Kurt Schirado, Ultimate Outdoor Adventures
Although I wrote the following article with the big game archer in mind, the same holds true for the big game rifle hunter. We may use different weapons, but the philosophy and preparedness holds true whether you’re taking aim with a rifle or a bow. The anticipation of the North Dakota rifle season will provide great opportunities for both rifle hunters and archers; therefore, I hope you are able to use my words of passion to determine who you are as a big game hunter.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I bowhunt?” Is it because you like to kill stuff or do you enjoy the chess game and getting close to animals. Maybe you like to bow hunt just to relax and get away? Or is the real question we should be asking ourselves, “Do I just LIKE to bowhunt or do you have a true passion for the sport?
Passion: “something that is desired intensely.”
I feel strongly that having a passion for bowhunting means you have a desire for the whole package, not just the killing. My definition of the word passion when used to describe how I feel about hunting big game would include the following: The sweat and hard work, the hours of practice, scouting, sitting on stand or in a blind for hours, the gear and clothing preparation, tuning your bow to perfection, taking quality success pictures, anticipating Mother Nature’s next move, seeing the animals up close, the successful and failed attempts, the anticipation and the redemption. I’m not suggesting that all hunters have such a passion to take part in the great sport of bowhunting, but we owe it to our creator and to ourselves to be a responsible and ethical archer. Once your arrow is released, there is no turning back. Whether you shoot a giant buck for the wall or a doe to fill the freezer, you owe it to the animal to take full responsibility once the decision has been made to take the shot.
Do you like to hunt or do you love to hunt? I meet a lot of outdoors people that enjoy talking about hunting more than they like to participate. Participating takes a lot of work and dedication and I’m not sure that most so called bowhunters are ready for that.
How many of you would truly enjoy sitting in an antelope blind for 13 hours in 90 degree temperatures without seeing or killing anything or maybe climbing to the top of a mountain dripping with sweat and sore muscles to return without an animal? Do you enjoy waking up at 4:00 a.m. to go sit in the stand at 10 degrees below zero? All the success stories sound good in the huddle, but do you truly enjoy all the hard work with only a few moments of glory or do you just want the easy success story with trophy pictures on your mobile device?
An archer must practice and then practice some more to be efficient at any range. We owe it to the animals we are pursuing to be as prepared as possible and not just show up on opening day ready to take just any shot. I would assume most all of us agree that wounding an animal is a bowhunter’s worst nightmare. Repetitive practice does not ensure success, but it might give you the peace of mind and a little self-satisfaction if you happen to miss or the shot placement wasn’t exact. We’ve all grown up knowing that trying your best and having fun is important in any game you may play in life so why not apply that to the great sport of bowhunting. “Trying your best” means practice and hard work and if you’re not having fun while in the field, get out and try something else.
Does practice and hard work guaranty success? No, but we all know it’s the right thing to do. Do we all do it? No… I know too many people that pick their bow up the day before season and think they’re ready to hunt. In my opinion, it takes more than just a hunter, it takes passion for the sport to drive us to become a bow hunter. Bowhunting is something you just don’t show up the day of the game ready to play but rather it takes time, dedication and hard work.
Is it ethical to take 60 – 80 or even 100 yard shots? With today’s equipment it’s happening quite often. Is it right or wrong? I’m not to judge anyone’s shooting ability but I do know the majority of most bowhunters would call 40-50 yards their effective long range. It’s fun and extremely beneficial to practice at long range but a lot can happen in the short time it takes an arrow to reach its mark. With the “speed of sound” being nearly four times the speed of most bows, big game animals can drop up to 12 inches or possibly take one full step forward in the time it takes your arrow to find its mark. The sound of your bow as it’s released or the sound of an arrow in flight can spook or startle any game animal. So, the next time you decide to fling an arrow at any animal outside your comfort range, think of the consequences that come with it.
We all hunt to find success, but how we earn that success is what really matters. “It’s not what we do but how we do it.” I know a few bowhunters that kill their fair share of giant animals but I also know that they wound a too many along the way. Nowadays, archers are taking longer shots to achieve their success, but we must remember to look at each situation before letting that arrow fly. Bowhunting is a game of getting close, so to me, taking those long range shots is more about the killing and not the hunting.
There are multiple factors that can play a part in any hunting situation. You are the one who will make the final decision to shoot or not to shoot during that split second. YOU will have to live with the consequences that follow… Important factors to consider prior to the shot are wind speed/direction, shot angle, animal posture, distance, and/or the single branch between you and your game. Worst case scenario, you wound and lose an animal. Can you live with the decision(s) you chose prior to the shot? Were you prepared? Did you take the time to practice? Best case scenario, your arrow finds its mark perfectly and you watch the animal fall to the ground. As a bowhunter, there is nothing better than winning that chess game followed by a well-placed arrow and then seeing your game expire knowing you were prepared.
Do you cheat, lie or bend the law to find easy success in the outdoor world? Personally, I find that most satisfaction comes from hunting experiences that require the hardest work and when your arrow finds its mark and you see the animal expire. These are the most memorable and rewarding times in the field. “It’s not always about the size of the animal but rather the journey getting there.” Some of my most memorable hunting experiences have been while behind the camera filming a friend. The journey leading up to the climax of the hunt can provide some of the best memories a hunter can experience. The actual shot takes only seconds, in which most times you barely remember, while the journey getting there can take hours, days or even years to unfold.
A well-placed arrow can down any big game animal in seconds, but a marginal placed arrow can spell disaster. Knowing where to place that arrow, what to do or when to follow up on a wounded animal is our responsibility to know as a bowhunter. Recognizing and understanding animal posture or body language can also dictate when to shoot or if the shot should take place. There is always a risk of failure once that arrow is released, but being both physically and mentally prepared can provide self-satisfaction whether it’s an attempted failure or a successful kill shot.
Knowing, testing and trusting your equipment is a must. Whether you choose a fixed blade broadhead like the true and trusted “NAP Thunderhead” or a mechanical broadhead such as the “NAP Killzone,” you must practice and test the flight of your arrow/broadhead combination to ensure good arrow flight. Practicing with your actual bowhunting equipment will make you more proficient at this great sport we call bowhunting and it may possibly ensure you that well deserved, hard earned, trophy experience.
Passion for the hunt is determined by some through the photos found on their iPhone while others truly believe that success starts weeks or months prior to pulling the trigger or releasing an arrow. It isn’t up to me to judge how each person defines their passion for hunting big game, but I do know that when you put the time, effort and commitment into your hunt the satisfaction is much more than a posted picture shared on social media site.