Bowhunting is one of the fastest growing sports in America today. It is also one of the most statistically dangerous hunting methods, coming in third behind 1) hunting Russian boar with a knife and 2) stalking mountain lion with a toothpick.
There are several reasons for this, first and foremost being the fact that a higher percentage of archers than rifle hunters climb trees. You may have heard the old saying that ‘what goes up must come down on a rock, or in a cactus patch.’ Bowhunters have been providing proof of this adage for years.
But falling out of a tree or elevated stand, while dangerous enough by itself, is even more dangerous when the faller has archery equipment in his possession. Landing on a quiver full of arrows can produce results far different from landing on a box of .30-06 shells. This is one of the main differences between hunting with a bow and hunting with a gun.
You should also never climb a tree carrying your bow and arrows, the way I do. Carry a small rope with you and tie one end of it to your equipment, and throw the other end over a limb of the tree you plan to hunt in. After you’re in the tree you can pull your bow up. Get down after your hunt the same way, only backwards. Duh.
Some of you, like me, ignore the danger and carry your bows while climbing. It’s quicker and, as long as nothing bad happens, easier. It’s also stupid. I can’t follow you around in the woods and remind you that you shouldn’t do this, so whenever you think about climbing with your bow, picture the old Carl Maulden commercials, where Carl puts on his frowny face tells you not to leave home without American Express travelers checks.
If you ever do find yourself falling with a bow in your hand, throw it. Bows are handy items, but they don’t taste very good.
Another danger to consider when bowhunting is the fact that the front ends of all your arrows are small, double-edged knives. These knives are extremely sharp, or should be, anyway. If you decide to play Hiawatha and hunt with a back quiver, or any other type of quiver that holds arrows loosely, be careful where you step. Even a fall on the ground can pitch the arrows out of your quiver into the atmosphere, where your tender flesh is located.
I read about a hunter who tripped over a rock and fell forward, and an arrow from his back quiver fell in front of him and stuck in the dirt with the business end toward him, and ended up stuck through his calf. This can be painful at best, and fatal if the hunter is knocked unconscious in the fall and bleeds to death. Carl Maulden again.
Now for the helpful tips.
One thing you should remember while bowhunting is that you will need to be much closer to your game than when hunting with a rifle. Being close to your quarry will bring other factors into play, such as the fact that deer have much stronger senses than humans, and can detect tiny movements, such as thinking. Don’t think. Especially don’t swat mosquitoes or gnats or flies. Be still. That’s not easy when there are bugs chewing on your nose hairs, but it’s necessary.
Deer can also hear much better than people. Consider the fact that you seldom hear does complain that their husbands never listen to them. Bucks listen to everything, including breathing, fidgeting, blinking, and stomach grumbling. Eat something before you go hunting, so your stomach won’t make any noise. Really.
It’s also a good idea to blow your nose good before a hunt. Sneezing is not permitted, and will not be tolerated by your prey. And if you’ve got tickly nose hairs, trim them. You never notice how often you scratch your nose until you can’t.
Always carry a water bottle to your stand, since you’ll need to be there for quite a while, at least an hour before you expect deer to show up. An expensive canteen is not necessary, and will probably leak anyway. I save 20 ounce soft drink bottles, wash them out, and carry water in them. You can fill them to about 80 percent and freeze them, and have cold water most of the day, even when it’s hot. For short trips I keep some frozen about half full, and top them off with water just before I leave the house. Lean them a little in the freezer, and more of the water will contact more of the ice, and get cold faster.
A half full canteen sloshes and makes a lot of noise if you’re trying to sneak up on game. You can avoid noise by squeezing a partly filled bottle until the water level reaches the top, and then put the lid on. You’re going to throw it away after the hunt, anyway.
The handiest item to take bowhunting, as in any other pursuit, is common sense. Don’t take stupid risks, and enjoy being outdoors. And above all, if you plan to fall out of a tree, make it a very short one . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never admitted to falling out of a tree. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org