You might need a break from bowhunting, but don't expect to get it now.
Back when I started bowhunting, spring was off-season.
That's when we practiced with our bows to prepare for fall seasons, built arrows, restored gear, and prowled around the archery shops to fuel our passions for the seasons to come.
Things are different these days, as this issue reflects. Spring is a time to be in the field, improving habitat, planting food plots, and locating stand sites. Read "If You Build It€¦" by Jason Johnson. In my early days of bowhunting, few hunters owned land specifically for hunting, and even fewer improved their lands just for deer hunting. But those are common practices today, and Johnson offers good advice on enhancing your land.
On that same theme, I love "The Leopold Legacy," by Mike Lamade (page 40). Some 40 years ago, Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac was just regaining popularity, and it was one of the first books I read as a budding new writer. Leopold's view of the land, and the words he used to express his view, always fascinated me. We also now know his words were not hollow philosophy but practical wisdom. In "The Leopold Legacy," Lamade tells how Wisconsin bowhunters Stan and Carolyn Godfrey put legs to Leopold's wisdom. Good stuff.
Other good stuff is John Solomon's "Worth Waiting For" (page 46), an account of his first turkey hunt. It instantly brings back memories of my first successful turkey hunt. Oh, I'd hunted turkeys before, but had not killed one until my good friend Cecil Carder and I, hunting in Texas, hunkered in one of the early commercial blinds one April morning. We had a decoy out front, and Cecil was calling when a tom showed up and began strutting 15 yards from the blind. I aimed for the base of the neck, and when the broadhead struck, the gobbler came to attention, as stiff and straight as a tin soldier, and tipped over sideways without a quiver. Cecil and I looked at each and said, "Man, that was really something!" We did not have to apply the proven recovery techniques Tracy Breen outlines in "Recover Your Longbeard" (page 48).
Lon Lauber's story, "Return to My Roots" (page 43), an essay on bowfishing for carp in Washington's Spokane River, poignantly illustrates the power of the outdoors experience on youngsters. As we get older, we might view carp shooting as a pretty mundane affair.
But for a young boy just spreading his wings in the outdoors, it's an adventure that could set the course of his life. And when Lon returns to the scene decades later, he learns that launching arrows at evasive copper torpedoes can hold adventure, even for a seasoned big game hunter.
In "The State of Bears 2010" (page 16), Dr. Dave Samuel updates us on black bears in North America. Reading that, I can't help but reflect on how things have changed since my first bear hunt in 1981, a wilderness hunt in Central Idaho. I nearly threw up in the airplane (my first bush plane flight), almost stepped on a rattlesnake, spotted and stalked 20 bears, and killed my first bear with a 10- yard shot. That wonderful experience sparked my passion for bear hunting.
Back then, black bears were generally viewed as predators, and few people hunted them seriously. Now they've become one of the most popular big game animals in North America. As Samuel points out, bear numbers are growing in a number of states, the range of black bears is expanding, bear/human conflicts are increasing, and two states are holding seasons for the first time.
For many of us, spring means bear hunting, bowhunting for turkeys, carp shooting, or planting food plots for deer. Whatever your activities, one thing is for sure -- spring is no longer the off-season.