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Wednesday, December 4, 2013 • Posted December 5, 2013

There seems to be a resurgence of interest in bowhunting lately, judging by comments I’ve been hearing. For instance, a few days ago I was in a convenience store, and I heard a guy in line in front of me tell his friend, “There seems to be a resurgence of interest in bowhunting lately.” Or maybe it was me that said it. I don’t recall.

Regardless, several times during the past couple of months I’ve been asked how to get started in archery. Maybe that’s because a lot of my friends had no idea I was an archer until I managed to arrow a deer this year, or maybe it’s because they want to take my advice and then do the opposite. I have no idea. Still, it’s encouraging, in a scary sort of way.

There are more decent bucks this year than usual in Central Texas, and in many other areas of the state, so maybe that has something to do with it. This situation has been caused by a strange set of circumstances, which I will probably explain incorrectly here. But I’m going to make an effort anyway.

My friend, Shannon Tompkins, who has been writing about the outdoors for the Houson Chronicle so long that, when he started, it was called the Houston Handbill, evidently did some research, and came up with some results. He tried to impart his knowledge to me over the phone the other day, and I paid attention part of the time.

About four or five years ago there was a pretty phenominal fawn crop in Texas, due to the fact that a lot of does gave birth. This is probably normal, does giving birth, but for some reason a lot of those babies survived, and, as luck would have it, grew into mature deer over the intervening years. This big fawn crop has probably been documented by Texas Parks & Wildlife types, so you might check with one of them about the details.

And then the drought came along, which is not really good, but it may have something to do with this story, although to be honest I guess I missed that part. Something about inferior deer dying off, maybe. We had some rain along through there, never a lot, but sometimes it came at just the right times. Like last fall, just before the general deer season started.

This caused the oak trees, which had just been sitting around, being trees, to decide to soak up a lot of that rain and turn it into a bumper crop of acorns (pronounced A-kurnz). Because of all these acorns, a large number of the bucks from the huge fawn crop mentioned earlier did not get lead poisoning last year. They avoided corn feeders, ate acorns, and stored up whatever minerals acorns contain, probably horn growth hormone. And didn’t get shot. Which is a contributing factor in their still being alive this year.

Now, before I get a lot of angry mail from readers informing me that whitetail deer have antlers, and not horns, let me just point out that I don’t care. Actually, those readers are correct, since deer shed their antlers and grow new ones every year, and horns don’t fall off. But then, I still don’t care. I call them horns sometimes.

Anyway, a lot of folks seem to have noticed all the bucks running around, fruiting all over the plains this year, and decided they might want to stick one with an arrow. This is an admirable goal, and one I encourage, although, if someone begins to learn archery now, all these deer that are currently fruiting will probably be long dead before that someone manages to harpoon anything. Just sayin.

This is because learning to shoot a bow proficiently takes some work, and generally some time, at least a few months. Longer for some than others, of course. But learning to bowhunt, if all you’ve ever hunted with is a rifle, usually takes a lot longer. A few years, generally.

Of course, there are always those certain individuals with naturally outstanding hand/eye coordination, and above average athletic ability, and impressive cognizance and hunting skills, who could probably pick up a bow and kill a deer with it within a few weeks. I recommend these people be deported, because they’re embarrassing the rest of us. It took me about four years to kill my first deer with a bow, and lot of luck at that.

All you need, if you want to get into bowhunting, is a bow and some arrows. And a target, such as an old couch or refrigerator. And a shooting glove, or a release if you’re using a compound bow. And a quiver to carry your arrows in, up until you lose all of them. And some broadheads, once you get to the point where you’re ready to actually shoot at live game. And maybe some camouflage clothes, and a set of rattling horns, and some doe urine, and some cover scent, and a treestand, and a corn feeder, and some face paint, and a stuffed turtle, and some screw-in tree steps, and a flashlight, and a game camera, and a very understanding spouse. And some deer. And that’s about it. Well, and a lot of time.

In other words, you become a bowhunter the same way you get to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has been bowhunting for 30 years, and thinks he’s finally figured out what he’s been doing wrong. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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