June 11, 2021
By Keith Appel
I am a flatlander. That is, I’m no longer able to chase deer, sheep, goats, moose, caribou, and bears in the mountains of my home state of Alaska with my trusty bow and arrows. Moreover, I would say that I am vertically challenged.
However, over the past few years, I’ve made some adaptations to what I am physically able to do. The main change is that I now do things outdoors that are done on a level playing field.
I know quite a few people who used to spend more time outside actually enjoying the outdoors in person, than they currently do sitting on the couch watching others on outdoor TV. I think they are rapidly closing in on becoming a “flatliner.”
This flatland-hunting business all started on a boat hunt on Kodiak for those incredible bears. It was a flatland hunt of spotting and stalking. I was fortunate to take a good-sized bear at just 21 feet…but that’s another story.
Two weeks after that bear hunt, I had a bad accident that put me on my back for quite a long time. During rehab, I had plenty of time to think about what it would take to get back to my normal outdoor activities. I simply had to accept what I couldn’t do and then replace it with what I was capable of doing. It was amazing that I could see a clear path for myself to continue being the outdoor guy that I was before my accident. To that end, here are some things I have done to my genuine satisfaction; things that most of us can still do, even though we have added on some years and maybe some physical disabilities.
Prior to my accident, I had booked a Cape buffalo hunt in Africa with Neil Summers at Bowhunting Safari Consultants. I was supposed to go on that hunt two months after my accident. However, my wife made arrangements with Neil and the safari company to re-book me for the following year. I wasn’t sure I’d be up for the challenge, but I was highly motivated and willing to try.
Three months after my accident, my friends made sure that I made it out to our duck shack for opening day. I rowed my double-ender boat out and shot a widgeon with my .410 shotgun. I was ecstatic, but my stamina was way down. So, I became more diligent in my gym workouts and soon found myself improving.
My Africa hunt required me to shoot a heavy bow, but my 70-pound bow was out of the question. I turned the bow down to 45 pounds and struggled at the indoor range for a few months. Gradually, I worked my way up to 55 pounds, and that was my limit. I went to a 1,200-grain arrow for buffalo with a two-blade Ed Ashby broadhead to give me better penetration. My friend, Ed Schlief, owner of Alaska Bowhunting Supply and the maker of my arrows, told me it would work fine on Cape buffalo with my reduced draw weight. Wow, would he prove to be right!
In Africa, I managed to take a very nice Cape buffalo at 20 yards from a ground blind. I also arrowed a beautiful Cape eland, as well as a dandy sable. In each case, my arrows passed completely through, and no animal made it more than 50 yards. And each one was a “flatland” critter!
I’ve subsequently taken a nice antelope in Wyoming, and that is some very flat land indeed. Add a mature Coues deer in northern Mexico while in my friend Frank Noska’s hunting camp, where I could see the low-level mountains in the distance, but the land around my ground blind was flat as could be.
This spring, I will be hunting bears over bait out of my blind and hope to take a nice black bear, and maybe even another grizzly. The laws have been changed to reduce the number of grizzlies due to their predation on moose calves. The land is flat as I walk to my elevated ground blind, and it is always a joy to be there to see and hear the woods come to life after a long, cold winter. In September, I will join my hunting partners in Colorado for another elk hunt, but we have agreed to hunt sidehill on the mountains instead of going up to the lung-sucking elevation of 7,000 feet. If we kill something, we have connections for getting it packed out. I am just going to adjust and adapt to my physical limitations.
There are other things you can do to keep hunting on flat land. Deer hunting never got easier than sitting up in an elevated blind on a food plot, and the same goes for hogs. They are exploding in numbers, and a blind over a feeding station is one way to get some pork chops and roasts.
Hunting turkeys is also a flatland deal. It seems like all states except Alaska have huntable numbers of these gorgeous birds, and most of it is on flat land that’s easily accessible by foot or ATV. Or look for a guided hunt and spend a few bucks. Just go do it. Get your wife or significant other, or a buddy to go along.
Excuse me now, as I have to go downstairs to my 15-yard range in the basement and shoot my bow. It’s something I do several times a week. After all, bear season will be on us in just a few weeks. And my basement is flat!
Have I mentioned I’ve been shooting a bow since I was four years old? I’m now 86 and still bowhunting...
The author is an artist and sculptor, as well as a master instructor for the International Bowhunter Education Program, and has authored a book titled, “Hunting with a Bow and Errors,” which is available on Amazon.
Author’s Notes: On my Africa hunt, I used a Mathews NoCam bow set at 55 pounds, Alaska Bowhunting Supply GrizzlyStik Safari arrows, and Ed Ashby broadheads.