Bowhunters relish wilderness experiences.
With a relatively low success rate, bowhunting goes beyond the need to win. This silent sport is for hunters who seek a more intimate relationship with the wilderness and the animals within it.
Backpacking with a Purpose
After receiving a shotgun as a gift several years ago, Erik Bjur of Pleasant Valley took up hunting for chukar and mule deer. He began pursuing bowhunting a few years ago, not only to have the good quality meat he and his family enjoyed, but also to experience the hidden treasures of The Silver State.
“Unless you had a reason to go backpacking into these remote mountains, you just wouldn’t go there,” Bjur says. “It opened up my eyes to the type of country you can see out there. We are completely addicted now.”
“We” is Bjur and his son, Eli. They have been bowhunting with compound bows in places such as the remote Jarbidge Wilderness of Northeastern Nevada and have gone after both mule deer and elk. Other animals tracked by bowhunters include antelope, mountain goat, and bear.
Another major benefit of bowhunting can be found during the application for a hunting license.
“It is exponentially easier to get a deer tag for bowhunting than for a rifle,” Bjur says. “In fact, this year, none of my friends who applied for rifle tags got any tags.”
The archery season is the first open hunting season in Nevada and usually starts at the beginning of August. Bjur recommends anyone new to bowhunting become familiar with the Nevada licensing system and lottery, which opens in March.
However, even with a successful tag draw, there is no guarantee of fresh meat. Bowhunting requires the hunter to get much closer to an animal than any other type of weapon — at least within 40 yards.
Bjur has stalked elk and gotten within 20 feet at full draw but never had what he calls “an ethical shot.” Bowhunting requires a hit to both the lungs and the heart of the animal. At that point, the animal passes out and dies quickly with less pain. Bjur has held a full bow draw for what he says felt like hours, but due to too many trees or too long a distance, the arrow never flew.
When not out in the field, Bjur scratches the bowhunting itch by reading about mule deer and elk behavior. He also is a fan of the hunting-focused podcast Cutting the Distance, by celebrity Nevada hunter Remi Warren.
A Grounding Experience
Don’t worry. You can be successful at bowhunting with a little patience.
Kelly Dean is an archery instructor at Wasting Arrows Archery in Reno and a hunter education teacher who started bowhunting in Nevada in 1975. He admits that elusive mule deer and swift antelope can be a real challenge for bowhunters, but going after smaller game and birds can build up confidence. Kelly bowhunts for his favorite game to eat and cook in the wilderness: grouse.
Dean has the same mindset as Bjur. He hunts to hunt, but also to experience the primal, simple living that comes with being in the wilderness.
“One dynamic I’ve noticed in recent years is the surprising participation of former vegans in my hunter education classes,” Dean says. “These folks were typically not in the sportsmen circles of the past. They represent a new group of meat hunters who are primarily interested in being able to get organically grown and uncontaminated meat that is healthier for them. Although some remain very true to their original intent, once they have experienced actually taking a big game animal and all the emotions and work that go into it, they experience that ‘This is what I was meant to do’ feeling.”
Writer Christina Nellemann finds the deep philosophy of bowhunting appealing.
For details on archery classes, visit Wastingarrows.com.