Romancing The Bow

Posted on September 11, 2012


As the leaf litter covering the forest floor began to rustle, the demeanor of the relaxed spectator instantly switched to one of attentive focus. His eye’s search for the source of the disturbance while his ears strain for any additional clues. In the following tenuous moments his pulse begins to involuntarily quicken. He reaches for the bow that conveniently hangs less than an arms length away. Having the weapon now firmly in his grasp helps pacify the uncertainty of the interruption. With an expectant hope, the same anticipation experienced by every individual that has ever pursued the white-tailed deer, he searches for a visual clue indicating the noise indeed evolved from that of a hoofed creature.

Then, with anxiety building, thoughts of uncertainty and doubt begin to cloud his mind as to whether he had actually heard anything. It seems like forever ago when his world was suddenly interrupted. It would be easy to relinquish the tension and settle back to a relaxed state and dismiss the whole episode as nothing more than a mere mirage, but experience has taught him to maintain his vigil and trust the instincts that has brought him numerous successes.


As is customarily the case with whitetails, magicians that they are, a buck was now standing where a moment ago there was nothing. With cat-like precision the hunter quietly attaches his release to the bowstring. Both predator and prey remain statuesque and silent. The hunter patiently waits to see what the deer’s next move will be while the buck decides the direction he will take. With a high-powered rifle this would be a chip shot, but given the archery tackle’s limitations the animal will have to get closer before a shot can be taken. So, the hunter waits with hopeful enthusiasm that the animal will indeed present a shot.

Because bow hunters are human, it is not so easy, or comfortable for that matter, to stay completely motionless for long periods of time. The tension continues to build as drops of perspiration begin sliding down the small of the hunter’s back. A mosquito buzzes annoyingly around his face as if it intuitively knows that the blood source is in no position to strike at it.

For reasons known only to the buck, he begins to leisurely angle towards the concealed hunters lair. With rehearsed proficiency, the archer raises his bow. The buck stops momentarily and gazes in that direction. Perceiving that all is as it should be, the animal continues on. At approximately 18 steps from his greatest enemy, the buck halts and reaches to the forest floor for one of the many acorns scattered about. Despite the animal’s attention being drawn to the autumn fruit, the archer cannot yet take advantage of drawing on him due to the buck’s position.


All he can do is stare at the incredible antlers adorning the buck’s mantel in covetous desire. The tension has now become as thick as a socked in airport during the morning rush. Without warning, the buck suddenly jerks his head erect, cups his ear’s forward and turns his attention 180 degrees away from the ambushers position. Providentially, something imperceptible to the hunter has distracted the target. Slowly but steadily the archer strains to pull back on the bowstring until the limbs of both hunter and weapon are fully taunt. As the buck begins to relax, the archers trigger finger relaxes as well, instantaneously sending forth his arrow. At the sound of the bow’s deaden thud, the buck lurches its back upward and then makes a headlong dash – his final run.

The resurgence of a once primitive weapon

The bow and arrow, once the only weapon of choice, particularly with our Native Americans, was eagerly replaced long ago with repeating arms that could reach far beyond the limited range of archery equipment. As my dear friend Randy is often quick to point out, “even Geronimo was smart enough to trade in his bow for a repeating rifle when the opportunity arose.” Obviously, Randy has yet to embrace the world of bow hunting. But in all seriousness, why is it that the deer hunting community has wholeheartedly romanced a weapon considered to be a relic of a bygone era?


First of all, purists aside, the technology of today’s archery equipment is both user friendly and easily mastered. Yes, practice is still an important aspect no matter how much easier the weapon is to use, but proficiency comes much quicker with compound bows, sights, rests and release systems than it ever could with traditional recurve and long bows.

The extended liberal seasons and bag limits that are routinely offered to those who wish to hunt with a bow have become another incentive for deer hunters to take up the sport of bow hunting.

Where once the weapon was dismissed because of its limitations, it is now one of the crucial benefits allowing the archer to access certain properties and provides him the ability to hunt suburbia. Most non-hunting folks living in neighborhoods, developments and cul-de-sacs seldom object to a bow hunter eliminating deer that have become nothing more than a nuisance to them. They grant this permission chiefly because of their perception of archery equipment. To these suburbanites the bow is a noiseless weapon with very limited range and those that hunt with such tools have little to no impact upon their lives. They are quite at ease with bows.

There are also a number of populated towns and cities throughout the Northeast that have a no discharge of firearms ordinance in place and without the ability to bow hunt many of these locations would remain off-limits for hunting.

As far as I’m concerned, the greatest advantage acquired by those who have chosen to take up the bow is the close interactions betwixt man and deer that the sport engenders. It is through these interludes of observations, ones that often do not present a shot opportunity, that the huntsman becomes acquainted with the behavioral qualities of the game animal he seeks. It must be asked, “Would I otherwise, with a rifle in my hand, be as patient and selective about my shots and take nearly as much time watching the beast before shooting?” I think not.



As you perch beneath a canopy of multicolored leaves in the tranquility of another autumn and patiently wait for the emergence of the white-tailed deer, realize that despite living in a world enmeshed in modern technology, we still have the ability to return to our roots to ‘romance the bow’ – even if it’s no further away than our own back yard.

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer