Matthew Eden was the envy of thousands of Arkansans in that he won an elk hunting permit this year. Conner Sowerbrower is probably the envy of other boys in his age range and likely many adult outdoors people as well. He killed a bear with a bow.
Conner Sowerbrower, a junior high football player, had a game plan. It wasn’t a ball game but a bow-hunting outing.
“I was ready to shoot anything that came by and was legal,” he said.
He was on a stand near a deer feeder on a tract in Madison County that his family leases. It is south of Huntsville and not far from Arkansas Highway 23.
Conner took an 8-point buck last year with his compound bow. This time it wasn’t a deer but a bear that came by. Conner downed the bear with one arrow. His father, Wes Sowerbrower, said, “Conner made a shoulder shot, and the bear ran about 20 yards and went down.”
Wes got word of Conner’s success on the bear by way of a cell phone call.
Conner said, “I had been on the stand about 30 to 45 minutes and hadn’t seen anything. Then I heard something moving, and I saw something black near the deer feeder. The bear looked at me then looked back down at the corn. It was about 15 yards off, and I shot it.”
The bear weighed about 175 pounds, Wes Sowerbrower said. “The bears are thick around that lease of ours. We dressed out the bear, and we’re going to eat the meat. We’ll tan the hide and probably hang it somewhere in the house.”
Conner is in the eighth grade at Southwest Junior High in Springdale and plays defensive end and offensive tackle for his school team. “We’re 3 and 2 so far this year,” he said.
Archery season for Bear Zone 1, the Ozark Mountains, opened Oct. 1 and runs through Nov. 30. Archery season for Bear Zone 2, the Ouachita Mountains, opened Sept. 15 and runs through Nov. 30.
Matthew Eden came up short in his quest for an Arkansas elk, but it wasn’t for lack of effort on his part. He hunted hard for the full five days of the September hunt along the Buffalo River. His dad, Howard Eden, has elk hunting experience in Western states.
But they didn’t find the bull elk hey wanted in Arkansas. Matthew’s permit specified a bull in Elk Zone 1, which is the area between Arkansas Highway 43 and Arkansas Highway 7 along the Buffalo.
Matthew also plays junior high football. He’s on the George Junior High team in Springdale.
Howard Eden said, “We found two young bulls the first day but they were close to the ranger’s house at Erbie, probably too close to the house to shoot.” They did find much elk sign in a field not far away but no elk.
That night, heavy rains hit the area, swelling the river to make fords impassable and cutting down the movements for the Edens. They tried other areas in Zone 1 without success. The last day they checked just below the Ponca bridge, the boundary of the zone and an area known for elk moving back and forth. They didn’t find sign of elk, so they moved downstream to a tract called the Angle Field. Nothing there either.
Howard Eden said, “Matthew was a little disappointed in not getting an elk. But he understands. You just don’t get something every time on a hunt. But we are making plans to hunt elk out West in the future. I had been to Colorado this year just before this Arkansas hunt.”
Arkansas public land elk permits are free. The application period is the month of May, and permits are handed out in a public drawing in late June at the Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper.
Another elk hunt is coming up Dec. 7-11, with 23 hunters to be in the field along the Buffalo River. They won their permits last June.
(Log Cabin outdoor writer Joe Mosby can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.)