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The Bowhunter  Featured Articles

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For me, the 2022 bow season started off with a hunt in northern Colorado. This is beautiful country along the Wyoming border that was a joy to experience. The elk sign was thick and we held great expectations, but alas it did not work out. We were there the week following the muzzleloader season, and it seems the elk didn’t appreciate the prior week’s intrusion; they had all made off for deeper country. Country that was unobtainable to us on foot, unfortunately. I still loved every disgusting blown down hike, regardless! I always say that the determining factor of which is worse between oak scrub and blown down is solely dependent on which one you are currently in.

            Fast forward to October 24th as I typically don’t get serious until the 25th, but everything was perfect. I climbed into my “corner“ stand on the evening that my neighbor had started his corn harvest. Almost perfectly timed, he hopped off his tractor about 40 minutes into my hunt and called it quits for the day, yes! It was a beautiful evening and the wind was perfect. Some guys that hunt north of me had reported that they had witnessed coyotes chasing adult deer on 3 separate occasions over the last week. That news was shocking to me, as I know it happens and have seen it a couple of times in my 35 years of hunting, but never routinely.

            As I waited patiently, I quickly became aware of deer running full out in the corn and they were coming fast! I stood up, grabbed my bow and got ready. An adult doe stepped out at 22 yards perfectly broadside. Due to the perceived chasing, I of course was preparing myself for the buck in hot pursuit. After a few seconds she took off across the field and was long gone in no time. I stood at the ready and after about 5 minutes could hear another animal approaching. I came to full draw sure that it would be the buck following the doe. Instead, a large male coyote stepped out of the corn and stopped in the same spot as the doe. I let him have it and he didn’t go 50 yards before piling up. Sweet! That was only my second coyote ever with a bow, as opportunities are rare.

            I sat back down and gathered my thoughts. It seems the yote’s had become much more aggressive than I was used to as of late. As I was enjoying my day a group of tom turkeys came out about 400 yards away. I was thinking it would be cool if they followed the cut corn line to me… and they did. After about 20 minutes I was at full draw on a small tom at 22 yards. He never took another step. What an incredible hunt! My second fall turkey of my life, does it get much better? Yes, it does. Little did I know that evening when I entered the stand that I was about to have the best single hunt of my life.

             I now had a turkey and a coyote laying in the field out in front of me. Last year I did not get any venison as my buck tested positive for CWD and I had elected to dispose of the meat, reluctantly I may add. There is no documentation of transfer from deer to human and I am careful how I cut up my deer. However, with the knowledge and lots of consideration I tossed it. As a result, I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of meat this year.

            I could hear another animal approaching so I stood up and got ready. I kind of smiled with only 2 arrows left in my quiver. Out of the corn steps another adult doe. Instantly she spots the turkey and the coyote and stands there staring broadside at yep, you guessed it, 22 yards. She didn’t go 20 yards after the shot, a pass through, as it clipped the top of her heart. What a night, and my work was cut out for me to be sure! I was just so grateful and in awe of the opportunity. With a very successful last few years behind me, I was content and resigned that I likely would not shoot a buck that year. I was comfortable with that.

I got back out on Wednesday night of that week; in the last half hour I watched a fully mature big buck walk across the now completely cut corn field. Despite my best efforts he would not give me the time of day! So, I watched him with my binos for about 10 minutes. He looked vaguely familiar, but I could not quite place him.

            On October 28th my lease partner and neighbor was able to take his biggest buck with a bow, and only his second buck with a bow. We had 1 real good buck on our lease that we deemed a shooter.  Matt and I are both 50/50 meat and “trophy” hunters (I hate that term, but I digress). After some debate Matt chose a stand and was able to rattle in and shoot the 162” split G2 buck. We recovered his deer after a very short blood trail and celebrated together. What a great night!

            I hunted on through the rut and for the first time in years had very little success with rattling. I usually hang up my horns after Nov 5th as I find they are no longer very susceptible to the fighting noise, at least in my experience. Again, fully anticipating tag soup for the year, I kept hunting because I love it no matter the “success” rate.

            November 11th, I went out behind my house for what turned out to be my first morning hunt of the year.  I climbed up into one of my stands about 45 minutes before shooting light. I had gone through a swath of pictures and determined that the buck I saw on Wednesday, Oct 26th was a buck that I had pictures of, but I had not seen him in at least 2 years. That would make him a minimum of 5 ½ years old and potentially as old as 7 ½ years, at least to my best guess. As darkness began to relent to the light, I heard something coming down the corn field, this one uncut, on the other side of my property line. I quickly threw my binos up and determined he was a shooter, although I was not sure what deer. He was moving fast and wasn’t on my property so my only option was to throw out a grunt. I softly grunted twice and he went directly to the cut in our fence line and beelined right to me. I drew as he crossed the fence, he came in to 15 yards and stopped. He was quartering to, but I was comfortable, fully set up and lined up. I let the arrow fly and he was gone!

            I listened and thought I heard a crash. Shaking like a leaf, I had to sit down. Once I was able to compose myself, I did what I always do and called my wife, breathlessly telling her “I shot a good one.” I went into the house and had coffee and breakfast and tried to figure out what buck I shot. I was certain now that it was the buck I had seen back in October. About an hour later I went out and started tracking. After 80 yds and in the same thicket that all my mature bucks have gone to on this property, I was standing over my biggest buck ever at 166 7/8”! Incredible, and my second big buck on Veterans Day. Incidentally, the cross section of the tooth indicated that he was likely 8 ½ years old.

            As a capper to an incredible season, my son and daughter took their biggest bucks during the gun season the next week, within 11 minutes of each other and all on the little 25-acre plot that I own around my house!

            I am grateful for the Lord’s creation and the chance to be in it. The opportunity to harvest and supply food for our family and the sense of accomplishment that it brings, I pray I will never lose. To say our freezer is full, and we did that, is awesome. Every chance you get, go to the great outdoors. Never hold the creation higher than the Creator but make sure you bring the opportunity to anyone and everyone that you can.  It is truly one of the best parts of this life. Congratulations, Matt, Jordan and Logan, what a great year we had!

I would venture to guess that we all have had this happen to us. You pick up a new bow or maybe just a different one and you instantly are shooting it well. Is it a feature about the bow, lighter weight, different grip, or maybe a smoother draw?  Many times I am sure it is simply that you are thinking more about the basics, resulting in the improved shooting. But every now and then a different bow just plain feels really good, a perfect match to your shooting style. You just know that you can get along well with that bow.

That is exactly what happened to me last year at the PBS gathering in Reno. Dick Robertson was there with his bows and he had a new model that I was unaware of. This bow is similar to his Fatl Styk, with the same grip, but the riser is shorter and shaped to have much less mass. He calls this model the Howler. This bow was a recurve, but he also can put longbow limbs on it. As soon as I shot it, I knew that I was going to buy one.

Shortly after my back surgery last December I ordered one in 58”, 43# and was fortunate enough to get it just before turkey season. That left me with about ten days to practice with it and we bonded well right from the beginning.

When I ordered it Vikki Robertson asked me what kinds of wood I wanted in it. I told her that I wanted juniper limbs and Dick could pick out whatever he thought would look good with them, and boy did he. The riser is bloodwood and mesquite and is a real looker.

Once again I was hunting with my neighbor John. He uses a shotgun, but this year he no longer felt sorry for me for having such inferior fire power. He had tag soup last year and is learning that patience is more important than your weapon.

Opening morning was totally overcast with promises of rain, snow and ice later in the morning. This was actually good because it delayed shooting light and gave me the extra time that was needed to get situated. I have extra pieces of camo fabric to make my windows smaller and only big enough to see and shoot through, so I was getting them positioned just right. The bow and a couple loose arrows were put in position. The stool was shimmed to the proper level. Calls, binos, magazine, snacks and tea were all put in their respective spots. Now I was ready to go.

Only a few minutes went by and the first turkey was heading past me about fifty yards distant. Make that two, and they were both hens. I grabbed the binos and knelt down to take a better look and before I could focus I heard the sound of feathers shaking and a whack, and another whack on my jake decoy. A quick glance to my left verified that a nice tom was beating up my decoys and the rush was on to grab my bow and knock an arrow. By that time the decoy had taken more hits and the tom was standing there looking like he wasn’t sure about the situation after all.

I prefer to shoot them broadside through the thighs, but now he was standing there not quite broadside and looking like he was about done and could depart soon. I made a quick decision that this was the shot, and although I wanted to hit the thighs, the hit was a couple of inches higher, with the arrow zipping right through. He took off running to my left and no sooner had I gotten my face up close to the window when he was down and flopping around. He only made it fifty feet.

Wow, that was fast. What do I do now? A check of the time verified he was shot right at sunrise. I doubt John even saw that. The hens were still walking to wherever they were headed. This was too fast; I had to at least sit down and have a cup of tea. A text to John brought no reply. I hated to leave the tent and disturb the morning but the rain was due in a bit more than an hour and the hens were gone, leaving the field absent any wildlife. I decided to just enjoy a brief cup of tea and then get John to take a of couple pictures. I would then be on my way and leave him alone and hopefully he would have a good hunt.

All these thoughts were going through my head along with the satisfaction of quick clean traditional bow kill. I know one thing for sure, if I would have shot that bird with a shotgun I would now feel like I had cheated myself. The way it was I really hadn’t had a chance to experience the hunt, but I know that will one day even out.

Finishing the tea, I saw that John still hadn’t replied. Oh well, he will figure it out. I exited the blind and got a few pictures and couldn’t believe the amount of blood on the arrow. It was soaked from the broadhead to the nock. Most deer I shoot don’t put half that much blood on the arrow. The bird was laying in a pool of blood and had to be cleaned up for the photo shoot. Finally, John acknowledged my text, but I didn’t see him coming. I had to ask him to come and take some pictures, which he really didn’t want to do. What the…? But soon I saw him coming so preparations were made for some photos and to make my exit.

We got some good pictures, after which I picked up the turkey, along with my bow and pack, and headed back to the cabin to clean him. While cleaning the bird I was struck by how short my season was and couldn’t help but think that there really is something to that new bow magic.

Equipment used: Robertson Howler 58”, 43#. 3Rivers Traditional Only carbon shafts with brass inserts. Palmer 4 blade Extreme Cut broadheads.

New Bow Magic

By Greg Szalewski

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The Surprise Buck

by JW Sims
 

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