December 19, 2016
As bowhunters, we're enamored with the tough hunts. If it doesn't nearly kill you to get close to an animal, it doesn't count in our books. This is why archery industry advertisements are full of bowhunters with elk quarters strapped to their backs while they grimace and wade a rushing river in a snowstorm. After all, who wants to see a picture of a pudgy, middle-aged bowhunter driving a UTV to within 40 yards of his enclosed hunting blind to kill a nearly tame whitetail?
No one, that's who. We like it tough and we aren't shy about it. I'm no different. I turn down invites to guided hunts all year long and instead spend the bulk of my time on public land hunting western game and whitetails. I don't want anyone holding my hand or putting me on animals.
This is how I feel most of the time, anyway. But after a season of hunting public land and living in a tent for a month or more, I tend to lose a little bit of my conviction that it's badassery or nothing. In fact, I usually try to book one off-season hunt a year just to see how the other half lives, and to be brutally honest, they live pretty well.
If you're interested in a little R&R during the off-season while still getting your bowhunting fix, there are plenty of options.
Here are a few.
Most hunters who don't live in Texas look at hunting there like it's a joke. We've seen enough television shows filmed over corned roads and whirring feeders to know what it takes to kill a deer down there — not much. But here's the thing — sitting over a feeder having 12 deer run in is secretly pretty fun. And that's not the only way to hunt Texas.
The last time I was there, I got permission to spot-and-stalk and while I never arrowed a buck, I did get to crawl through the cactus to double-lung a doe. And it was awesome. I've also bowhunted axis deer that way, which is extremely difficult.
Of the places to look for a vacation hunt, Texas is it. I'm also a huge fan of the people, the food, and the variety of terrain you can hunt. Also the sheer variety of animals is pretty amazing. Axis deer top the list, because they are beautiful and delicious, but there are also nilgai, blackbuck, rams of all varieties, and a host of other critters that originated in far-flung lands. Believe me, while it may not seem that appealing to go hunt Texas I've never met anyone who didn't at least enjoy it. Plus, the easy hunting that can be had will make you appreciate the harder stuff even more.
If you're kicking around a hunt in the Lone Star State, ask about all opportunities. While your target animal may be axis deer for example, you'll likely have the chance to hunt something else. This might be hogs, it might be small game or predators, or it might even be fish. Last year, while bowhunting turkeys down there, we found out we could bowfish a lake on the property. It was an unexpected blast, and definitely a nice addition to our trip. Texas is a land of bowhunter options, make sure you are aware of all of them before you go.
The Number-One Target
Pigs. Hogs. Porkers. Everyone wants to hunt them, most don't. If there is an animal that is more generally fun to pursue with a bow than hogs, I haven't found them. It's just so enjoyable to set out for a day and pursue some fresh pork. Naturally, throughout most of the states they are found you can sit over a feeder. This is fun for a while, and usually good for a high-odds shot, but there are other ways to arrow pigs.
I've shot them on water holes and spotting and stalking. I suspect they might be callable in the right situation as well, but I've never tried. I've found a few on public land as well, although the bulk of pig hunts occur on private ground. That means it's a pay-to-play endeavor, but if you do your research you can find plenty of killer options.
Just make sure you find an outfitter that caters to bowhunters. Some hog operations are of the file-them-through variety and they make their money by offering cheap hunts to as many hunters as possible. This tends to draw the gun crowd, and also tends to result in heavily pressured pigs.
A bowhunting operation is a much better bet. These often have limits on the amount of pigs you can take, which is to be expected. The good thing is that with the right outfitter you'll get your shots and your chance to bring home the bacon, literally. Just make sure you shoot the right gear and you're practiced up, because if you hit a hog poorly it's no bueno.
You've worked your tail off all fall to arrow animals the hard way. There's no shame in taking an easy one once in a while, and a vacation hunt might just provide that. Just remember to do your research before booking any hunt and go in with the expectation that while it might be easy (or it might not), it will likely be enjoyable.
And that's a solid reason to bowhunt in anyone's book.