I took my new bow out and shot it the other day. That might not be newsworthy, but it signals two things for me.
First, winter is over, at least in my mind. And second, it's time to start preparing for next fall's archery season. Here is a look back at a couple things I learned last fall and a look ahead to the coming bowhunting seasons.
They do "duck the string!"
Good fortune has allowed me to hunt South Dakota for antelope the past two falls. Last year, I did a combo hunt for whitetail deer. Early in the whitetail portion, I had a 31-yard shot at a big 10-point buck the outfitter, Ryan Routier, and I nicknamed "Snowflake" because this old buck had fading, whitish fur on his body and legs.
The shot opportunity presented itself as Snowflake made his way across a creek bottom one very windy evening. Routier, who was running a video camera to film the hunt, was forced to "bleat" at Snowflake three different times before being heard. The wide-racked 10-pointer stopped broadside and snapped his head at us, obviously on high alert. My arrow was quickly on its way and the shot felt good.
Unfortunately, the arrow found the back edge of Snowflake's shoulder blade. To shorten the story, we observed Snowflake alive a couple days later. Upon reviewing the video footage of the shot, it was plain to see that, just as the arrow enters the video frame near the deer, he gathers himself to run. That gathering movement brought his shoulder blade back and down, covering a portion of his vitals, the spot my arrow hit.
A veteran archery hunter with dozens of trophies on his wall was in camp and saw the footage. I'll remember his sage advice. "Stay back a few inches from that shoulder, then you've got some margin for error forward," he advised. "If you hit back, maybe the liver, you still usually have a lethal shot."
I sat in the rain along a wooded lake shore a month later during the Minnesota rut. With just minutes of legal shooting light left that evening, a big-bodied buck came down a little used trail (as the big boys often do) toward me.
Impressed by his body size, I took a quick look at his antlers and determined him to be a shooter. Remembering Snowflake, I settled my pin back of his shoulder.
The shot felt good, and the deer mule-kicked and ran off. Rain and darkness forced me to delay my search until the next morning. The search was short, but I was a bit disappointed in the results.
The buck was indeed a mature, big-bodied deer, but not sporting the big 10-point rack I expected. Hunting partners and I had trail camera photos of such a buck on that property. Initially, I was a bit disappointed in my buck's 8-point rack. Maybe, however, my disappointment was more in that my Minnesota tag was filled and my season essentially over.
The lesson? If the goal is to harvest the biggest-racked deer on a property, be sure it's "him" before you draw. Keep in mind though, that lots of factors go into determining a trophy - factors that are probably unique to each hunter.
Get ready now
My final thought is that now - not this summer - is the time to start preparing for fall. I recently purchased a new bow, am adding accessories, and will be sure it's shooting accurately.
I buy my equipment from Prairie Archery in Parkers Prairie, and then rely on their excellent staff to help set it up. Because I'm not real equipment-savvy, it's important for me to rely on someone with knowledge and experience who can make sure my equipment is performing properly.
After that, it's on me to spend lots of hours flinging arrows. My hope is to be a better hunter and archer should Snowflake happen by again this fall!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Mike loves archery hunting during his free time.