50 Years of Archery Deer Hunting

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

skyrocketed. In 1980, nearly 50,000 bowhunters took to the woods. Last year, the Conservation Department sold almost 100,000 archery deer permits.

As bowhunting grew, the technology of the sport evolved. Clever inventions and gewgaws made bowhunting seem almost high-tech, but the basic units of archery deer hunting - a stick and a string - remain the same, and bowhunting continues to be a quiet, elemental undertaking.

The simplicity of bowhunting is what attracts many people to the sport. They could shoot deer at longer ranges with a gun and, statistically, bring home more venison per day of hunting, but they prefer the limits that the bow and arrow impose.

What limits? Well, for one, no matter how powerful your bow, you still have to get almost unnaturally close to a deer to use it. Most deer shot with a bow are within 20 yards of the hunter. And in order for you to get a good shot, the deer, a bundle of acute senses, can't be aware of your presence.

This requirement brings primitive hunting techniques into play. To keep deer from seeing, smelling or hearing them, archery deer hunters often daub paint on their faces, don camouflage clothes, cover their human scent with animal urine and other natural odors and sit still as sphinxes for hours on end.

Those hours quickly translate into days. According to a recent archer survey conducted by the Conservation Department, the average deer bowhunter goes hunting about 20 times during the 3 1/2 month season.

Check station statistics tell us that less than 20 percent of archers are successful in any one season, which means that, on average, it takes more than 100 hunting trips (five years x 20 average hunting trips a year) to bag a deer.

Some skilled or lucky hunters beat that average, but that means that a lot of others take longer. Michael Kennedy of St. John wrote that he has bowhunted for 22 years and is grateful for "having the opportunity to be in the woods in the fall and just hoping for a sighting of the beauty of the beasts."

Kennedy was happy to report that he finally filled his first archery deer tag the first day of the season last fall. "Patience does pay off!" he writes.

Juan Lamanna of Platte City tells us, "I was hooked on bowhunting. It didn't matter that it was my seventh season trying - and failing - to get a

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