First Bow deer

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Joined: 06/03/2010

First Bow Buck
            First of all I must explain that I am an avid hand gunner and long gun hunter but I did bow hunt for a few years off and on as a way to experience additional hunting until an injury precluded my drawing a bow. The following is a story about my first bow hunt.
            Although Michigan had a licensed bow season as early as 1937 it was limited to only two counties and received little fanfare. The real bow hunting took off in the 1950s-1960s and the sport of bow hunting owes a lot to several committed individuals including Fred Bear since he was an avid bowman, bow maker and lived in Grayling, MI, if I recollect correctly. I caught the bug in the late 70’s (can’t remember date exactly) and since I loved deer hunting (and warm weather!) anyway and the bow season would be in warm October prior to the firearms deer season in cold (brrr) November I decided to try it. My brother had an old wooden bow, Ben Pearson maybe, and I borrowed it to practice with. The old bow was very poor and not very powerful, low draw weight and maybe due to its age. I talked to a bow hunting friend and he advised me to try a new recurve bow and see if that was any better.
            I checked around and found a Bear Grizzly recurve 52 inch for sale and bought it along with a dozen cedar target arrows. I wasn’t sure what draw weight to get but the sports department clerk, who was a bow shooter, had me try a few bows of different draw weights and I settled on a 50# green laminate bow. I figured the green was more camo than the brown ones! I now had a decent bow and needed to practice before the season opened.
Chris With Bear Bow 1973
My Bear Grizzly
            Every evening after work I practiced at different distances and finally settled on a maximum of a 35 yard shot as my limit. I could put half a dozen arrows in a white paper plate at up to that range and figured it would do if I could get a deer close enough. I did shoot at longer distances but my arrow placement was a lot wider and not as good as at closer ranges. I vowed to only take a decent shot as I had by now heard lots of horror stories about wounded deer roaming our forests as a result of bow hunters and their primitive weapons. I now purchased some Bear hunting broadhead arrows and readied for my hunt. I went all out on camouflage too, buying several tubes of green, brown and black face paint and a camo hat and my old camo army jacket. I was quite a sight with my paint on!
Note: The firearm hunters were initially upset about bow hunting with the hunters disturbing the deer so early before their November season. Time has shown those fears to be unfounded and more firearm hunters also bow hunt than ever before.
            I also needed to scout out some spots to hunt and luckily my neighbor, an old farmer with lots of fields and woodlots,  gave me his blessing to hunt freely on his land. On one of my scouting forays I had found a small clearing inlet off of one of the alfalfa fields and it was bordered on three sides by mostly cedar and old elm trees and lots of scrub brush.  I found many deer trails to and from the main hay field and put myself in a makeshift ground blind just off one of these. I hoped that I would luck out one evening and get a shot at a deer moving to feed at the big field. If that didn’t work out then I would try that spot on a weekend morning if I could.
            I hunted several evenings and didn’t see too many deer and those I did see were too far away for a shot. I was wondering if my blind was in a bad spot but resolved to try it a few more times before I gave up on it. As luck would have it the next evening proved to be the one when a deer walked out of the trees and slowly wandered down the path to the field. I grew a little nervous as I tried to decide when to draw my bow and whether I would get a decent shot without spooking the deer. The deer came into range so I slowly and quietly drew the bow so the deer wouldn’t spook. The deer stopped and nosed around the ground and I loosed my arrow and prayed!
             The deer jumped so high I couldn’t see if I had hit or missed it and my arrow was no longer in sight. In fact I thought I had seen the arrow way past the deer and feared I had missed completely.  My fears were lessened somewhat when I found the arrow about fifty yards away covered in blood. I was amazed to see the arrow had passed through the deer almost effortlessly. I realized now what a weapon a bow and arrow was. I had been told to let the deer go for at least fifteen or twenty minutes before trailing it so it had a chance to lie down and die.  Good advice so I waited impatiently just itching to find the deer and settle my fears.       
            I found the blood trail immediately and slowly tracked it to the deer which had crumpled up under a small pine tree. It was head first under the tree and only its hind quarters were visible until I came right up to it. I had taken my first bow hunted deer, a year or two old buck with about 1 inch antlers. I suppose I would have let it go during the gun season but this was my first with the primitive gear and I was ecstatic!
Chris With Bow Deer 1973 (640x480) (2)

My daughter and I with my first bow deer
            I didn’t hunt deer with a bow again for several years as gun hunting was still my first passion and I got hooked on the muzzle loader bandwagon ( which I downed three deer with over many seasons). Toward the end of the 70s Michigan began allowing multiple deer tags for bow and firearms and I started using a bow sometimes to augment my hunting time but this time I used a new Bear Polar II compound bow to take several more deer. I also used my compound in New Mexico on a couple of elk hunts but didn’t bag anything. As I stated earlier I gave up bow hunting and also muzzle loading and simply used modern rifles until I was forced to end all hunting in 2007.