FINS, FUR & FEATHERS: Hunters pull for bow hunting

Some hunters prefer not to hunt within a large sea of blaze orange. These hunters have taken up a “primitive” weapon. Soon bowhunters will have the woods of Washington to themselves in the pursuit of deer and elk.

Longer seasons, more liberal bag limits and smaller crowds are a few of the reasons many hunters in Washington have taken up bowhunting. Whether you use a recurve, long or compound bow, you need to do extra homework for an archery tag.

I don’t have the firm data, but I would venture a guess that more archers pursue elk than deer in Washington. The bowhunters I have talked to mention the large crowds during the firearm season as the big reason they have taken up bowhunting. Public land is very limited and the state’s elk herds are concentrated into distinct pockets of the state. Because of this the hunters are also extremely concentrated and since many believe you have a better chance of tagging an elk with a gun than a bow, the crowds can be extreme on many popular wildlife management areas. While this is not necessarily the case, it does take a little extra work to tag an elk with a bow.

Your effective range is greatly reduced, thus you must become a far better hunter to get closer to a wary, wild animal. Some believe that is easier to do on the west side of the Cascades than the east. It is true that the thick underbrush will make shots far closer than most hunters are used to, but all that brush easily obscures your target and the hunter must be proficient with his or her equipment. An unorthodox method for bowhunting elk in the rainforest is the use of treestands. Long thought of as strictly a method for white tailed deer, archers are realizing that getting elevated increases their visibility and may put you out of the line of sight of the elk. Bowhunting elk on the east side is more of a classic western bowhunt. The elk are coming into the rut during the early season and calling is popular method. Another idea is to locate a wallow. The early season is usually quite warm and elk like to wallow to cool off and ward off biting insects. Setting up on a wallow or water hole can be very productive early in the year. Many areas between Yakima and Ellensburg can provide the archer with ample public land to try.

Most archers go after whitetails than the other deer species in the state. With good reason: they are plentiful and are more habitual than mulies or blacktails. If a hunter does preseason scouting, he can use this patterning to increase the odds of tagging deer. Elevated blinds are very popular in the northeast part of the state. This is no sure thing. Deer over there are getting smarter as more hunters take up the sport. Just as they can help the archer hunting elk in the thick forests on this side, a treestand would be a good idea for the hunter going after blacktails. Hanging a stand just inside the timber overlooking a clear-cut would be a good start. Mule deer are hardest animal to bowhunt. They occupy the wide-open spaces and getting close is not easy. Spot and stalk is very difficult so most bowhunters look for water during the early season or find yarding areas along the migration route during the late season.

There are many places to practice on the island. North and Central Whidbey have ranges for members, but to simulate real hunting conditions the walk through course at the Whidbey Bowmen’s is one of the best around. Members have a good-sized course to walk around and take shots at varying angles and ranges at 3D targets of many species. This is the closest you can come to hunting without actually going. Contact the club in order to join and utilize the range.

If you are tired of fighting crowds when deer or elk hunting, then take up bowhunting and see a whole new season.

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