Published by archerchick on 09 Feb 2011
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
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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