By: Lindsey Davis
For the last four years, I’ve been learning how to hunt in Utah. I’ve enjoyed successful big game seasons, and have learned many lessons the hard way as all hunters do. However seasoned, the unforgiving nature of making a bad shot, or a noisy stalk ensures that we will learn from our experiences and commit them to memory, just as we do our successes and moments of rapture in the wilderness.
I’ve been hunting the general season rifle deer hunt here with the intention of building enough skills to eventually become a bowhunter. It’s not that rifle hunting is too easy, because it’s not. It’s not that I need more of a challenge because I don’t – hunting is plenty difficult. There’s just something about archery that I’ve always been drawn to. In hunting I notice my thoughts drifting back in time, curious about the traditional ways of surviving and harvesting our food — how those ways have changed, yet still remain the same.
One of the many benefits or archery season, especially to public land hunters like myself is an earlier and extended season. This year, I will be hunting the Utah opener, as I prepare for a late September deer hunt on the American Prairie Reserve with MYSTERY RANCH and Modern Huntsman. We’re going old school this year, and hunting with beautiful traditional bows. Here’s the rundown on what we’re up to, and how to get yourself started in traditional archery.
Traditional bowhunting lends itself to some amazing aesthetics, especially in the craftsmanship of a well-made bow. This year we are fortunate to be working with Buddy Gould, maker of Poison Dart Bows. The Poison Dart is a custom one-piece longbow style bow, crafted by hand in Colorado. Buddy’s bows are known for their reduced hand shock, exceptional craftsmanship, and smooth shooting. Each bow is signed and dedicated to the hunter, and clients get to choose the type of wood that goes into its making. These bows are true works of art and a pleasure to behold in the field.
We’ve matched the exceptional craftsmanship of our bows with the Valkyrie arrow and broadhead system. With Valkyrie, the days of disposable arrows and components are over. Leading up to the season, we’re using their heavyweight, machined target tips, and Reign arrows. As we move into the season, we’ll shift to Jagger broadheads. Each one is a solid piece of Rockwell steel with a titanium centerpin that is honed by hand and known for their ability to pass through an animal. We’ll care for and re-sharpen these broadheads for years to come.
It’s important to be diligent in practicing your bow shooting. In addition to going to the range, backyard targets are very helpful so you can take advantage of the short windows of time you have to fling a few arrows every day. We’re using Rinehart archery targets to imprint realistic shot placements on a deer as we build our shot sequence. These targets are made of self-healing foam, so you won’t wear out the kill zone over time. Critical to pre-season training is making sure you get out on uneven terrain and practice shooting on slopes and in vegetation. We find looking at an actual deer in the woods to be very helpful.
There are professionals, and then there are masters. To learn the foundational mechanics of a good shot sequence, we’re enrolled in the Solid Archery Mechanics online course created by the master, Tom Clum.
The Push Archery Training Program is hands down the most comprehensive and complete traditional archery training course produced to date. In signing up you become a member, which grants you ongoing access to the course which Tom is constantly updating and adding to. If you are a new archer, there is no better way to build your foundation than with Tom. We’ve found a great cadence in watching a chapter and then going outside to practice for a few minutes, returning to the chapter, etc. There is enough in this course to carry you through to expert level archery, and yet you can learn and build at your own pace. We will be coming back to this course every year for the rest of our days.
When the national parks system was being created, one of our country’s most important pieces of ecological heritage was overlooked – the prairie. For the last 15 years, a group of dedicated scientists and conservationists have been diligently working to connect 400,000 acres and restore native prairie habitat on what is now called the American Prairie Reserve in northern Montana. Their goal is to connect 3.2 million acres, which is the estimated size needed for a fully functional ecosystem complete with migration corridors and all native wildlife. Their foundational ethos includes hunting as a way of managing the land. We’ll be camping out on the American Prairie Reserve this fall to stalk mule deer and learn about their conservation efforts including restoring bison populations.
Photo credit for all imagery to Tyler Sharp