The Diversity of Bowhunting

Judy Kovar

In putting together a magazine, we on the Bowhunter staff always keep in mind our diverse audience. All of us have different levels of experience, varied backgrounds, diverse hunting goals. In every issue, we try to address this diversity, and I think this Whitetail Special does capture the diversity.

While bowhunting veterans Curt Wells and M.R. James pursue whitetails at Deer Creek Lodge in Kentucky, Curt finds himself stretched, so to speak, to take "The Jacuzzi Buck." And M.R. passes up numerous opportunities to shoot deer because he's holding out for a big one. In "Riverbottom Whitetails," Montana bowyer Neil Jacobson passes up deer on the second to last day of the season because he's not driven just to kill a deer. He wants a mature buck - and gets one.

In contrast to the stories by such veterans, this issue contains tales by beginners who are happy just to kill a deer. I love the story, "At Home on the Kaibab," by Steve Dilley. Here's a man working on his graduate degree poignantly describing the trials and joys associated with taking his first deer with a bow, and he articulates deeper feelings common to most new Bowhunters. Assistant Editor Brian Fortenbaugh expresses similar sentiments in "Rough Hunt." As Bowhunter's in-house whitetail slayer, Brian can hardly be called a beginner, but he had never hunted elk until September 2006, and the potency of the experience led him to write, "I was hyperventilating and thought for sure I was going to throw up." First animals will do that to a guy.

Diversity extends to trophy size. Many experienced Bowhunters hold out for big bucks with big racks, guys like Wells, James, and Jacobson. In "Times Two," Charles Herold tells the almost miraculous story of two brutes he shot during one season in Louisiana. And C.J. Winand's "A Buck and a Prayer" tells how C.J. passed up numerous younger deer en route to taking a gnarly buck officially aged at 9 1/2 years. These guys hunt big old bucks. That's understandable; that's good.

But to infer from this that killing young deer is wrong is nonsense. In "A Son's Pride," Scott Gangle tells how his father took up bowhunting after retirement and finally killed his first deer, a forkhorn whitetail. Did he care that it was not a huge old buck? I doubt that he cared at all. Imagine his pride! And did Steve Dilley care that his first deer, taken in the land of giant mule deer, was a yearling? I doubt that, too. In "To Take a Doe," Troy Peterson reveals his elation at hunting and killing does. In these pages, we recognize and honor all levels of bowhunting accomplishment.

Along with this diversity, we celebrate the power of positive bowhunting. When you read "The Transformation," by Lisa Hazard, you witness the transforming power of archery and bowhunting as Lisa, resentful toward bowhunting at one stage in her life, becomes a passionate hunter. Her husband may have created a monster. In "Fellowship in the Woods," Duane Bodette demonstrates the power of bowhunting as he and his friend rejoice over their deer - and maybe even hug a little.

Some readers demand how-to stories, while others prefer a philosophical twist. Again, we aim to please. On the how-to side, Curt Wells and Dana Coldren explore the power of decoys and scents for pulling whitetails within slam-dunk range. In "The Apple Connection," Ron Rohrbaugh, a biologist and avid traditional archer, goes far beyond the obvious to explain how apple orchards serve as bulletin boards for deer. John Eberhart, a veteran Bowhunter from Michigan, tells how to outsmart heavily hunted deer. Zeke Pipher and Shawn Petry show the value of a hunter's legs, eyes, and mind in taking more deer.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Dylan Forsyth, in "The Song Remembers When," takes a philosophic look at mule deer hunting in his native Alberta. In "A Bedtime Prayer," Matthew Lamb tells how his young son philosophically and spiritually played a role in Matthew's successful hunt.

Of course, the Whitetail Special would be nothing special without Judy Kovar. I don't know how she does it, but Judy can turn a seemingly mundane affair on the family farm into a riot or debacle. A few years back she wrote how a doe deer "attacked" her blind and about killed her in the process. Then she wrote the story of a Canadian bear hunt, on which a bear blasted into her ground blind and bit a chunk out of her leg. Admitting she is no "flying Indian," she has vividly described her terror at trying to hunt from a treestand. And now, in "The Golden Years," she hatches up a whole new scheme. Her husband, Herman, has to cringe at the approach of the Illinois archery season because he's in for an adventure, like it or not. One challenge he can always count on is helping Judy winch some monster buck out of a ravine on their family farm. It never fails. Hang in there, Herm!

Whatever your level of expertise or interest, the diversity of this Whitetail Special has something just for you. And never dismiss the stories that don't fit your mold. If you're a bowhunting veteran, stories about beginners and first deer will carry you back to your roots. If you're a beginner, stories about selective hunting and big bucks may chart your future. Whatever your stage, the diversity and power of bowhunting will make your life a lot richer.

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