bjorn nocks and ledge-type release-aid Finger
shooters, using a leather tab, usually prefer to nock slightly lower by
approximately one-sixteenth of an inch. Nocking points, of course, are
personal and require slight adjustment by the individual archer.


5. Clamp bow in vertical position ina padded vise. Nock arrow and place
on arrow rest.


6. Adjust your cushion plunger or adjustable rest in or out until the bow-
string bisects the arrow from point to nock when the string is aligned with
the center line mark on the masking tape A pasted between the two upper
side plates. Stand back several feet to do this aligning. Double check nocking
point height and that your cushion plunger — if used — strikes center of
the arrow.


7. Stand at shooting mark, approximately six feet from a unidirectional
backstop — excelsior bale is good — placed at shoulder height. Shoot with
your best technique. Should arrow enter nock right — right—hand shooter
— increase bow poundage. Left entry, decrease poundage. Work one pound
at a time — one-fourth turn. Re- member, both limbs exactly the same.
lf arrow enters nock high, lower nocking point. lf it enters nock low,
raise nocking point. Finger shooters may require a cushion plunger or
adjustable arrow rest set slightly out- side of center.


8. When you have acquired good arrow entry at six feet, try several at
twenty to thirty feet. lf you get extreme deflection, either you are too
center-shot or you are striking your fletchings Adjust center-shot out just a
little. If you think you are striking the lower hen-feather fletch, rotate nock
on the arrow.


9. The best hand position is a straight wrist with the back of the
hand flat, bow handle load carried on the base of the thumb — not the
thumb. The less thumb contact with the handle, the better. lf you shoot
with a low wrist, turn your hand so the knuckle line is diagonal to the
vertical line of your bow.

10. With a release-aid, you can shoot bow weight — holding weight — down
to fifteen pounds or less with good arrow flight. Some finger shooters find
it difficult to get good arrow flight under thirty pounds — holding weight.
Since you are always holding and releasing a lighter weight with a com-
pound bow, a good, relaxed release will have to be developed. The more
you shoot your compound the better your release will become. You will
learn to relax your fingers after the peak load, which occurs at mid—draw.

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011

Hunting Staging Areas ~ By Dan Brockman

Bow And Arrow Hunting
August 1990

Hunting Staging Areas ~ By Dan Brockman
Look For These Productive Spaces Between Feeding And Bedding

MY SON, Jeremy, was 6 years old and
showing some interest in hunting. I don’t
know if it was the hunting which interested him, or the
chance to spend more time with Dad.
Since it was only about the second week of
Wisconsin’s long archery season, it would
be a good time to take him along. The
weather was mild and even if he did fidget
and spook the deer, I still had a long
season ahead of me to find a good buck.
The plan was to take him to a farm
about two miles from home where I had
permission to hunt. The farm has a good
deer population and plenty of hunting

Earlier that year, I had found a
three—trunked maple which would easily
hold two tree stands and happened to be
growing within bow range of a couple of
well used trails. In fact, I had hunted
from that particular tree just that morning
and had let a small buck and a couple
of does pass within bow range. It
looked like a good place to take Jeremy
on his first bowhunt.

Just after getting settled into our stand
that cool, cloudy September evening, we
began seeing deer. The fourteenth deer
to come by us that evening was a six-
point buck that took an arrow through
the lungs as he passed at fifteen yards. It
wasn’t the big buck I had in mind when
the season opened, but with Jeremy
there on his first hunt, it was a special

A week later, a friend of mine hunted
from the same stand and shot the fourth
deer he saw, a good—sized adult doe.
The following year, the stand produced
many sightings, but no shots were taken.
In the past three years, that stand has
been hunted about twenty times by me
or friends, with deer sighted often within
good bow range, on all but two or three
of those hunts.

This isn’t the only stand I hunt, nor
the best, but it does share something
with my most productive stand sites: It
is in what I call a “staging area.”
It’s common knowledge that deer and
most other game often bed in one area
and feed in another, with trails or travel
areas leading between the two areas.
Most hunters know that an effective
hunting tactic is to set up along these
trails, particularly for the bowhunter.
The trick, though, is knowing just where
along these trails to set up. This is
where the staging areas come in.

A staging area is an area where a deer
can securely observe the activity in and
around a feeding area before entering.
The staging area is usually about fifty
yards wide and located near the feeding
area, but the actual size and exact location
will vary, depending on terrain,
cover and hunting pressure. It may be
only ten yards wide or it may be 150
yards wide. The staging area may be
tight against the feed area, or it may be
a half—mile away from it. A staging area
often has fairly definite boundaries and
usually the staging area has thicker
growth than the surrounding area. A
deer wants to be able to stand in the
staging area and remain hidden while
still being able to scent and/ or sight-
check the feeding area.

Staging areas are often used as
nighttime bedding areas where the deer
can periodically return overnight to rest
and chew their cuds. In the morning, as
the deer head back to their bedding
areas, they will often spend some time
in the staging areas, usually arriving
there just before first light.

Typically, a staging area has a lot of
brush and small trees, but not so much
as to severely limit visibility. Remember,
they want to be able to see out
While the trees may be thick, there will
seldom be heavy ground cover such as
thick ferns or briars. Many of the staging
areas I’ve found are typified by
young saplings interspersed among
mature trees. These saplings serve three
C0ver.· This is the m0st important
asset 0f the small trees. The deer can
stand still among the saplings and
remain virtually invisible while observing
what is going on in and around the
area they are approaching.

Food: Normally, as the deer mill
about in the staging area, they will feed
on available food sources such as
mushrooms, acorns, leaves and other
Rubbing trees: This, I believe, is
more a consequence of the area and
activity taking place there than it is a
The other identifying characteristic of
a staging area is the deer trails. You’ll
often notice that the trails from the feeding
area to the bedding area will funnel
down into the staging area, but within
the area, individual trails may be difficult
to find. This is a result of the fact
that the deer often leave established
trails when in a staging area and mill
about, leaving either faint trails or a
confusing array of trails.

It can be easy to confuse a staging
area with a bedding area. At times, a
staging area may serve as a daytime
bedding area. Although often subtle, a
bedding area is usually thicker, with
more ground cover and is secluded by
some feature of the topography. A
daytime bedding area will have deer in it
during the daytime, whereas you’ll
generally only see deer in a staging area
in the evening, early morning, or over-
night. A staging area is located between
the feeding and bedding areas, usually
close to the edge of cover.

Since deer use a staging area as a
place where they can observe the
activity of other deer in and around the
feeding area, you’ll see a definite
increase in buck activity in a staging
area during the rut. The bucks can stand
in the staging area and observe any
activity in the feeding area. They can
also short-cut any does heading for the
feeding area and harass them for a
while, rub the small trees in the area,
make scrapes and spar with other bucks.

Just as the rutting period begins, you’ll
see a flurry of sparring and rubbing
activity in the area. Remember, most of
the deer in any given area pass through
the staging area. It works a bit like the
community center.
The past couple of seasons, I’ve spent
a few days each fall in another staging
area I found on a pre-season scouting
trip. After leaving the field edge, I
followed the trails, rubs and scrapes
back through almost forty acres of
mature oaks, maples and aspen to the
area I was searching for. There lying
tight against the property line fence, was
an area about eighty by one hundred
yards which had been planted with a
scattering of red pines. The area held all
of the ingredients of a good staging area.
Although more than three hundred yards
from the field edge, the open hardwoods
between and a slight elevation advantage
allowed ample coverage of the surrounding area.
There was a good, thick bedding area three hundred
to five hundred yards behind and there were plenty
of small trees for cover and rubbing.
The pines had been planted randomly
among the many trees and varied in
size from about six feet to twenty feet
tall. The fact that the pines were there
wasn’t too impressive; what was
impressive were me many rubs and
scrapes in the area Of the couple hundred
pines, there must have been rubs
on forty percent of them.

Once you`ye found a staging area and
determined where the deer are feeding
and bedding in relation to it, as well as
where they’re traveling through, it’s time
to plan how to hunt the area. The most
important consideration when planning
on hunting a staging area is the wind
direction in relation to where the deer
will be when you enter and where they
will travel when you are in the area.
A deer’s sense of smell is its best
method of defense. Once they’ve detected
human odor inside of their personal
“danger zone” the gig is up. They may
not spook outright, but they will be
cautious in their approach for many
times after. Once deer are alert to
human presence, they become highly
wary and careful. For this reason, you
must play the wind to your best ability.
In most situations, a tree stand will be
your best method for hunting a staging
area. Whether gun or bowhunting, a
tree stand holds many advantages for
the hunter It can put you above ground
level air currents; you can get out of the
deer’s direct line of sight; you have the
added safety advantage of being out of
the path of others shooting. You’re also
shooting safely into the ground.

To realize the scent and sight advantages
of a tree stand, you must place it
high enough. In my opinion, anything
under twelve feet elevation and you’re
better off on the ground. I prefer to hunt
with the platform of my stand in the
eighteen- to twenty-six-foot range to try
to get some control of my scent and be
well out of the line of sight. If you think
a stand under ten feet is keeping you

above the deer’s nose and eyes, you are
either hunting simple deer or you are
extremely lucky. If either is the case,
then you aren’t seeing many deer.
Regardless of the height of the tree
stand, safety should be a primary concern;
always wear a safety belt.
Returning to the aforementioned area
in October, I found it littered with fresh
tracks, droppings, browse sign and a
scattering of early rubs. A crooked
white oak standing within twenty yards
of heavily used portions had an ideal
location about twenty—two feet up to tie
in my MKM rope—on stand. Once the
stand was in place and a couple of
shooting lanes cleared, I left the area so
it could settle down a few days before I
would hunt it. Careful not to overhunt
any of my stands, I returned to the area
once or at the most twice a week
through October and into November.
The area was hot! As the season progressed,
the rubs and scrapes in the area
multiplied with every visit. I saw does, I
saw bucks, I saw bucks chasing does, I
saw bucks chasing bucks. After passing
up many shots at small bucks through-
out the fall, I finally shot a spunky six-
point in the last days of the early

Last year I returned to the area early
in October and the second night there a
fork-horn and an eight-point tried to
amble by me. A Rocky Mountain
broadhead pushed by seventy-five
pounds of Pro Line power zipped
through the eight-point and a short trail
led to the end of my Wisconsin archery

One of the biggest advantages of hunting
staging areas is that they are productive
throughout the fall. Early season,
pre-rut, rut, late season, even during
pressure times, a staging area can be
productive. In fact, staging areas are of
the few which will be productive during
pressure times, such as during the gun
season. Since the deer are accustomed
to using the staging area as a secure site
where they can observe what is going
on, they will often head there when

Of course, as feeding and bedding
areas change according to seasonal
changes in cover, so do the staging
areas. A staging area in September may
not be used in October. Likewise, an
area you find this year may not be used
next year. As in all other deer hunting
tactics, you must have a regular, active
scouting program to stay on top of what
the deer are doing and remain a consistently
successful hunter. Don’t fall into
the trap of using staging areas as your only
hunting tactic. A good deer hunter
has many methods in this game plan,
varying them according to what the conditions
dictate. Once you learn to identify staging areas,
you’ll probably find yourself using them as your primary
hunting tactic and doing it successfully,

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011

The Terrors Of Testing ~ By Jack Howard

August 1975

Terrors Of Testing By Jack Howard
Accuracy Tests For Bowhunters May Open A Can Of Worms That Becomes A Frankenstein!

I have been hearing a persistent rumor that some of our fellow
bowhunters in several states have been pushing for accuracy tests to be con-
ducted by fish and game departments before an individual will be issued a
bowhunting license. Three newsletters from three of the top bowhunting states
confirm these rumors. It’s more than just a passing thought; some already
have considered the distance at which the test is to be shot, size of the
circle and how many arrows. It goes something like this: three arrows in a
twelve-inch circle at thirty-five yards.


It’s commendable to want to upgrade archery, but in my opinion, any-
one who pushes for a test is ignorant of the full spectrum of archery and
bowhunting. From what I have seen in over thirty years of archery, it’s not the
hotshot archer who holds our clubs together, but more likely the low-man-
on-the-totem-pole bowhunter. Most archery clubs have been started by
bowhunters. The ones who show up at the work parties, do most of the work
and keep most clubs together are bow-hunters. This is not just guesswork on
my part. In the many years I have been in archery, I have been president
of clubs, shot in the first large money shoot ever held, shot in national tournaments,
both field and target, and have shot in over a 1000 tournaments
throughout the states. I have accumulated some knowledge of what goes on
in archery and feel I can speak with some authority.

Why do I point out so vividly that the die-hard bowhunter is the back-
bone of archery in our nation? Because I feel it’s these same archers
who do so much for archery that will be hurt most by so-called accuracy
tests. Over the years I have seen some of what are considered the greatest
bowhunters shoot; names known by most everyone. These fellows are
deadly at game, can knock off a rabbit or bird at thirty yards, but I sincerely
doubt if many could do well in a specific test. Many bowhunters have
given up shooting at any type of a target or exact spot because, to put it
in most of their words, “It bugs me.” These problems are undoubtedly
psychological. Many pooh-pooh any-thing psychological, but it’s there, it’s
real and, for most, cannot be overcome.

Many will not acknowledge there are psychological aspects in archery
until it becomes a first-hand experience. Recently one of my customers
started asking some questions about freezing off target. I quickly said, the
less you know about freezing, the better off you are. He then explained
that he had been shooting top scores until he asked some of his friends just
what is freezing. After being told, he immediately began freezing. He has
been trying to lick the problem for six months. but his shooting is steadily
getting worse.


Psychological problems seem to hit archery more than any other sport. I
can’t say exactly why, but I do expect a good part of it is the fact the release
hand is under pressure to release the arrow, but the mind is trying to say,
“No, not yet.” In turn, this conflict causes freezing. Although psychological problems in
shooting a bow show up in many archers as freezing off target, it can
show up in many ways; snapshooting, dropping the bow arm, etc. I have seen
excellent bowhunters with many game kills on there records get so uptight
when shooting at a target that some have broken their arrows, while others
have thrown their bows as far as they could.

I can always think back to when I first started to take the bow seriously.
I remember how naive I was. (Incidently, naive is a nice word for
dumb.) I was told many things by experienced archers — both physical and
psychological — about shooting; things I would not believe until they
happened to me personally. Of course, this did delay my progress. One time,
national champion Ken Moore was giving a bit of advice which I took
with a grain of salt. It took a few years, then something hit me; Ken
knew what he was talking about.


Understanding archers and their problems does not come in a few years
of shooting, hunting or contact with a few hundred archers. There are
thousands of archers who have shot for over fifteen years and in hundreds
of tournaments. These are the ones that know the full spectrum of archery
and their problems. For the benefit of all bowhunters, I hope these archers
will speak up on the proficiency test issue.


One of the bowhunters who recommends a proficiency test also feels
there should be a law that the broad-head point should weigh a minimum
of 150 grains. Just what would happen if a few in the right position to do so
rushed in and passed laws, because they personally thought it would be
great? The fish and game departments, not being well versed in archery, are
eager to listen to recommendations, especially —from those in executive
offices of state clubs. Some of us might think, “So what, if that state
does pass a particular law. It’s not my state. It won’t affect me.”
But when any state passes a regulation on archery, in time, it could
affect every archer in the country.


When a law is passed. it sets up sort of a precedent. The fish and game departments
of different states keep in touch with each other and work together,
Back to broadhead weight: To even suggest such a regulation of a
minimum weight of 150 grains shows how little some know about arrow
flight. Consider the women bow-hunters of this nation or anyone who
shoots a bow under fifty pounds. Just what would be the result for them?


Regardless of how one feels about arrow shaft weight — be it light or
heavy 4 the broadhead point should be as light as possible, if accuracy is to
be considered at all. The lighter the broadhead tip, the less critical arrow spine
and the more accurate arrow flight. About 100 grains is as light as we can go, because
of size consideration. A more ideal weight would be 65-70 grains, which is
the weight of most target points. Then our hunting arrows would fly just about
as accurately as the most accurate target arrow. The ideal weight of
65-70 grains is a far cry from the 150-grain minimum suggested by one
of our fellow bowhunters.


There is a variety of opinions, but there also seems to be a lack of know-
ledge with some in the position to pass regulations or influence their passage. I
just hope these archers will exercise caution before suggesting passing any
law that could affect every archer in this country. Most of the states have
their own bowhunting organizations and the members should have a vote
on anything suggested to the fish and game departments.

Not only would an accuracy test hurt a good many bowhunters, the test
-itself, really doesn’t mean that much, considering the most difficult, always-
present problem of judging distance. Distance judging is one of the most
important things to a bowhunter, but because of regulations within our own
organizations, the ability to judge dis- tance for many has been greatly
hampered. The initial intent of a roving range was to allow us to walk from
one place to another, shooting at different targets with the primary pur-
pose of learning to judge distance and maintain this skill.


It was the target archers who insisted distances be marked on roving
ranges. Passing this rule, upheld within most of the clubs throughout the
states, took away the real value of a roving range to a hunter. Many bow-
hunters dropped out of the larger clubs and tournament shooting, because
there was really nothing left of interest. There now are a number of
clubs that have been organized by these die-hard bowhunters, who have
gone back to the original concept of no marked distances.


The sad thing about all this is that the avid bowhunter — the one whose
life is surrounded by bowhunting, who lives and breathes this sport, keeps
broadheads razor sharp and is an excellent game shot is the one more apt
to do poorly on an accuracy test. The tournament shooter, who may not
have real hunting skill, would put his arrows dead-center in any accuracy
test. Just what would the test prove?


I am not saying all bowhunters would do poorly on an accuracy test,
but if any failed because of a psychological hangup, that would be too
many. As pointed out. these fellows are excellent shots, but because of
psychological reasons, cannot shoot at a target or perhaps take the pressure of
others looking on.


I once knew a fellow who could hardly bear looking at a target. He
loved archery, though, and would not give up. When he drew his bow back,
he drew back at approximately right angles to the target, swung his bow in
the direction of the target and let go when he felt in the right position.
Anyone who would stick with it and shoot with this much of a hangup has
to be in love with archery. Yet no one is really immune from catching a
similar psychological malady. For some, it just takes the right circumstance.


You might even picture yourself standing there in front of a target at
thirty-five yards. You must get three arrows in the twelve-inch circle or you
will not receive your hunting license. The fish and game examiner is observing
to see how you do, with fifty other hunters standing in line, watching,
waiting to step up and take their turns It can come to this.


The odd thing about psychological problems is that they hit you just
when you want to do your best. Those who push for an accuracy test might
have the old psychological sledge hammer come to rest right on top of
the head at the moment of truth. Perhaps the fish and game examiner is
strictly a gun hunter. After seeing some of the hotshots put three dead-
center and others with sloppy edge shots, he may consider a six-inch circle
would be more appropriate than the twelve-inch. There is no telling where
something like this could lead. If archers feel they must have some sort
of tests to improve their image, consider a safety test, perhaps combined
with the gun safety test, which are given in many states.


As mentioned. as long as we have the ever-present problem of judging
distance. extreme deadeye shooting does not mean that much. Look at the
distance judging problems we have; over streams, hills, gulleys, between
trees, shadowed, not shadowed, out in the open, uphill shots, downhill shots,
between branches, not to mention wind and rain.

If you misjudge the distance five yards at a distance of forty yards, you
most likely will have a complete miss, yet forty yards should be considered a
good, perhaps even close shot for a bow. l have seen friends miss deer
standing broadside, perfectly still at fifteen and twenty yards. l also have
seen the same fellow bag deer at forty and fifty yards. The point is that any-
one can misjudge the distance. You are never sure — no matter how good a
shot you are or at what distance you happen to be from the animal — just
how good your hit will be, Deer will constantly jump the string. Where does
accuracy stand when this happens? If you see an animal walking slowly
along in full view, are you going to pass up the shot simply because your
game is moving? Where is the precise accuracy if you take the shot? How
close could you judge it?


You not only have the distance to judge, but you must gauge how long it
will take the arrow to get there and the position your game will be at that
time. lf you hold at the front of a slow-walking deer at fifty yards and
shoot, he will pass by your arrow completely before it reaches him.
I have been told by many that I was the most accurate judge of distance
they had ever seen, but l know how difficult it can be to judge distance of
an animal. Friends and I do a lot of practice in judging distance during and
before our hunting trips. Even though I have been considered some kind of
expert, I have misjudged a fifty-yard shot as much as ten yards. A misjudgment
of ten yards at fifty hardly puts you in the right ball field. You might
misjudge a forty-yard shot one time, yet the next try, you will hit seventy-yard
shot dead-center.


This past season one of our fellow bowhunters was pretty much a beginner,
as this was his first year of bow-hunting. He saw a bull at eighty yards,
pulled back his bow and let fly. He hit the elk directly through the center of
the heart. He hadn’t really even dreamed of hitting the elk, much less
nailing it through the heart. His shot could have been all the way from the
hit he made to a poor hit or a complete miss.


Was it a mistake for this hunter to take such a long shot? Certainly you
never will convince him he was in error. This was the first elk he had ever
seen as close as eighty yards. Had he not taken the shot, he might never
have killed another elk in a lifetime of bowhunting.
No, the eighty-yard shot wasn’t a matter of pure accuracy, but more a
matter of good, old-fashioned luck with which most of the successful
hunters are blessed. Of course, there must be some skill even in the most
novice hunter, if he is to obtain success with a bow. It may just be the
skill of knowing his broadheads must be razor sharp.

The point is that there is just no way you can regulate what type of
shot or at what distance a hunter will take a shot at game. If there was a way
to make it so an archer could not shoot his arrow past twenty·five yards,
then an accuracy test might mean something. It certainly would not
change the situation whereby just shooting at a target, especially with
people looking on, bothers a fellow, even though there are some who
would wrong guess the distance at twenty-five yards. At least, this is close
enough that most would not have any distance problem. Then, if you could
regulate these same people that passed the twenty-five-yard test never to
shoot beyond twenty-five-yards, the test would have some value.


Don’t think I am saying accuracy is not needed; it is. The more accurate an
archer. the more game he will bag. Even if you judge the distance correctly,
it will be of no value if you are off to the left or right. Most bowhunters I have
seen shoot are extremely accurate, especially when
shooting at unknown distances and at .game, also at such items as pine cones,
clumps of grass; things that don`t bug them. l know of no possible fair way
to gauge the accuracy of these hunters.


Some seem to want to put archery in the same place as gun hunting, but a
bow is just too far away from the gun to ever consider similar status. lf we
try to convince the public that bows are as powerful and as accurate as
guns there is no reason to believe they won’t expect us to prove it. Most gun
hunters do not consider the range of big game. If they can see it at five
hundred yards away through a scope, they will take the shot. They feel if
they hit, they will have a sure kill. This could be the key to a more
successful field of bowhunting: Any hit is a sure kill; with proper broad-
heads, we could approach this goal.

Bowhunters wish to upgrade the sport; if any regulations are to be passed,
then something regulating broadhead sharpness would be more appropriate.
The precision of a good bow and matched arrows has gone about as far
as it can; l really can’t see much room for improvement. We will never be
able to get an arrow to shoot as flat as a bullet. but with razor blade sharpness
a bow’s killing power can be improved immensely, perhaps even
closely equalling the killing power of a gun. This is the one big area in which
bowhuntirig can improve.


There has been a considerable amount written on how to sharpen
broadheads and the importance of sharp broadheads. This simply goes in
one ear and out the other. as l still see too many dull broadheads while out
hunting. Some just don`t wish to take the time; others feel they probably
won’t hit anything anyway, so why go to so much work? With dull broad-
heads in the field. even with all the preaching from the experienced, the
only logical solution is some kind of enforcement. So you fellows bent on
doing something. might do it where it will really do some good and not hurt
so many. If a law must be passed, probably the biggest single step bow-
hunting ever could take is to pass a regulation outlawing any broadhead
that doesn’t use a razor blade as a cutting edge. l am not urging anyone
to pass this as a law, but if some feel something just must be done. this area
would do the most good.


Most popular broadheads are made of fairly mild steel. Primarily, they are
made fairly soft so they can be filed sharpened. Any steel that can be
sharpened with a file is not extremely hard; consequently, it is difficult to
obtain even a sharp edge, much less a razor edge. lf one spends enough time,
he can obtain a sharp edge. With honing some makes of broadheads
will even allow you to obtain a razor-sharp edge.


To obtain razor sharpness in the first place and to maintain it is another
matter. As the steel is a type that allows you to file an edge, it can also
be dulled easily. As you are hunting along, one swipe of the broadhead
edge on a limb or bush and Dullsville! Even the hide of the game or rib bone
can wipe off a mild steel edge. The head may hit the game extremely
sharp but be dulled by the time it reaches anything vital. I have used
many of the mild steel heads and know their problems.


For the past eighteen years or so, I have been using razor blades cemented
to my broadheads and find them far superior. Thousands of bowhunters
use this method. as they believe stock broadheads are not adequate. Some
may immediately think this is too much trouble. I will defy anyone to
sharpen a dozen broadheads as fast as razor blades can glued on.


Because of the extreme hardness of the steel in a razor blade, it will not
dull easily. Where one slice against a hard branch will wipe out the conventional
broadhead edge. a razor blade broadhead will take much of the same
abuse and still stay sharp. It has been my experience, using razor blade
broadheads, anything except a scratch hit is a kill. This type of broadhead
gives me as much confidence in a hit/kill ratio as I had when I used a
rifle many years ago.


You also can have a scratch hit when using a rifle. A razor blade
scratch hit will leave an excellent blood trail whereas a bullet will not.
When I say scratch hit. I mean one blade of the razor head cutting the
skin. I know that. if by chance. I can not find a game animal that I hit with
my razor blade head (which has never happened), it would have to be a
scratch hit and I would take some consolation in the fact this animal
would live to be much wiser and undoubtedly to a ripe old age. `


Again. if some changes must be made, lets work on the broadhead
issue. This is the most important part of our equipment; the part that does
the actual killing. If you feel, as I do, that accuracy tests will accomplish
nothing constructive and hurt bow-hunting considerably more than it will
do good, speak up or forever hold your peace.
Keep in mind that. once a law is passed, you`re stuck with it.

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011

Longbow Hunter ~ By Pete Fosselman

Bow And Arrow Hunting
August 1990

Longbow Hunter ~ By Pete Fosselman
Alabama Archery Returns To Basics And Achieves Amazing Accuracy!

DAY THREE atop the swaying
white oaks of southern Alabama
was drawing to an end. Only five fawns
and two rather large does had managed
to arouse my attention, as I waited
patiently for a shot at a whitetail buck.
The fading sunlight indicated it was time
to call it quits and head for the nearby
railroad tracks. I descended the tall
white oak, retrieved my bow and headed
through the brush and kudzu vines
toward the tracks. The tracks angled
south and, after a fifteen—minute walk, I
arrived at a pre—arranged crossing where
I was to meet my hunting partner, Byron
Ferguson, one of the most popular long-
bow archers since Howard Hill.
As I stepped from one tie to another,
I wondered who had established the distance
between railroad ties. Stepping on
each tie made the steps unnatural for my
gait and reaching for every other one
was also awkward. Maybe that was the
point: Get off the railroad ties! Anyway,
the daily aerobic trek to and from the
tree stand probably did me some good.
As a native Westerner, hunting
whitetails and sitting in tree stands were
both new to me. Instead of stalking the
game, as I was accustomed, I’d sit and
wait at their food source — acorns —
and hope for a good shot. Five days of
traversing the railroad ties came and
went and that wishful shot never happened.
It did, however, happen for
Ferguson on the fourth day, when he
scored on a small button buck. The five
days were fun and exciting and they
gave me time to reminisce.

It has been thirty years since Jim
Dougherty first taught me how to shoot
a bow and arrow. I was 8 years old
then. Dougherty and Doug Kittredge
had an archery shop in my hometown of
South Pasadena, Califomia: Kittredge’s
Bow Hunt. Each Saturday, Dougherty
gave archery lessons in the rear parking
lot for fifty cents. My dad would drop
me off for the morning lesson and, along
with several other wanna-be Robin
Hoods, we’d shot arrows all morning at
several bales of hay that lined the end of
the parking lot.

I still can remember the bows we
used. Made of fiberglass, the limbs were
moulded as one unit and had a light
green pearlescent tint to the somewhat
translucent fiberglass. The moulded grip
was made of red plastic and each side of
the handle above the grip had a built—in
arrow rest. It didn’t matter if you were a
righty or lefty.

The arrows were wood, usually five-
sixteenths—inch in diameter, as the bows
were about twenty—five pounds draw
weight. They were tipped with target
points, which slipped over the end and
were knurled in place with a special tool
that had a crank on one side.
Barred feathers were then standard
fare. Solid feathers were a premium; just
the opposite of today, when most turkey
feathers are basically white. The
feathers always seemed to be left—wing
-— another puzzlement I never could
quite figure out. There were right-wing
and left-wing feathers, and there still
are. I knew the difference by looking at
each, but it always seemed that, no matter
what side of the turkey the feathers
came from, there could be right- and
left—wing. Maybe that’s why we have
vanes today.
I met Byron Ferguson at the Shooting,
Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT)

Show as he was displaying his wares in
the form of self-made longbows. wooden
arrows, traditional archery leather gear
and tree stands. He has built a reputable
business in Alabama building tree
stands. He was branching out into the
traditional archery equipment market
with his new company, Ferguson Adventure Archery.

I learned this newfound friend had
amazing abilities with the longbow and
arrows that won him the acclaim and
admiration of people around the world.
Ferguson has dazzled crowds with his
shooting exhibitions from the United
States to Europe and as far away as
Japan. While exhibiting at the 1989
National Game Fair on the grounds of
Chambord Castle in Paris, France,
Ferguson was voted, “King of the
Show.” He was the first traditional
archer to have been invited in thirty-live

In Tokyo, Japan, Ferguson was
featured on a television show entitled,
Super People. His amazing feat, filmed
live, was to shoot an arrow through a
lady’s diamond ring valued at $17,000.
The arrow flew true and hit its mark,
dead center. Ferguson claims this shot
was by far the most difficult of his

As one of the top bowhunters in the
United States, Ferguson is in demand
for bowhunting clinics and seminars
everywhere. He works with celebrities
as a technical advisor and personal archery
instructor. His skill with the long-
bow has been compared to that of the
legendary Howard Hill. Whether he’s
shooting a coin out of the air or quail on
the wing, his smooth, fluid—like shooting
style and pinpoint accuracy reflect his
mastery of the bow and arrow.
Reviewing this individual’s credentials
and receiving an open invitation to hunt
whitetails with him found me winging
my way to Alabama the following
November. Ferguson met me at the Birmingham
airport and we were soon
headed south. We made a quick stop at
a local sporting goods store for my non-
resident hunting license. The all—game
license was good for seven days and set
me back only $5 2. Ferguson gave me a
written permission slip to hunt the destination
property. In Alabama, all land
is considered posted and hunting is by
written landowner permission only! You
must carry proof with you at all times.
Our deer camp was situated in Chambers County,
which is not far from
Auburn. This county is located in a
cross-section of the state known as the
Deer Belt. The Deer Belt is where the
Alabama Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources has conducted
studies and located the highest concen-
tration of deer per acre. This Deer Belt
runs horizontally across the state. On
the Mississippi/Alabama side, the
northern border would be near Aliceville
and the southern border would be near
Gilbertown off Highway 84. On the
Georgia/Alabama side, Roanoke would
be the northern limit, while Eufaula
would be considered the southern edge.
My hunting gear included a Jennings
UniStar bow. It features a unique
UniCam that sets it apart from all other
bows on the market. The draw length
range of anywhere between twenty-
seven and thirty-two inches can be met
by simply repositioning the cam or
changing the power cables and string
cables. Various draw weights range be-
tween thirty and seventy pounds. The
UniStar has a fifty—percent let-off, while
the newer UniStar Plus has an optional
sixty-five—percent let-off

For western bowhunting I use a
standard three-pin sight, set at twenty, forty
and sixty yards. For this trip, I decided
to experiment with something totally
new. Tasco, makers of binoculars, rifle
scopes, microscopes and other optics,
developed an archery mount for their

Pro-Point electronic red—dot reticle pistol scope.
The Pro-Point is a one-power
pistol scope that has an illuminated red
dot as its aiming point in lieu of crosshairs.

Ferguson told me that most of the
shots from the tree stands would be at a
fixed distance of about twenty-five
yards. The scope mounts readily adapt-
ed to the UniStar bow and was easy to
adjust. My practice shots using the Pro
Point improved, because my concentration
was centered on the little red dot.
Using the Pro—Point, I was able to focus
my attention directly on the bullseye,
blocking out distractions.
I’m not quite sure how the Pro—Point
would work for the “locate and stalk”
type of hunting. Even though the scope
and mount are fully adjustable for wind-
age and elevation, it could prove
impractical for the user to adjust when
the shooting distance is apt to change at
any given second. On the other hand, if
all your hunting is from a blind or tree
stand where the shooting range is static
and known, the ProPoint could be
That night in camp, I unpacked my
bow with the Pro—Point sight mounted in

“What in the world is that?”
Ferguson asked.
I explained the new sighting system to
him and he just shook his head in
amazement. His serious devotion to the
longbow really made sense; more sense
perhaps, than my constant need for
newer and updated tackle.

The next day, after devoting four
hours of the morning to sitting in tree
stands and neither of us having any luck,
we began to practice at a target butt
Ferguson had at one end of the camp. I
had no trouble hitting the three-square-
foot target from the twenty—five-yard distance.
Neither did Ferguson. In fact,
each of his arrows were directly in the
center, so close to one another that the
fletches on the arrows were touching
each other. This guy can shoot that

Ferguson began to demonstrate some
of his shooting positions — positions
that seemed virtually impossible with a
compound. First, he got down on his
hands and knees and faced away from
the target. He reached back over his left
shoulder and shot completely opposite
the way he was facing. The arrows
grouped just as tight as before.
His next position was down on his left
knee with his right leg extended off to
the side. He crouched over and made
himself as small an object as possible.
From this position, he held the bow
parallel to the ground and shot several
arrows at the target — same results?
I was impressed. Here was an
individual who had taken it to heart to
work and practice at these shooting
positions so he would always be ready
to shoot from any position.
He claims it is all part of being prepared
in the field. He talked of how he
was once bent over, passing under a
fallen tree, when he saw a nice buck.
Normally, this would have been
awkward for someone who never had
shot from this position. Ferguson’s preparedness
paid off, as he shot the buck
without hesitation.

For the grand finale, Ferguson lay
face down on the ground. From this
position, he was only partially detect-
able in the leaves, but there was no
silhouette to spook the wariest of game.
From this horizontal position, Ferguson
shot several arrows with the same pin-
point accuracy.
To locate game, Ferguson believes in
hunting the food source.

“In the deer belt area of Alabama,”
he explained, “the number one food
source is white oak acorns. The acorns
don’t necessarily fall at the same time,
they drop sporadically as the weather
and seasons change. One tree might be
dropping, while some other nearby trees
might not start dropping until two weeks
later. You have to constantly watch and
monitor the food source. Your tree stand
gets lonely if the white oak down the
road is dropping and yours isn’t. You
can have deer feeding for days at a time
at a secondary food source, but as soon
as a fresh white oak starts dropping in
the area, they’ll go right to it
“In the swamp areas,” he continued,
“You’ll find chestnut oaks and on the
mountain tops you’ll find red oaks. The
deer prefer chestnut oak acorns over the
red oaks, which are rather bitter.
“However, when food is scarce, the red
oaks will draw deer when the other two
aren’t available. I’ve seen deer travel
quite a distance to get to the white oaks,
including swimming across some rather
swift streams. The food source is important,
as far as I’m concerned. It has
always worked for me.”
Ferguson has an interesting philosophy
when it comes to shooting. Most
shooters feel the bow itself is an extension
of the shooter. Ferguson feels that’s
imponant, but to him, the arrow is the
extension of himself.

“The bow is used only to prope1,” he
said. “By seeing myself as an extension
of the arrow, I mentally ‘see’ the flight
of the arrow en route to the target. The
bow doesn’t hit or kill anything, so why
is it so important? It’s the arrow that hits
the target or kills the animal. That’s
what counts!

“When I’m in the field hunting and I
don’t see game,” he continues, “the
animal wins. If I see game and don’t
have an opportunity to shoot, then it’s a
tie. If I have the chance to shoot, whether or
not I elect to shoot, then I win.
When I’m able to kill the game, that’s
the supreme win. I now have a trophy,
but I don’t keep score.”

Ferguson makes and sells three different
longbows: the Hunter, which has
two laminations, the Alaska with three
and his top of-the-line Safari, which has
five laminations. His arrows are wood
with a three-inch section of 2317
aluminum shaft footed over the broad-
head end. This enables him to use the
screw-in broadhead inserts for broad-
heads. He uses only one broadhead, the
Simmons Interceptor (Jerry Simmons,
Dept. BA, Route 2, Box 49, Jasper, AL
35501). This broadhead is a delta-
shaped head at 190 grains, similar to the
original Howard Hill broadhead. They
are expensive, but Ferguson says they
are strong enough to be used over again.
Bryon Ferguson’s quest ventured off
into compounds for about seven years
and he claims never to have killed
anything with one. It seemed that, no
matter how much he concentrated and
practiced, nothing seemed to work It was
at this point, several years ago, that he
returned to the longbow and has stuck
with it.

On the afternoon of the fourth day,
Ferguson was late getting back to the
track crossing. After twenty minutes, I
heard the hum of his four-wheeler coming
down the cut. I pointed my flashlight
in his direction so he’d know he was get-
ting close. At fifty yards, I saw the faint
headlight of the Yamaha. I also could
see two eyeballs glowing in the beam of
my light. He’d shot a deer.
Back at camp, Ferguson explained
how this small buck kept coming in
toward the white oak, then would suddenly
run off before getting close enough

for a good shot. He decided to wait it
out, keeping a close eye on the legal
shooting time. With about five minutes
left, the lone buck wandered into shooting
range of thirty yards. As it_stood
motionless looking around, Ferguson
did the same. When the buck turned
quarter angle, looking away from the
tree stand, Ferguson came to full draw.
When he felt himself fully extended, he
chose the proper flight plan and

The arrow hit its mark in the right
flank, traversing through the lungs and
heart before lodging in the left front
shoulder. The buck sprinted a quick
forty yards before falling to the ground.
Ferguson could still see the buck from
his tree stand. He confided in me that
this was number seven for the year.
Alabama regulations stipulate: “bucks
only with antlers visible above natural
hairline — one a day.” Consult the
regulations for other specifics.
I have taken many animals over the
years with a recurve and a few with a
compound. I don’t think I’m quite ready
to hang up the compound and become
another Howard, Ben, Fred or Byron,
but it’s certainly something to think

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011


Bow and Arrow
August 1975

One Shot Buffalo Bash ~ By Larry Bamford
A One-ton Western Symbol Is Downed n The Time-Honored Way!

” YOU CAN’T KILL a buffalo with a bow and arrow,” the voice
boomed over my end of the phone. I was talking to George Krause, manager
of an extremely large ranch in Wyoming, one of the last strongholds
of the Plains bison. When I first mentioned my interest in a hunt for buffalo, the rancher was
intrigued with the idea, but he was startled when I stated I would use a
bow and arrow.

“Frankly,” he said, “your plan is foolish and impossible. Over the years
quite a few buffalo have been har- vested off the spread for my freezer,
and frequently it took several high- powered rifle slugs to put them down.
I’m afraid that one of these huge animals may be a little too much for
an arrow.”


“Wait a second,” I said, “I’ll agree that an arrow has virtually no knock- down
power, but death is caused by internal hemorrhage.” The long pause over the
phone indicated that Krause was skeptical. Finally the voice continued on the
other end of the line. “Big bulls can be dangerous because of their belligerent
and unpredictable nature.”I replied, “I will accept the responsibility for my own
safety and I’ll even sign a release if you want.” After some grumbling from the
other party, I was relieved to hear, “That won’t be necessary.”


Now that this was settled, I asked whether it would be possible to hunt a
bull which had broken out and was currently outside the ranch proper.
He came back, “There are plenty of bison outside, and some are as far
away as six to ten miles. A few have not been seen for months. I think
some of these animals are wilder than those which were around in pioneer


I was then subjected to several hair-raising tales of injury and near
injury to humans by the temper- amental beasts.
“How about using horses?” I asked. “Absolutely no!” I heard Krause
bellow. I was afraid to ask why not when he went on to explain. “Buffalo hate
horses. You will be asking to get hurt if you use a horse,” he said.


“OK,” I replied. “I want to hunt and will take my chances. But I insist
on having the freedom to hunt alone, and I want to determine what I
shoot.” George and I agreed that if I succeeded in collecting one of the
large herd bulls, I should cough up one thousand dollars. The concept of
this hunt was developed after the archery season in Coiorado. I was
looking for an excuse to get outside prior to the beginning of our November
antelope season. As long as I could remember, I had been interested
in taking a buffalo, which I consider a symbol of western hunting.


I wondered about the actual conditions of such a hunt. Past bison
hunts conducted in Colorado were much like the South Dakota, Utah and
Arizona hunts. The purpose of those hunts was to harvest surplus animals
from a controlled herd. The buffalo were designated, marked ahead of time
and a conservation officer would go along to make certain the hunter shot
the right animal. This sort of hunting is normally limited to riflemen who shoot
from fifty to one hundred yards, making the kill a foregone conclusion.
In my opinion that is not hunting, just shooting.


My interest in collecting a bison became active when the Pope and
Young Club decided to accept the species for its permanent records, I
was curious about how the club might interpret the fair chase regulations,
since every animal that I knew of was on an enclosed range. The best way to
examine buffalo huntingconditions, I thought, was to engage in a hunt.
I phoned all of the game departments in the previously mentioned
states to discuss how their hunts were handled. After these conversations, I
concluded that the only free-roaming, unrestricted herds in North America
included Alaska’s Copper River herd and one in the Northwest Territories
of Canada.


The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission gave me a lead on another
type of bison—hunting opportunity in the lower forty-eight which they con-
sidered to be more sporting than most. The commission information officer
suggested a huge ranch in south-central Wyoming that was home to several
hundred head of buffalo. This particular ranch consisted of twenty square
miles of deeded land with a similar amount in leases of public land. The
situation sounded good to me, because I realized most other hunting for the
species also occurred on ranches, many of them smaller in size.


According to the Game and Fish people, the ranch might allow me to
hunt on my own, since it was not in the hunt business. They went on to
say that all of the herds of buffalo in the United States were contained to
some degree. They also told me that most private ranches can’t afford
bison-proof fencing, and as a result the animals break out frequently. I
was told that fences contain buffalo about as effectively as they contain the
whitetail deer which inhabit the same area. The deer go over the fences,
and the buffalo go through them. After my phone conversation with
rancher George Krause, I immediately began planning details for the hunt.


First I called a friend and photographer, Les Parlin, to see if he would
accompany me. He said he’d like to go and even offered his pickup truck for
the trip. The equipment for the hunt received great attention, I examined
the thickness of a buffalo hide and decided to use the heaviest Easton
aluminum arrow, a 2219, with a 1920 shaft inside. The double-tube com-
bination with a 125-grain broadhead, nock and feathers brought the total
weight to approximately 1100 grains. I quickly discovered that my
fifty-seven-pound bow would not shoot this arrow. Therefore, I tuned a
seventy-pound recurved bow and eventually got the arrow to fly.


Les and I arrived in Wyoming on the first Saturday in October. The
elevation was 7500 feet. Weather conditions were uncertain and snow
was predicted. We could spend two and a half days trying for a bison and
were prepared to come back the next weekend if l did not score.
The setting was beautiful. A river called the Laramie snaked its way
through a vast valley dotted with green willows and grasslands as far as you
could see. The Snowy Range loomed up on the horizon to the south and


That evening George Krause, Les and I talked over the hunt plan.
George still doubted that I could get the job done and warned me again
about approaching the big bulls on foot. I was told that if I shot one and
the other buffalo smelled the blood, they might attack their wounded
friend and tear him to pieces as a result of their fear. Also, if I caused a
herd to stampede and they blindly came my way, I might be hard to find
after the herd passed. George mentioned that buffalo love to fight and
roman-nosed bulls are the rule rather
than the exception.


Krause’s foreman, a likable fellow named Bob, said that a buffalo’s only
natural enemy in the early days was the grizzly bear. During the 1800s
mountain men related tales of grizzly taking on bull buffalo and not faring
too well. It was amazing for me to hear that a bison’s endurance would
enable him to run steadily for hours. Indians who chased buffalo on horse-
back attempted to catch them in a short distance before their horses
would tire.


I was aware that buffalo had been on a comeback trail in the United
States since the turn of the century when the total number had dwindled
to 55l. The last free-roaming herd, then in Yellowstone Park, consisted of
twenty-two animals, These figures contrasted with an estimated sixty million
buffalo in American when Columbus discovered the continent in 1492. Just
prior to the Gold Rush of ’49, the herds still totaled over twenty million.
There are several subspecies of buffalo with the Wood Bison of Canada being
the largest.


The next morning dawned cold and clear. After a hearty breakfast, which
included buffalo burgers, we loaded our gear into two pickups, then
headed for a spot where George had spotted several big bulls, I asked to be
dropped off on a large grassy flat about two miles north of the river and
near some low rolling hills. This area was covered with small sections of tall
grass, weeds and scrubby trees. As the four-wheel-drive truck bumped to a
stop, I saw seventeen antelope and a half-dozen mule deer grazing to one


I invited our host to observe the action at long range so that no vehicles
would be involved. I rejected Krause’s idea of having Bob back me up with a
rifle. Bob told me that on the lower end of the Nelis Creek drainage, a
large bull had broken out and was challenging everything in sight. Les
would follow along but was also asked to stay at a distance and to use his
300mm telephoto lens with a 2x con- verter for pictures.


After a twenty-minute walk, we began seeing buffalo in the open grassy
valley. The grass was shorter than usual after a season of less than normal
rainfall, As a result, quite a few animals were staying near the river
where the feed was better. This was fortunate, because I had already con-
cluded that some cover was going to be necessary to approach the buffalo.
The morning hunt produced lots of exercise but no shooting, In the early
afternoon I spotted a bull accompanied by ten cows walking in wide open


Wanting to test their reaction, I walked upright directly toward them. The bull
kept moving away and never let me come closer than 150 yards, Finally he gathered his
cows and thundered away in a cloud of dust. I tried five or six more careful stalks
with no success. On one occasion I topped the crest of a hill and surprised a large,
black-colored bull who swapped ends, running away at forty-five degrees. I was
certain I could have hit him on the run at sixty yards but declined the shot for fear of only
wounding the beast.


I slipped up on another small herd feeding in the direction of the river.
Walking and feeding easily, the animals were outpacing me as I hurried to
intercept them. I inaneuvered out of their sight and ran for at least a
quarter of a mile toward an opening in the trees where I expected them to
pass. I arrived too late and saw the last buffalo walk through the gap just out
of range.


My last chance before dark occurred as I watched a lone bull feed
into a patch of tall grass and small trees. I circled and waited for him to
come out on the opposite side. As I sat there, I wondered what I would do if
he charged. There was absolutely no way that I could outrun him, and I
was at least a mile from the nearest tree suitable for climbing. The grass
began to wave some seventy yards in front of me and I got ready.


I heard the bull snort as I rose to one knee and saw him,turn around,
apparently going to exit the same way he came in. I hustled to the southern
end of the patch of brush just in time to see the bull clear the trees at fifty
yards. I knuckled the string, looked down the drawn shaft for a second and
released. The string hit my jacket sleeve with a loud WHAPI The arrow
flew in an erratic manner, hitting the ground a good five yards in front of
the buffalo, which whirled and pounded away for a safer spot.


The sun was low in the west as I walked out to the pre-arranged pickup point.
A half hour before sunrise on Sunday, Les and I were sneaking
through the tall grass along the Laramie River. I was hoping to find a
troublesome river bottom bull I’d heard about. We stopped on a high
ridge and glassed for a mile along the river below us. With my ten-power
binoculars, Les spotted a few buffalo grazing in a patch of thick willows
about a half-mile away. He announced that the herd bull was a real whopper.


I took a look and confirmed the bull was definitely a keeper. His amber-
colored hump towered above the other buffalo, and his dark mane fluttered in
the early morning breeze, The air currents were starting to
rise as the warming rays of the sun intensified. I moved parallel along the
slope in an attempt to get above the herd. I started downward quietly,
having already discovered the animals can hear quite well, I cut the distance
to 200 yards by keeping brush between myself and the herd. At 150
yards I still could not find the bull, but a sassy cow had found me. She
continued to stare in my direction, but the rest did not seem to be upset.


When the concerned cow went back to her breakfast, I crawled into the same
large willow flat where the buffalo were feeding. I could hear heavy branches being
broken up ahead as the animals moved about, but I could not see them,
Sneaking to the edge of the river, I saw horns coming my way. It was the herd
bull. He kept coming closer with each step — eighty yards, seventy yards,
sixty, then fifty. He looked as big as an elephant and twice as mean. I began
to contemplate what plan I should undertake if the unsuspecting beast
kept on the same path. Forty yards away from me he turned away from
the river and started through a narrow belt of willows that would allow him
to cross into the open grassland on the other side.


I crawled on my hands and knees as fast as I could to get to the other side
for a shot. As I looked up over the tall grass, he was standing just inside the
willows. After some hesitation, he walked out looking downriver. I
followed his slow walk with the tip of my drawn 100-grain arrow. I released
the arrow just as the bull turned his head my way. SMACK! The big bull
immediately crashed to the ground. Buffalo cows were running in every
direction. One came by me at no farther than fifteen feet, breaking limbs
with every jump.


I stood up and walked over to the immobilized animal. I couldn’t believe
that I had knocked a buffalo right off its feet. It didn’t take long to see what
had happened. In the excitement of the moment my big arrow was sent a
little high. The shaft had penetrated the lower hump, sliced through the
top part of the chest and entered the spinal column where it severed the
spinal cord.


Les came running from his vantage point on the ridge. It seems he had
been taking photos of some of the action with a telephoto lens. Les noted
that George and his friends had also been watching with spotting scopes,
and their mouths had dropped open when they saw the buffalo go down
immediately. George later said he would have to eat crow over his
comment that it couldn’t be done. I learned later that a few dollars
had parted company from those who had doubts about the effectiveness of
the bow. l’m certain that several people have a new respect for bow-
hunting as a result of what they saw.


The foreman wanted to keep the arrow I used and probably will tell the
story often to local cronies about how the guy knocked the big buffalo down
with one shaft. The skinning and field dressing chore required four hours with four
people helping. The head alone was all one person could lift. When we
removed the heart, it looked like a volleyball and weighed just under ten
pounds. We fleshed out the skull and I put a tape on the horns. I could see
they would go over one hundred Pope and Young scoring points. The
minimum has been set at eighty. George said he thought the bull on the
hoof probably weighed at least a ton.


By early evening we had the buffalo meat, hide and skull in Les’s sagging
pickup and were heading south for Colorado. Back home I had to recap the hunt
in my own mind to see if the buffalo should qualify for entry in the Pope
and Young Club records. The considerations in this case were: fair chase
conditions, a true hunt and hunting a wild big-game animal. I was certain
that this buffalo was no more restricted than others which are hunted in the
United States. Bison today are owned either by the Federal government,
State governments, private individuals, or corporations.



Rifle-hunting records have allowed entries to be nsted from controlled
state herds, such as the Raymond Ranch in Arizona. The hunters are
aided to a great extent on these hunts. Only the Canada and Alaska hunts, as
far as I could tell, are without any sort of containment. I believe the best
policy for the Pope and Young Club to follow on buffalo is not to accept the
entries automatically, but to ask for a detailed account of the hunt along
with the fair chase information.


As for my own bison, I decided not to enter it. This critter was determined
by those present to be on property which is deeded and not one of the
fence-busters who was outside when collected. Somehow I didn’t feel right
about the proximity to civilization while hunting, although I realize how
difficult it is to get away, even in vast Wyoming. During the hunt I heard a
car honk on a distant highway, and it snapped me back to the realization
that this kind of hunting just ain’t like it used to be and will never be that
way again.


All of this does not diminish the excitement of the hunt or the quality
of the specimen which now hangs in my trophy room. `
The meat proved to be of unusually good quality and to say we had a lot
of it is a vast understatement. Buffalo meat has an excellent flavor and
contains little fat.


This is the best recipe for buffalo jerky that I’ve been able to find. Try
making it from the lean cuts of meat including flank, brisket or round steak.
Partially freezing the meat before cutting makes it easier to slice evenly.
Cut with the grain of the meat if you like a chewy jerky; cut across the grain
for a more tender, brittle product. This recipe makes an amount of meat
you can dry in one oven.


1 1/2 to 2 pounds lean, boneless meat
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon each pepper and garlic
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
Trim and discard all fat from meat. Cut into thin slices (l/8 to 1/4-inch
thick). Combine all the ingredients except meat. Stir. Add meat. Cover and put in
refrigerator overnight. Pat dry with paper towels and place in
oven on oven racks. Do not overlap pieces of meat. Set oven to lowest
heat (150 to 200 degrees). Leave meat in oven for five to seven hours until
it is brown, dry and hard. Cool. Keep in plastic bags in
refrigerator or in a cool room. Keeps

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011

Blacktail Deer Strategy ~ By Larry Jones

Bow and Arrow Hunting
August 1990

Blacktail Deer Strategy ~ By Larry Jones
Oregon’s National Blacktail Hunt Is The Place To Try Several bowhunting Methods

I SPOTTED a doe fifty yards away. Blacktail are quick to detect danger
and she bounced over a log and disappeared into a vine maple thicket. It didn’t
matter that she had seen me. I was committed to taking a blacktail buck on video.
A mile from the tree where I’d just set up my Loggy Bayou stand, the cameraman
and my son, Steven, were trying to get a kill shot on video. I had chosen a tree that
overlooked a spot where two trails crossed. The mud in both trails was cut and gouged
with deer tracks. The bucks were in rut and there was plenty of deer movement. Now
that my stand was in place, as soon as Steven bagged his buck, I’d be ready.
I carefully eased each foot down as I moved toward the spot where the doe had
bounced out of sight I pushed some broken fern aside and eased in front of a huge
stump. I slowly scanned the vine maple thickets that skirted the old—growth timber.

I saw a leg move and a doe appeared. She weaved right, then left, moving like a
dancer as she made her way through the vine maples. She smoothly dipped under a
windfall and walked onto the open timber trail. I noticed his gray muzzle first, as a buck
followed. He was hot on her heels, head low, nostrils flaring, sucking in her scent.

It would have been an easy shot They walked within ten yards of me. His three—by—three
rack would have easily made the minimum for the Pope & Young Club record book.
l was really enjoying this. It was a typical cool, moist November Oregon morning. A gray
mist drifted through the huge old—growth firs. Dew dripped from their crossed and intermingled
branches. Lime green moss was in sharp contrast with the evergreen canopy, as it waved in the breeze
like strands of uncombed hair, This was a beautiful stand of untouched timber, but I
knew by the blue and pink ribbons dangling from low brush and limbs, it would soon be cut and logged.

l had just figured out the travel routes of these blacktails. Once the timber was logged, I’d have to change area or strategy.
This has happened to me before and, because the habitat had changed and some-
times hunting pressure increased, l’ve had to use a variety of strategies to hunt
blacktails. When l swapped stories with other hunters during Oregon’s recent National Blacktail Hunt, I found they had used different
tactics and strategies to bag blacktails. In fact, a whopping forty—one percent of the hunters who entered the hunt took deer.

Randy Spanfellner of Molalla, Oregon, took a Boone and Crockett Club qualifying
buck that green-scored 132%. Spanfellner took his buck by rattling antlers. He was
walking an old skid road that he knew eventually would lead him into a super blacktail area.
He decided to conceal himself among the trees along the road and try rattling antlers.
He smeared some Buck Stop doe lure onto his hat and clashed the
antlers together. Moving only his eyes, Spanfellner watched a few minutes and
rattled again. The monster buck appeared and Spanfellner was able to hit him squarely from eighteen yards.

Neil Summers, the hunt director for Oregon’s National Blacktail Hunt, used a
different hunting strategy to bag a four—by—five Pope & Young Club record book blacktail. Summers waited for fresh snow to
blanket the upper peaks, then drove logging roads looking for concentrations of blacktails. He drove until he found an area
that had a lot of deer tracks. He even saw a couple of bucks cross the road, so he was sure it was a super spot. Summers then
used the melting snow falling from tree branches to cover his sound. He moved slowly through the area, carefully watching for deer.

Within an hour, he spotted a big-bodied buck courting a doe. Summers crept to
thirty—five yards, then decided to use the ” Summers shooting strategy.” He nocked
an Easton 2317 camo shaft, tipped with a Thunderhead 125 broadhead, drew his
eighty—five—pound High Country compound bow and launched his arrow into
the snow under the buck. Summers claims he does this to give the animal a chance. I
think he just missed. Summers must be lucky or good, because the buck didn’t
even flinch and gave him the second shot.

His arrow struck home and, after a short tracking job, he tagged his trophy blacktail.
Another friend of mine, John Higgins, uses trees as an ambush tactic. Higgins doesn’t use a tree stand, he uses forty feet
of nylon rope, a safety belt, climbing spurs and a folding wood saw. He carries these items in his pack and, when he finds some
trails that are cut up with deer tracks, he considers the direction of the wind, selects a tree and climbs up. Once in the tree,
Higgins attaches his safety belt and pulls up his bow and pack with the nylon rope.

The rope can also be criss—crossed and woven between trees for a place to sit. He
removes limbs with his saw so he will have a clear shot. Higgins has had great success
using this system. Higgins states, “The reason I’m successful is, I don’t make a lot of racket
putting up a tree stand and I can quietly climb a tree without disturbing deer. If l see deer
using a nearby trail, I just untie my rope, climb down and change trees.”
Higgins` system works, but not everyone wants to sit on a limb all day. Higgins
toughs it out and, during the last two years, he has proven his strategy on blacktails by
bagging a buck each year.

Tom Crowe and many other hunters use the spot and stalk method to fill their
tags. Crowe bagged a pure albino blacktail buck on his November 1988 bowhunt. He
was on the Pearson Spoilers team and was hunting the Evans Creek Unit. Their team
strategy was to drive logging roads and glass the edges of timber and clearcuts.
Once they spotted a buck, they would stalk it for a shot.

Crowe said he first thought the albino blacktail was a goat. His partner, Curt
Mendenhall, looked it over with his binoculars and decided it was a deer. They
moved closer and, after they were positive it was a deer, Crowe made a careful,
deliberate stalk, which ended in a thirty-yard shot. Crowe took his trophy on his
birthday and is having his spike buck mounted, because it’s rare to find a pure
albino of any species.

Reed Peterson, who came from Arizona to hunt blacktail, enjoys calling game. He
studied deer calling and the first morning of his hunt he made the sound of a fawn
bawling to bring a two—by—two buck to within fifteen yards of his tree stand. Peterson, a
good friend of mine, was on my team. I told him the contest wasn’t important.
What was important was having a good time hunting blacktail deer. Peterson
passed up the forked horn and during his hunt called in several more deer. One day,
Peterson sat next to an opening in some bushes. He used a deer call to make fawn
bawls and rattled antlers. After several sequences, he called in a doe with a three-
point buck in hot pursuit. Good luck was in the buck’s favor; Peterson never got a
shot at him.

I did a lot of calling myself and, two days in a row, I called deer to my tree
stand. Both days doe came in with bucks l following Several years ago, Bob McGuire
and I were hunting whitetail deer in Ohio. McGuire is an excellent whitetail hunter
and he has used his voice to call in does and bucks. He said, “You can’t call in a buck when
he’s tending a doe.” Well, I made a simple statement, “Why don’t you call in the doe? The buck will
follow.” McGuire got a big grin on his face and said, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?”
“I guess it’s too simple,” was my response. The same calling strategy works on blacktails. ’

My son, Steven, used tree stands, rattling and grunting to successfully call in
bucks. Steven and I find that rattling from a tree is the most successful way of taking
a blacktail buck as he comes to our call. Otherwise, the thick brush allows the buck
to detect us before we see him. The height of our stand lets us see the buck sooner and
we can quietly wait for the right opportunity for our shots.
A couple of years ago my good friend, Dwight Schuh, took the biggest blacktail
buck during the Oregon Bowhunters’ first National Blacktail Hunt. Schuh had used
a deer call and rattling to bring in several bucks, but, because ofthe brush, he wasn’t
able to get a shot. The next day, he located an area that had rub trees and lots of deer
tracks. He set up his tree stand, climbed in and waited an hour before rattling and calling.

Schuh felt if he waited, any buck within hearing would forget the noise he
had made while setting up his stand. He called and rattled several times. After an
hour-and-a-half, Schuh saw a big—bodied, heavy- antlered buck approaching and quietly waited.
The buck stopped broadside twenty-five yards away. His shot sent the arrow through both lungs
for a quick kill.

Hunting blacktails is challenging. When choosing a hunting strategy, pick one that
will work for you. If you can’t sneak quietly through brush, use a tree stand. If you
like to glass for bucks, you can spot and stalk. If you like to fool them by calling and
rattling, try that. Whatever strategy you choose, you` re going to have a super time
when hunting blacktail deer. >>>—>

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011

Hunt The Soft Mast ~ By Don Kirk

Bow and Arrow Hunting
August 1990

Hunt The Soft Mast- By Don Kirk
Little Known Whitetail Foods May Attract Large Trophy Bucks

I AM AWAKE five nights a week
devising new ways to take bigger
and better Whitetail bucks. Except
when filling out income tax
forms, boning up on how these
animals live, move about, forage and
breed is my only diversion from thinking
about hunting whitetail.

Acorns long dominated my bowhunting
strategies. Being an Easterner, this is
understandable. But these marble—sized
morsels are an unpredictable food
source. Their relative abundance ebbs
and flows from year to year. It took too
long for me to discover how the many
alternative foods used by whitetail when
hardwood mast is scarce can be used to
my advantage.

It is impossible for whitetail hunters
to know too much about what this
quarry dines on. Wildlife researchers
have identified more than six hundred
items in these animals’ diet. One area
many whitetail enthusiasts know too little
about is other important whitetail
foods, especially the so called soft mast
food group.

Acorns, the fruit of the widely distributed,
diverse oak family, are what is
referred to as hardwood mast. Although
usually less important to whitetail than
acorns, buckeyes, pecans, walnuts,
hickory, beechnuts and chinkapins are
other examples of hardwood mast.
Generally, hardwood mast is summarized
as nuts.

The soft mast food group is more
loosely defined than that of the
hardwood category, although many trees
that are hardwoods produce fleshy, soft
mast. The soft mast category includes
such easily recognized items as wild
grapes, persimmons, peaches, apples and
plums. It also includes lesser known
items like fungi — mushrooms — eaten
by deer, plus legumes such as soybeans
and corn.

Many hunters mistakenly believe the
rut is the only primary behavioral pat-
tern worth considering when formulating
whitetail bowhunting strategies. The mt
is the most driving force in the animals’
life cycle, but it is short—lived. Other
longer, seasonal patterns also exist and
even coincide with the rut. Do not
overlook the fact deer are cyclic, or
seasonal, feeders.

During the summer and winter
months, the whitetails’ food intake is
relatively modest. Socalled feeding
binges are uncommon at that time.
Feeding activity greatly accelerates during
the spring and fall months. The need
to recoup body weight following the lean
winter months explains their increased
interest in nourishment during spring.
Building up body fat reserves to help
them endure the rigors of winter is the
impetus for autumn preoccupation with

Deer require diversity in their diets,
almost as much as humans. When
acorns are available in large numbers
during autumn, they account for fifty to
eighty—five percent of a whitetail’s daily
intake. When consuming soft mast, like
ripe persimmons or apples, these
animals may not get the same hefty shot
of protein or fats obtained when foraging
on acorns. However, they do receive
many otherwise difficult—to—find vitamins,
as well as complex carbohydrates
whitetail can easily convert to energy.
Soft mast food covers an incredibly

diverse group of whitetail foods. Contrary
to what many hunters believe, soft
mast augments the food needs throughout
the winter and they are not important
just during the summer and early
autumn months. Identifying the key soft
mast sources and ones used only
incidentally by deer is not simple. Many
of the soft mast foods utilized by deer,
like the beefsteak fungus and oyster
mushrooms, are scattered and considered
incidental to their diet needs.

Other types of soft mast food are
unknown to many hunters. During
autumn, deer eat large quantities of still-
moist, freshly fallen leaves of the flowering
dogwood for the digestive roughage
they provide. When available alongside
the brownish-colored leaves of oaks and
hickories which are high in bitter, tannic
acid, dogwood leaves are much preferred
by deer. Their deep scarlet
coloration gives a clue to the dogwood
leaf s sweet, high—sugar content.
Although they relish dogwood leaves
when feeding on acorns during the fall,
the location of these trees appears to
play only an incidental role in deer feeding

Many times, soft-mast-producing
plants are only locally important as deer
foods and easily escape notice by
bowhunters. Other soft mast feeding
areas, like a soybean field, are easily
identified by everyone. Cultivated grain
fields certainly concentrate deer, but so
do wild grains. However, success taking
deer from these open expanses requires
special tactics, different from those
available to long—range rifle hunters.
Bowhunters must identify travel routes
to and from these often heavily utilized
feeding sites.
During early winter, the seed—filled
heads of the green amaranth —— a tall,
weedy-looking plant commonly found in
cut·overs, along fence rows and sessionary
fields —— is a favorite deer forage item.
Sometimes referred to as wild wheat,
this widely distributed plant is cultivated
by natives of Central America, who
grind the seeds into flour.
Other sources of soft mast, such as
old apple or pear orchards at abandoned

homesteads, or a backwoods hollow that
is full of fruit-burdened wild grape vines,
can exert a strong concentrating force
on these animals. Whitetail, like
humans, have a sweet tooth. They are
drawn to the fragrant aroma of ripe,
fallen apples on the ground. It is not
uncommon for whitetail to overeat high-
carbohydrate sources of soft mast.
However, when this occurs, they get
rumen overload — or what some old-
timers call “bloat” among domestic

Acknowledging the deer where you
hunt possess remarkably diverse food

lists is the first step to understanding
how to take advantage of the soft mast
factor. In most instances, the importance
of specific types of soft mast is
either localized or important as a food
source for only short periods of time. It
is not uncommon for these two factors
to occur together.

Additionally, the abundance of acorns
where you hunt plays an important role
in deer shifting feeding emphasis from
hardwood mast to soft mast. During the
fall, acorns are the key to building body
fat content for winter. Poor hardwood
mast production forces deer to rely more
on soft mast. Even when acorns are
abundant, soft mast plays a key role in
their feeding, especially where early
bowhunting—only seasons occur.
A few years ago, I was hunting within
bow range of three large, acorn-laden
white oaks. While scouting the area, I
was impressed by the number of large
elderberry bushes that still held their
pungent, bluish-black fruit.
The elderberries would probably have
escaped my notice were it not for
Joann, my wife and photographer. For
years, she has been on a wild edibles
kick, making everything from fiddlehead
stew to her own maple syrup.
Hunting during the first morning near
the white oaks, I did not spot any deer.
At noon, I spied three white throat
patches milling about the dense elderberry
bushes, Although they were within
rock—throwing range of a ton of acorns,
the deer preferred to nibble at these
sweet, little berries.

Once located in significant numbers,
soft—mast—producing flora like elder-
berries, wild grapes, blackberries and
other similar plants can be counted on
to produce fruit season after season.
Called perennials, these plants are either
dormant during the winter, like deciduous trees,
or they will return the
following spring, unless a force such as
forest cutting or plowing changes their

Once the soft, moist flesh of their fruit
becomes dry and hard, many varieties of
soft mast are ignored by all but the
hungriest deer. Others, however, such as
wild rose hips. the bluish·black berries
of common greenbrier or the fleshy blue
berries of the sassafras tree, are
available over most whitetail range for
extended periods of time and they are
out during the hunting season. Such soft
mast items feature thick outer husks
able to retain moisture until spring.
Regions typically sport forests com-
posed of similar species of trees, while
local soft mast plant life varies considerably.
The varieties of soft mast are
maddeningly diverse. One key to solving
the soft mast dilemma is staying alert to
what type forage is locally available
where you hunt.

“Fine—tooth comb” scouting is needed
for acquiring this knowledge. For
instance, a field planted the previous
season in deer food crop, such as
soybeans, may this year lay fallow or be
planted in a crop that is less appealing
to whitetail. Change such as this completely
alters the local soft mast factor
of the preceeding years.
Other sources of soft mast are more
predictable, but they are usually
localized and require scouting to dis-
cover. These include where groves of
persimmon trees are found, or the location
of hillsides covered with tender
honeysuckle, which deer love.

When scouting, the three keys are to
stay alert for soft mast areas, to locate
signs of where berries, fruits or buds
have been nibbled off and the presence
of hoof tracks and droppings. The freshness
of the sign helps in estimating the
current utilization level of this feeding
site. The degree of feeding at a site
enables you to determine how important
this food source is at that time.
Prior to and during the rut, the importance
of knowing what the does are
feeding on cannot be overstated. This is
where quarry will spend considerable
time during the hunting season. It is true
that bucks do not forage much during
the breeding season, but one of the best
ways to locate a trophy-class buck is to
first identify where the does are likely to
spend time.

Does reveal their estrous condition to
bucks, but it is the buck that seeks out
ready-to-breed females. Does choose
where the game will be played. It is
usually near her family group’s bedding
and/ or feeding area. Figuring the soft
mast factor into your strategy can help
you solve problems in projecting elusive
deer movements that stump many archery

Does are more challenging to scout
than bucks. They do not leave telltale
rubs or scrapes, indicators of the presence
of a jumbo antlered buck. Determining their
movement patterns includes
following game trails to bedding sites
and exploring forage areas for droppings
and hoof marks. Doe tracks differ only
slightly from those left behind by bucks.
The most reliable difference to distinguish
the sex of the trackmaker is that
the buck often leaves a dragging mark
behind his track.
When a locally utilized soft mast
source is pinpointed, it is hunted much
the same way archers locate around
oaks dropping heavy crops of acorns.
Do not locate a deer stand any closer to
their food source than necessary to
accomplish a clean kill.

If you are using a tree stand, locate as
high up the tree as possible; at least fifteen
to eighteen feet. When the soft
mast you are hunting over is a field,
such as corn or soybeans, locate your
elevated stand a few feet inside an
overgrown fence row.
Scent use confuses many deer hunters
first discovering the soft mast factor.
The inviting aroma given off by wild
grapes, corn, apples, soybeans and other
soft mast partially enables deer to locate
these edibles.

Many manmade scent manufacturers
have expanded their lines of deer urine
and gland scents to include fluids mixed
to imitate many of the most widespread
soft mast items. In this writer’s opinion,
attempting to mask oneself or lure deer
in by using food scents is risky.
Using manufactured food scents differs
from using whitetail urine and gland
scent products. Deer scents are tricky
business, even when using high-quality
deer urine or gland scent products. They
are effective under a narrow band of
conditions, such as applying buck urine/
tarsal gland mixtures to pre—rut scrapes,
or spraying doe estrous urine on cotton
balls when the rut is in full swing.
Deer behavior during the mt generally
is predictable. Manmade food scent
products, on the other hand, vary greatly
in terms of quality and how well they
match local bowhunting conditions.
Using a soft mast food scent such as
honeysuckle at the wrong place or time
can alarm deer. Soft-mast-imitating
scents sometimes work, but sex scents
are more effective in masking human
odor. When used at the right time, they
are less likely to give the wrong
If you are overlooking the subtle soft
mast factor when formulating your deer
bowhunting strategies, think again. They
may not be the most important deer
movement factors around, but like the
old saying goes, every dog has its day.

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