Check out the browtines on this baby! Wow! Mark said the buck was 4 1/2 and grossed in the 160s.
Interestingly, Mark was hoping to get a shot at a monster buck that he knew was in the area. But a neighbor clipped the buck (non-lethal) a week earlier and the big boy went into hiding.
Which leads me an interesting blog post by Rich Landers, the outdoors editor at The Spokesman-Review in Washington.
The title is Has modern bowhunting gone ethically off target? The post was a teaser for his newspaper column about the difficult (but successful) recovery of a bow-shot, trophy whitetail.
In this case the hunter was praised for going the extra mile, so to speak. But Landers isn’t such a fan of some other bowhunters. Here are two graphs from the blog post:
“There are no good current statistics to support the argument, but all hunters wince at the amount of wounding loss that comes up in conversations. Add it all up and the number of lost animals appears to be significant if not disgraceful.
The advantages archers get in season timing coupled with the advances in archery equipment, trail cams and the increased reliance on baiting apparently has lured more undesirables into the bowhunting ranks.”
Rich teased the blog on Facebook (just like I do sometimes). I wrote up a response that got a little long. So I decided to just post my thoughts here, and invite you guys to offer your thoughts.
As hunters we have a responsibility to be proficient with our gear, to make wise shot selection and to make the absolute best effort to recover game. Not doing so is a disservice to the sport of hunting, and to our quarry.
As Rich noted, specific data on wounding loss is hard to come by.
With no hard data it’s our natural inclination to rely on anecdotal evidence. I have a friend who once gun-shot a deer that had been wounded by a bowhunter, “proving” to him that all bowhunters are inept. No data results in the use of terms such as “appears to” and “apparently.” We have to be careful about this.
Perhaps the bowhunting culture in Washington and Idaho is significantly different than it is out here in the East. Admittedly, we have the advantage of liberal seasons, lots of deer, and hunter-friendly regulations. We can hunt during firearms; muzzleloader and archery seasons as long as we have the appropriate license. I know my brother in Oregon must pick one weapon. If that is the case in Washington, I could see how some hunters might pick a weapon (bow) based less on their familiarity and skill with the weapon and more on the convenience of the season.
With today’s archery equipment there is no excuse for not being proficient. I would argue that modern archery equipment has helped archers, as a whole, become more proficient. I know I’m a lot better with my 12-year-old compound bow than I was with my first compound in 1982. Furthermore, there are surveys that show that, as a whole, bowhunters spend far more time practicing with their implements and in pre-season preparation than gun hunters.
That said, all things being equal, it stands to reason that the recovery rate for firearms-shot deer is higher than for arrow shot deer. But, at least in Virginia, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that bowhunters are getting worse at it. In fact, I think we might not have some hard data to support that position.
In Virginia, the archery kill typically accounts for about 7 percent of the total annual deer kill. It wavers slightly due to hunting conditions, but is pretty consistent. So are the numbers of archery hunters, holding right around 20 percent of overall deer hunters. If archery hunters were getting worse at recovering game, would not their contribution to the overall kill would be declining?
Interestingly, the one deer I had the hardest time recovering this year I shot with a muzzleloader. The deer was quartering away and I shot back to ensure the bullet would hit the vitals. The entry was in the paunch, and it was plugged up by a piece of fat from the flank. There was no exit wound, so there was no blood trail. But I was confident enough in my ability with my weapon that I was certain I had hit the deer. I searched and found her, dead as a doornail, about 100 yards away. I can see how some hunters might have quickly assumed a miss and given up. In the case of archery hunting, when we hit a deer we at least usually know we hit it and can take appropriate tracking action.
I agree with Rich that hunters wince at stories of lost game. No one wants to not recover a deer, or anything else we shoot at. I don’t see anything, at least in Virginia, to suggest that bowhunters (including crossbow hunters) are getting worse at recovering game. Does anyone disagree?