First of all, I am not a bow hunter. Oh, I don’t mind sitting next to one at the coffee shop, and there are even some bow hunters in my family.
The one and only reason that I do not bow hunt is that I am too reluctant — call it too lazy — to put in the time and effort to practice enough to be an efficient bow hunter. Yes, it takes a world of time and practice to become proficient with a bow and arrow.
There is some debate in the bow hunting ranks over deer season starting dates. Formerly opening on Oct. 1, the bow season seemed carved in stone until it was expanded to begin Sept. 15 this year. Oops, mistake, said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission folks, but not in those exact words. The season next year and probably in future years will start on the last Saturday in September in keeping with the AGFC tradition of opening hunting seasons on Saturdays for the maximum participation opportunities.
Sept. 15 is a little too early since some female deer may still be nursing babies and some bucks may still be in velvet. This comes from the bow hunting ranks.
At any rate, the bow people have it good in Arkansas with a deer hunting season that is more than five months long. Jealous? No. Envious? No.
Bow hunting is fun to its practitioners. Some say they are the "real" hunters, and we’ll let that slide without argument or agreement.
Shooting a deer with a bow and arrow is not nearly as reliable a tactic as shooting one with a modern rifle, as the statistics will confirm year after year. About 12 percent of the deer taken by hunters in Arkansas in recent years has been with bows and crossbows combined – about 9 percent by bows (conventional, recurve and compound) and 3 percent with crossbows.
Deer could be hunted year-round with bows, and it likely would not adversely affect the increasing numbers of deer in the state.
What the bow hunters have succeeded in obtaining is opportunity.
They get to hunt five-plus months of the year whether or not they get a deer. They are out there in the woods, and granted, not all of them hunt every day of those five-plus months. But they have the opportunity to do so if they choose.
Two phrases in the mission statement of the Game and Fish Commission are "maximum opportunity" and "wise use of natural resources."
Those are the basic two reasons for the long bow hunting seasons, and the second phrase is the reason for eliminating the fall turkey hunting season. Turkey populations have declined.
Once upon a time, and it was the early 1980s, there was bitter arguments in Arkansas over including crossbow hunting in the long archery season. The bow people didn’t want the crossbow folks in their ranks. They reacted like a crossbow user had bad breath or body odor. They alleged that extended the use of crossbows would wipe out the deer in Arkansas.
This did not happen for the simple reason that crossbows are not any more deadly on deer than conventional bows — and maybe be less so. For some years, classified columns in newspapers were dotted with used crossbows for sale. People tried them and found they were not the wonderful deer slayers but were just another alternative.
Crossbows and conventional bows are limited in both range and killing power. But both are effective in the hands of experienced users who put in the necessary practice.
For many Arkansans, owning a bow is a legitimate reason for getting out in the woods almost half of the year when they can.
Do you suppose the bow brigade could welcome one more member?