Saturday morning, an army of hunters will slip quietly into the woods with the modern version of one of the most tried and true weapons ever devised by man. Whether they carry a state of the art compound bow, elegant recurve or primitive long bow, these hunters are typically well-practiced and comfortable with their preferred archery equipment.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the powerful and accurate crossbow, a bow-related weapon that has more of a rifle feel to it than the simple stick and string that comes to mind when imagining a bow and arrow. Nonetheless, all of these types of archery equipment work fine for White-tailed Deer hunting, some are slightly better than others, perhaps.
While some Indiana deer hunters have been at it for a couple weeks in the special deer-reduction zones associated with urban areas, most of us consider October 1 the traditional deer archery season opener. The weather can vary greatly in early October, and some years, it’s so hot, it’s hard to get motivated to hunt. Thankfully, looking at the forecast, the conditions are fairly tolerable for the foreseeable future.
This being one of the busiest times of year for me, I try to pick my fights carefully, so to speak. While I do love being perched in a tree and waiting for a wary whitetail to wander within bow range, I tend to wait until things get more exciting towards the end of the month before I get real serious. For other hunters, missing the archery opener is out of the question, so I wish them the best of luck. I’ll be thinking of all those anxious hunters as I launch the boat into the St. Joseph River Saturday morning for a guide trip.
These dedicated hunters wait all year for bow season to kick in. The work never ends as they plant food plots, deploy “trail cams” and hang new stands that require trimming vegetation. These guys practice their craft every month of the year, tweaking their bows as new components hit the market that offer advantages, such as improved accuracy and weight reduction. Each year, the new crop of bows, sights and arrow rests offer higher speeds and theoretically, increased lethality. And, at the end of the day, the ability of hunters to humanely harvest game with a relatively primitive tool is what matters most. So, while it may seem silly for us to spend so much money on our hobby, the fact is it’s because we want to be better at what we do.
The first deer I killed with a bow was something I’ll never forget. It was a young doe and she dropped a few seconds after the arrow passed through her chest. There is something primal about using a weapon of this nature and I was keenly aware of it as a peculiar feeling exploded from within me. Relegated to the darkest recesses of modern man’s mind, this energy is something that only the hunter experiences. The evolutionary advances that allowed humans to become what we are today – the very traits that built the foundation of our race exist because of hunting.
The second deer I killed with a bow was a good-sized buck - his magnificence was snuffed out before me by my own hand. Silent death. I sat with him in the quiet woods, my hand caressed his side as tears rolled down my cheek. I am a proud hunter and I will kill more deer, but I am not one to take the task lightly. This was not that long ago in the big scheme things and I’m not embarrassed one bit to admit it.
Regardless of what some may have you believe, we are who we are because we started to kill things and eat them. Our bodies and our minds were not addled by the social implications of death - the uncomfortableness of dead animals, blood and entrails was erased by hunger and our blueprint included all of these things. The closest the average human ever gets to it now is when we go forth into the outdoors and dabble with it, if only for a little while.
When I kill deer my mouth waters. This may not be strictly Pavlovian in nature as I feel this response has always been there, albeit latent. I think all humans have these things embedded in them. Gathering berries and collecting wood for a fire may have been important tasks for early man, but when push came to shove, the hunting party kept the tribe in protein and clothing.
Remember this when you see a guy wearing full camo. He may have some sweat on his brow and mud on his boots; he may look a little bit ragged or even exhausted. While society as a whole may imagine him as a blood thirsty savage, the reality of it is that he was the guy that made sure your ancestors could keep on keepin’ on. Be safe out there my fellow hunters and bring home the protein.
Jay Anglin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Argus. Write to him at email@example.com.