Finer Art Of Hunting With Stick And String

With the leaves changing, the days getting shorter, and if the weatherman is correct, temperatures in Western New York should start to dip.

The older I get, it seems like summer gets shorter and shorter, and this summer seemed to just fly by. From preparing for a wedding, to attempting to get the hunting lines off the ground sooner, to fine tuning equipment for the fall, the summer of 2013 just flew by.

As the official start of the big game season is now under way in Chautauqua County, archery hunters are beginning to see some deer and even a few fortunate ones are starting to fill their tags.

The search for the perfect ambush spot is, or should be a season-long pursuit, and early-season hunters have been enjoying some good success hunting field edges and food sources. It’s a well-known fact that the majority of deer taken during the archery season are taken from an elevated position.

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

That stand had more deer sightings for me than any other single stand I ever sat in, but the problem was each season the deer would move to different sections of the apple orchard. Mobility 30 years ago was not an option; you hunted where you built your stand.

Some years the apples would fall before the season started while other years the trees in front of the stand would have apples on them for a couple weeks after the season opened. 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 to place a stand in other sections of the orchard.

It wasn’t long before I broke down and purchased one of first “climbing” tree stands. 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 all 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 was interesting. The best system I came up with (this was in the days before instructional videos) was strapping my feet to the platform of the stand and wrapping my arms around the tree pulling the platform up with my legs. After some practice, I got pretty good. Of course, my practice sessions were done in the summer when the trees were dry. The wet, slippery trees in the fall were a different story.

Of course, 20 years ago the thought of using a safety belt or harness never crossed my mind and if it had, it would have only made the chore of climbing a tree more work than it was worth. Time again has changed the way we hunt from tree tops. Today, I wouldn’t give a second thought to climbing a tree without a safety belt or climbing harness and neither should you.

On my first opening day of archery, I tucked myself back into a ground blind with a Fred Bear recurve bow at my side. The bow was difficult to string up, and after weeks of practicing with it, I discovered a new phrase – Kentucky Windage. The cedar hand-me-down arrows and the lack of a bow sight made killing that first deer a real trophy.

At the time, my arrows were a tipped off piece of steel that needed to be sharpened after each shot and a small razor blade that was inserted in the broadhead. The cutting ratio on these old broadheads weren’t nearly as good as today’s version, but with a little work they would harvest a deer.

After the work of placing your stand, practicing with your bow and fine tuning your hunting arrows from field points, often times weeks, and in many cases months, would pass 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 who still do things the old way and my hat is off to them. Who would think that the way we used to do things is old fashion, 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 opening day of gun, 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. Now that’s not to say those who hold out for a big buck are any less of an archery hunter than those of us that enjoy shooting a butter-ball doe. That’s one of things I enjoy about hunting – we all have the choice of what we want to tag.

It’s your choice and nobody else’s.

The advances in the hunting 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 opportunities.

Archery hunting has been growing over the past 20-plus years and, thanks to the work of many great hunters, the future looks bright for stick-and-string hunters.

But one thing that will never change is the excitement I feel on a crisp, fall morning, watching the world come alive in the deer woods. Life couldn’t get better.