A Traditional Bowhunting Guide

Use this traditional bowhunting guide and learn about technology that shouldn’t supplant patience and concentration.

| September/October 1988

  • Traditional bowhunting
    The primary caper for avoiding visual detection by deer is to minimize and conceal all movement.

  • Traditional bowhunting

Bowhunting technology shouldn't supplant patience and concentration.When using traditional bowhunting techniques it is important to use traditional hunting methods to stalk your prey. 

A Traditional Bowhunting Guide

DURING COLORADO'S BOWHUNTING season for deer and elk each September, I put aside all else to spend every nonworking moment roaming the mountains and mesas near my rural home. My goal, of course, is to kill a deer or an elk. Maybe both. After a quarter century of practice, I'm tolerable good at it. The remainder of the year I study wildlife and its habitat and do what I can to help protect both.

Is this a moral contradiction? Am I a hypocrite for professing to care a great deal about the welfare of wild animals, then turning around, once a year, and preying upon them? To take the question further, were Teddy Roosevelt, John James Audubon, George Bird Grinnell, Aldo Leopold, Ernest Thompson Seton and others among our most important naturalists and conservationists hypocrites because they, too, were hunters? I think not. In fact, it was hunting that first awakened in these men, and in me, a deep and abiding love of nature.

Unfortunately, there's a growing trend among nimrods these days to rely on modern technology in an effort to make hunting as easy and certain as possible. To me, this seems a poor fit. In order to make my hunting as challenging, primitive and natural as possible—in short, an adventure—I eschew technological gadgetry and hunt using traditional bowhunting methods almost exclusively with a bow and arrows. If some years I fail to fill the freezer, so be it, for the weather is halcyon during the early bow season, and the woods are lonely and quiet.

As a thoughtful predator armed with primitive hunting tools, I'm convinced that I'm playing a right and proper role in the natural scheme of things. It is, after all, we predators, human and otherwise, who have sculpted the incredible defenses of today's big game species. It's an essential relationship, as Darwin first explained.

Since the beginning, those prey animals that were born with or somehow acquired features that provided them with a survival advantage over others of their kind have tended to live and breed and pass on their superior (that is, better-adapted) genes. In the face of this competition, those individuals and species less qualified inevitably die out. Through this long, slow process gradually evolved one of the best-adapted defense organisms in the mammalian world-the deer. Simply put, there is no better eye-ear-nose package going. While a rifle hunter can often make clean kills at 200 yards and beyond, rare is the hunting archer who can unerringly handle shots much beyond 40 yards. The name of the bowhunting game, therefore, is getting close. And to get close to deer, the hunter must come to understand and strive to defeat this remarkable animal's superb senses.

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