When I think of archery season in Pennsylvania, it brings back some of my finest times. There was the mid-day rest under a huge maple up in McKean County. I had been looking for a deer since daybreak and anyone who has hunted early in the morning knows how I felt. This was quite different. The October sun was shining down on me and I was absorbing the miles and miles of wooded terrain.
It was deer season but a different type of hunt. You see, this idea of hunting with a piece of wood with a string attached seemed an effort in futility but it was a great excuse to get outside away from home. I had been deer hunting for a few years now but it had been done on far colder days and on snow-covered mountainsides. It is a fact that because I was the proud owner of a heavy hunting jacket that had been left back at camp the temperature was hovering near 90 degrees. I hadn’t seen many deer but it sure was one of those fall days when one feels blessed just to be out in the wonderful clean air. Of course, there was always that visitor who sat on a log nearby, and while it spoke a strange language I am also sure it wasn’t giving me a welcome to his homestead. Like a good watchdog, the chipmunk, whose home is invaded, has to announce it to the whole world.
I remember glancing down at that piece of wood and the arrow lying on my lap. I had been shooting this primitive tool thinking I would have to get very close for this thing to hit, let alone hit in the vitals, much beyond 15 yards. How lucky indeed for the archer that the game commission had taken the difficulty into account and created a long season for archery hunting.
It is interesting to look at that old equipment used by us, the would-be Robin Hoods of our day. Perhaps you would notice there were no pulleys or wheels on those early bows. There were commercial arrows but they were little more than a pointed stick. They were launched from a 45-pound stick bow that could possibly hit and more than penetrate a world-record buck.
With us having so much difficulty using primitive bows, the Pennsylvania Game Commission offered us the longer-than-normal hunting season. No person in their right mind could have argued that point back then.
Some would say that the improvements in archery gear is greater than improvements in any other tool used in hunting. Many archers in my circle of friends talk of shooting game at 60 yards casually. Back in my day, we guessed at ranges, and if a tree stand was used it had to be homemade. There is no doubt arrows are better and we are hearing of bows that shoot accurately to 100 yards and beyond. Bow hunting today is not the same hunt that it was 40 years ago.
In plain English, it is much easier today. This is proven by the fact 40 percent of all the bucks that are removed from the woodlots and briar-patches are taken by archers. In comparison, back when I first carried a bow, the success rate was less than 10 percent. I would say that is a big gain and today these archers are getting another Saturday on which to hunt.
If the Game Commission wants Pennsylvania to be an archery state, then let’s be honest about it and admit that their goal is to eliminate firearms. It seems to me we are leaning that way as most bucks are taken during the rut by those using a bow. Perhaps, to be fair, the requirement for entry into the record books, both state and national, should be looked at differently. After all, they were set up in the early days of archery and today the tail is wagging the dog.
As I look at the magazines that are pointed at archery, I find them stuck on the false idea that archery is still difficult. It would seem the opposition to the crossbow, which puts hunters who otherwise couldn’t take part in the archery season, is indeed much written about. Do they want the elderly or disabled archery hunter to be in a bar telling of the old days? I get the feeling that it simply comes down to not wanting competition from other hunters during their long season.
We want to save some of the breeding age bucks, thus the antler restrictions, but now we add increased pressure by adding on another day of archery. We worry about the loss in license sales but create a condition that makes it more difficult for the older hunter by crying out against the crossbow. I think that is strange. As far as its being a primitive weapon the crossbow goes back further than the compound bow.
I am certainly not against archery hunting as I have done more than my share of it, but I believe the time has come to look at what is happening there.