Outdoors

There are some that don’t head to the woods until the rut kicks in. Others wait for opening day, which is Oct. 1.

There is nothing like getting up at dawn and walking to your stand with the excitement of the day before you. With just a little over four weeks before the start of the big-game season in Chautauqua County, hunters have been fine-tuning their bows, double-checking all their equipment and making those final stand adjustments. I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the sport that we all love so much.

Recently, a survey of New York State deer hunters has shown that 75 percent of all deer taken are taken from an elevated position. Now I am sure that every deer hunter in the state wasn’t contacted for this survey, but the number represents just how popular getting off the ground while chasing deer has become.

Hunting above a deer isn’t new, but it gets redefined each season. The days of “building” treestands have long passed for many of us. Like most, one the first treestands I hunted out of was made out of a couple 2x4s and a chunk of ply wood. It was overlooking a stand of wild apples a couple hundred yards off the road.

In that stand I had more deer sightings than any other single stand I have ever had the opportunity to hunt from, but the problem was each season the deer would move to different sections of the apple orchard. Some years, the apples would fall before the season started while others the trees in front of the stand would not have apples on them at all. Yes, I would see plenty of deer, but they weren’t always in shooting range. Changing the location was difficult due to the lack of good trees in which to place a stand in other sections of the orchard.

It wasn’t long before I broke down and purchased one of first “climbing” treestands. This new stand was a combination of wood, metal and rubber. The theory of the stand was good, but it was heavy – really heavy. Packing the stand in and out of the woods each time was a physically challenging task. The majority of the time all the work I had done to scent-free myself before each hunt was for naught once I got to my location.

Moving the stand from tree to tree was difficult and learning how to use the stand to its best advantage was even more interesting.

The first few times I attempted to practice climbing with the stand were interesting. The best system I came up with, and this was in the days before instructional videos, was strapping my feet to the platform of the stand, wrapping my arms around the tree and pulling the platform up with my legs. After some practice, I got pretty good. Of course my practice sessions where done in the summer when the trees were dry. The wet, slippery trees in the fall where a different story.

Setting the angle on the platform at the base of the tree to be level when I reached my desired height took a little work. Some things never change over time.

That very stand hangs on the wall of my office and reminds me how far the hunting industry has come over the past 30 years.

Of course, back in the tree-hanging days, the thought of using a safety belt or harness never crossed my mind and if it had it would only make the chore of climbing a tree more work than it was worth. Time again has changed the way we hunt from the treetops. Today, we wouldn’t give it a second thought to climbing a tree without a safety belt or climbing harness.

Once you found yourself attempting to hide in the branches with your stand, many of us discovered that blending into our surroundings was just as important as getting above the eye of the quarry.

The first set of camouflage I purchased was Jim Crumley’s TreBark. It looked good and in theory it looked like the trees I was hunting from. The shades of black and gray worked well with the vertical pattern. It made sense to me – trees grow from the ground up and my new found trick looked like a standing tree in clothing.

About the same time a scientific study came out stating that deer have a super scent of smell, some 20 times that of a human. While many seasoned hunters knew this fact, it didn’t take hold until a small company from New York starting making deer-cover scents. In fact, Pete Rickard had been making “deer lure” since 1940. The explosion of deer-scent industry in the early 1970s started a new chapter in deer hunting.

Today, the deer-scent industry is a multi-million part of the hunting industry. Any serious hunter, and even those that are not so serious, wouldn’t think twice about walking into the deer woods without several types of deer scent in the their day pack.

The first bow I ever shot a deer with was a Fred Bear curve. The bow was difficult to string up and after weeks of practice with it I discovered a new phrase – Kentucky Windage. The cedar hand-me-down arrows and lack of a bow sight made killing that first deer a real trophy.

My arrows where tipped off with a piece of steel that needed to be sharpen after each shot and small razor blade that was inserted in the broadhead. The cutting ratio on these old broadheads aren’t near as good as today’s version, but with a little work they would harvest a deer.

After all the work of placing your stand, practicing with your bow and fine-tuning your hunting arrows from your field points arrows, weeks, and in many cases months, had passed until one would draw an arrow on a deer.

The good old days of archery hunting have come and gone for most of us. There are some that still do things the old way and my hat is off to them. Many would think that the way we used to do things is old fashioned, but I would argue that point.

With all the advances, many times I feel that one’s commitment to hunting with the bow has taken a backseat to new equipment.

I remember a time when opening day of archery season was just as important as the opening day of gun season, but that isn’t the case for many hunters any more. Today, many hunters are more interested in hunting the rut and taking a wall hanger.

I still hunt by the theory that any mature deer with stick and string is a trophy. That’s not to say those that hold out for a big buck are any less of a archery hunter than those of us that enjoy shooting a butterball doe. That’s one of thing I enjoy about hunting the choose of what you want to tag is yours and nobody else’s.

Yes, the advances the industry has made in safety have saved many lives and the time needed for the average archery hunter to get good enough to hit a pie plate at 15 yards isn’t what it used to be. Hence, more hunters have taken up archery equipment to expand their hunting.

Archery hunting has been growing over the past 30 years and thanks to the work of many great hunters the future looks bright for stick-and-string hunters.