Not too long ago, deer hunting meant gun buck hunting period. Back when, no one ever envisioned that archery deer hunting would become as widespread and popular as it is today. But hunters like to impose ever increasing levels of challenge upon themselves, thus a bow and arrow as opposed to the rifle. What’s more, they are passing up decent size bucks for ever bigger ones they would have readily taken with a rifle a generation back. Perhaps the most modern day gadgets that could be used to symbolize this cadre are the trail camera and tree-stand.
Sure, you can throw in the range finders, scents and scent blockers, bug zappers, GPS devices and all sorts of high tech camo clothing with the mix and you begin to get the picture. Now throw in the kicker of the many outdoor TV programs featuring husbands and wives, brothers and buddies and you start to see the equipment, scenes, settings and methods in living color.
This is both educational and entertaining and has helped to enhance ethics, sportsmanship, safety, and management concepts more so than the resources of many state game agencies might otherwise accomplish. The videography in masse has helped to de-mystify the sport in a good way. For a parallel, we contend that such programming has all but made turkey hunting accidents a thing of the past.
Hunters now know what turkeys look, sound and act like in their own haunts. For a unique four-county zone of West Virginia (Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell) archery hunting was once necessitated by the lack of deer. Homegrown hunters here have known nothing but the bow for decades and boy they like it and want to keep it that way. Again, most of them voluntarily pass up smaller bucks that routinely would be shot in gun hunt counties.
The older-aged bucks in the four bow-hunting only counties draw hunters from afar and it should come as no surprise, they dominate the Big Buck Contest’s archery class year after year. But even here, the herds have grown from county kills the likes of ten to nigh a thousand over the past forty years. With thanks again to those TV programs, the savvy hunters here also know they must take more antlerless deer to maintain what they’ve got.
That is healthy herds with excellent quality antlers and good buck to doe ratios. Aiding and abetting them in the field are you guessed it, all that gear including those tree-stands and trail cameras. The tree-stands of today are much more safe and comfortable than the knotty pine snag I climbed with my recurve bow circa the early 1970’s. In hindsight, I was lucky enough to arrow a deer out of that widow maker before getting myself killed.
And how about those dandy trail cameras and all those pictures telling a thousand words about what kind of antlers are out and about and mostly only in the dark of night. But the living proof that they are out there in numbers that are quite astounding is undeniable. And that’s not to mention those flashbulb-like “Candid Camera” snapshots of other critters from ‘coons and coyotes to black bears and flying squirrels.
To top all this, the archery deer hunters get a long, liberal season (Sept. 27 - Dec. 31), some early fall weather and the entire November rut or mating season when the big bucks come out of the woodwork to ply their sport. Now add in the fact that they can combo hunt during certain times and places with the proper licenses for wild boar, black bear and wild turkey from the same tree- stand and you can see why it’s such a big deal. It literally is.
Archery deer hunters have come a long way and are making for some new traditions of their own. In testament, they’re the ones that are out and about now setting trail cameras and hanging tree-stands with some great expectations for this fall’s hunts.