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Bow hunting with a recurve in the cold

 
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I'm very much a beginner bow hunter, hoping to get my first deer this year. I shoot a locally made recurve bow, with cedar arrows and a back-slung leather quiver. I also use leather finger guards on my pulling hand, all made by the bowyer in town.

I feel competent enough to go out in the woods and try for a deer at this point, and went out tonight. I've been watching game trails for ages, and sure enough, not 20 minutes into selecting a blind, I had 5 whitetail coming right up to me tonight. Of course, they were coming the opposite direction I thought they'd be, so rather than quartering away, I was faced with them literally looking right at me. They were close enough, but I wasn't sure that the shot would be fatal, so I didn't take it.

I spent a couple of hours tracking them back down again, in 8 inches of snow, it was easy enough. They had circled back around to where I had been, and then crossed some steep, watery areas to some low lying forest at the base of the mountain. I tried to follow, but with so much fresh snow, and water on top of that to contend with, I called it a night.

Tomorrow, I'm going to go back out and revise my strategy, but for now I have two issues to deal with:

1. My fingers going numb
2. Getting across water, as there's a solid chance that my prey will

So it was about 25 degrees when I went out. Since I don't use a trigger release, I only wore a glove on my left hand, and a thin one at that, but I kept having to shove my hands alternately up my shirt to keep them from going completely numb so I'd be ready for a shot. I thought about wearing a thicker glove on my left hand, and then a fingerless mitten on my right hand tomorrow (they have the mitten you can flip over), though with any luck, it'll be a few degrees warmer (and my snow will be gone).

My go to pair of hunting boots are some knee high Sorel snow boots, and while they're great in deep, unpacked snow, they're definitely not water proof. I don't really fancy getting across those patches of water, they're the kind that has pooled up after the creek has gone down, and are full of goop and gop, and surrounded by steep banks covered in brambles and bushes. I can get across if I go further up and double back a bit to the trails, but then there's the issue of if I make a kill, having to drag it up a 5 or6 foot embankment on my own. I think I can, but I am definitely not sure.

So are there any seasoned bow hunters around here with some advice for me? I need venison in my freezer this year, and have decided my husband and I will each be taking two separate weeks apiece to focus on making it happen - this is my first week, so every night I'll be out there til, if I'm patient enough, I get something. I'm so tired, I'd love it if it would happen sooner rather than later.

It's also worth mentioning that I'm very limited on when I can go, I have a toddler, and my husband works 6 days a week, and I work from home. I can basically only go evenings when he gets home, or very very early on the weekends before he leaves.
 
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You might try bringing one of the many versions of a pocket warmer, the hunting section of any walmart (evil incorporated) will have them.
 
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Any way you can get the deer to come to you ?
Have you thought of a deer park ? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deer_park_(England)

David
 
Destiny Hagest
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Michael Bushman wrote:You might try bringing one of the many versions of a pocket warmer, the hunting section of any walmart (evil incorporated) will have them.



I actually have quite a few of these stocked in both vehicles, in case we ever get stranded and need to walk somewhere, but I need something that's going to allow me to keep my hands out of my pockets. I hold my bow with an arrow nocked in my left hand, and generally try to keep my right hand on the fletching at the least, so I'm ready for a quick shot.

Hands in my pockets means it's going to be a shuffle if something happens across my path unexpectedly.

David Livingston wrote:Any way you can get the deer to come to you ?



Baiting deer is actually illegal, at least in our state. I'm not a stickler for the rules per se, but I generally know where to find the deer (they make pretty predictable paths through this area). It's just an issue of finding a blind that isn't so close to the water.

We're in the mountains, so if you go too high, you'll never see anything, but if you hang out at the water mid-day, they won't be there either, because they like to graze in open pasture during the afternoons.
 
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I would suggest wearing a warm mitten on you drawing hand that is tied to a string inside your sleeve so you can drop the mitt off your hand and shoot bare handed with out loosing the mitt in the snow.   If there is a string that passes from one mitt, up the sleeve of your coat, down the other sleeve to your other mitt.  You can wear the warm mitts but shed them quickly for a shot with out worrying about where the mitts end up.  
 
David Livingston
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Baiting deer is actually illegal, strange enough folks ... enough people on this site complain the buggers turn up naturally without any effort on their part
I wonder why its illegal when they are a pest .
 
Destiny Hagest
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I think it has something to do with taking an unfair advantage over the wildlife. I've heard of people doing funny things like soaking cotton balls in vanilla extract, or putting clumps of aluminum foil out (the deer get curious of the shiny object and creep up for a closer look).

But it's not really necessary here anyway, wildlife are pretty abundant between moose, elk, whitetail, muleys, mountain lions, bears, etc. So long as you look for well used trails, they'll turn up.
 
David Livingston
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Unfair advantage ? you have a Bow ? or a gun ? lol
 
Destiny Hagest
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haha I know right! And a recurve bow at that! One of my friends that's big into hunting gadgetry came over and shot my bow once, likened it to throwing a rock compared to his compound with sights and all the bells and whistles.
 
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No easy answer here -you need to decide what your priorities are.
You're using a sport hunting setup yet you say you "need venison in my freezer this year".

Want the meat in the freezer? Use a crossbow.  
 
Destiny Hagest
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Sport hunting setup? I just prefer low maintenance tools, so I go with traditional archery.

I'm confident I can do it, if I get the proper time away from work and mothering. The problem would remain the same, unless I bought an entirely new weapon and learned how to use it before the season ended.
 
Roy Hinkley
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At this point in this season you certainly want to stick with what you're comfortable with. I'm with you on the low maintenance as well.
The less time you're able to spend hunting the most you'll want to make of every opportunity you get for a shot if you need to fill the freezer.

Excalibur makes recurve crossbows that are as reliable as it gets but
a) there's no effort to hold it at full draw indefinitely
b) it shoots like a rifle - gloves are no problem
c) perfectly repeatable accuracy out to at least 40 yards
d) so accurate you don't shoot at the same spot with a second shaft or you risk shaving off fletching or worse.
e) so powerful almost every shot is a pass-through, no matter what bones are in the way

I bought mine used 5 years ago (Exocet 200) and it was 10 years old then. I thought I should replace the string.

If on the other hand you're determined to take a deer with your traditional recurve then I understand completely, support you fully and wish you the best of luck.
 
Destiny Hagest
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Thank you Roy! It's definitely that I'm pretty stubborn and want to give it my best shot with my recurve, but also that it's pretty much the only bow I've ever shot. We have a crossbow stashed away upstairs as well, but in Montana, it actually falls into the category of firearms, and you can't hunt with one until rifle season opens up, which is still a few weeks out.

It's tricky - my husband needs to get in his rifle practice for the season opening too, so a couple nights a week, he goes to the range after work and practices. My only chance to practice is in the mornings after I do the outdoor chores - my toddler will hang out and play with my tipless arrows while I fire at my targets - this usually lasts about ten minutes before he decides he's bored of it.

I feel like I can shoot a deer this year, it's just a question of getting enough time out in the woods. Sunset it at about 630-7, and the deer start to cross down into the lowlands around 530, so the window is brief in the evenings. And of course, mornings would be ideal, but as I type this, I'm working another late night, and won't be in bed until 2 am at the earliest, more likely 3, so getting up at 5 to hunt isn't going to happen.

Ah, c'est la vie! I suppose I can't do it all all the time, but I find that incredibly frustrating nonetheless. If nothing else, if I fail (again) this year, my husband definitely has more opportunities to go hunting than I do, he should be able to nab something pretty easily. Especially with a rifle.
 
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Destiny Hagest wrote: but then there's the issue of if I make a kill, having to drag it up a 5 or6 foot embankment on my own. I think I can, but I am definitely not sure.

So are there any seasoned bow hunters around here with some advice for me?



Destiny, it sounds like you have done your homework.  I remember a time that it took 4 people to drag a deer out to the vehicle.  Two hunters and two wives, and it wasn't easy.  All down hill.

You might consider something like this:

Game Cart

Here is a hearter for the deer blind:

Quite Stand Heater

I don't know if these gloves are of any help.  I just thought I would share:

legacy-leather-bow-hand-glove

 
Destiny Hagest
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Thanks Anne! Maybe I'm overly optimistic in my thinking that I can drag a deer out on my own, but I feel like with the right grip and a quick field cleaning, it shouldn't be too difficult. I'm not the incredible Hulk, but I can lift my 130 pound sheepdog clear off his feet into the bed of our truck, so I'm reasonably strong.

We shall see though, I might come back and be unable to move for three days as well
 
Anne Miller
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I think you will have an advantage dragging on snow but you might try tying a couple of hundred pound bags of feed together and try dragging them about how far you think you will need to drag the deer.  After trailing a deer to find it, you will already be tried.  Then there is the process on trying to field dress one in the dark.  Our daughter is an avid hunter, she and her husband get their limit every year with both bow and gun.  I have seen some big bucks.

I just want you to be prepared and have a successful hunt.
 
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Hey Destiny,

I dunno if I'm a "seasoned" bow hunter, but I did kill a black tail on my property last year with a recurve, so I'll take a stab at it.

My season is a little earlier here, and it doesn't get as cold, but up at 4,000 feet during elk season, we had temps in the 30's with a very damp chill and plenty of wind. I froze my hands pretty good in Alaska, so it doesn't take much for main to become really painful and numb. I put a pretty heavy glove on my left hand (that holds the bow) and learned that I had to practice with it, as my long bow has a tendency to torque in my hand at the shot, and the glove exacerbated that. The more slabsided handle of a recurve makes that less of an issue.

For my right hand (that draws the string) I took a glove and cut all but the pinky and thumb fingers off it.  It looks like this:

http://www.3riversarchery.com/down-under-wool-glove.html

Only it didn't cost me $25.  You might get away with wearing a thin, polypropylene glove liner on all your fingers, and then buying a larger finger guard that will go over the liner, but I'd hate to make a change like that in the middle of the season. I plant to experiment with such a thing for next year.


When I would hide behind trees and such for elk this year, I'd pull the bow in close to my chest, then put my right hand in an armpit. That would keep it a little warmer, and wouldn't be as much of an exaggerated movement as pulling it out of my pocket.

Not sure how to help you with your creek crossing, as I don't really know the lay of your land.  Can you find a few strategic spots where it's easy to cross, or is it wide all the way around. You can sometimes see where the deer jumped, find an easier place for yourself that might be hundreds of yards away, then go up the other side of the creek and pick up the trail again.

You may find it easier to drag a deer if you take a small tarp in your pack. You put the deer on the tarp and drag that. It helps to take a couple hanks of rope to pass through the eyelets on the tarp. You tie the ropes to a stick and pull on the stick.

I've gotten good advice from the folks on the Traditional Bowhunter Magazine forum at www.tradbow.com. That crew may have some better ideas for you.

Good luck! Killing deer is a perfectly reasonable goal, particularly if you know your own land the way you do.

Regards,

David


 
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Maybe some combination of travois and roller pack for packing out?  Seems like a travois would work pretty good as long as it was hooked up to a body harness.......(or dog, horse, or mule...  ).  It may be the best compromise for rocks, ravines, water, etc.

http://www.backcountrychronicles.com/travois-game-drag/
RollerPack.jpeg
[Thumbnail for RollerPack.jpeg]
 
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Another thought, I started shooting a recurve last year for fun but with the intention of eventually getting good enough to hunt with it, and thought a lot about the same problem since I had a go-round with frostbite and now my fingers get painfully numb very quickly during the cold season.  When I take out the muzzleloader I use the heaviest glove I can comfortably shoot with and have one or even two of the handwarmers in there.  For using the bow this doesn't work since it's all very bulky, so I picked up the a pair of the gloves with the fingers cut out and the fold-over mitten.  For keeping the arrow nocked and ready I picked up a whisker biscuit, and just need to figure out how to mount it.  I've got more research to do on that, but you might look into one.  I don't feel it takes away too much of the traditional feel of using a recurve, which is what I like about my bow, and it shouldn't be too hard to learn to shoot with it.  I think it'll do a good job of keeping the arrow ready to shoot, so that having my hand protected won't be as much of an issue.  
 
Destiny Hagest
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I wouldn't be opposed to using a whisker biscuit, if it meant I got to keep my fingers warm while I'm waiting It hasn't been cold enough this past week for this to be a concern again, but now it's cooling off once more, and I imagine the next time I go will be particularly bitter.

On that note, apparently I am a terrible hunter who is very good at standing still - twice this week I've had deer walk up within 20 feet of me, and been in a poor position to shoot. The other day, 3 came up behind me. I turned around and about screamed. Three whitetails, just staring at me like, 'Ha!!! Gotya!!'

 
Scott Charles
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That's probably a lot more common than many hunters would like to admit.  I was out for early muzzleloader season last year and spent a full day in a spot that I just knew was seeing a lot of traffic, the sign was everywhere.  I was in a great ground blind just below the top of a hill looking down toward a stream with lots of browse and several well used trails.  The wind was blowing in the slightly uphill toward me, it had all the makings of a perfect setup.  Never saw a single deer.  Watched turkeys walk by, lots of squirrels including one that came right up to the blind and stared at me for quite a while trying to decide if there was something behind the netting and foliage.  Finally I gave up as shooting hours ended, and almost had a heart attack when I saw the fresh bear tracks in the mud not fifty feet back, crossing my trail.  The tracks were large and still filling with water!   I never heard a thing, even thought the trail it had clearly used was brushy and hard to travel on without making plenty of noise.  Needless to say me and my one-shot weapon made it out to the truck in record time, and I have since put serious thought into setting up mirrors to the sides so I can see anything coming up behind me   It is amazing that such large critters can move so quietly, even when you're actively listening for them.
 
Destiny Hagest
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It really does blow me away! On my way back I happened by a day or two old deer kill, picked clean, and all that was left was the ribs and spine - there have been reports of wolves back there, in addition to mountain lions and bears.

I read somewhere Montana is the state you're most likely to get killed by a wild animal in, naturally. I kinda love it here.
 
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@Scott C.: "It is amazing that such large critters can move so quietly, even when you're actively listening for them."

Yeah, we once were pack-camping in the Wind River range in Wyoming and were getting the camp site ready while feeding the dog.  The dog stopped eating and then started whining and barking into some nearby brush.  I kinda moseyed over to have a look but nothing seemed obvious, so we sat down to get the dinner started.  While starting the preparations, this huge bull moose walked out just beyond that brush and just lazily wandered into the lake shallows drinking and minding his own business, but without having seen him, he was not making any sound to give himself away.  It's pretty amazing how even modern domesticated (large!) pigs can be this quiet as well.....I can be working on some remote part of the property and not even hear one of them approach me from in the woods until they emerge into view.
 
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DONT give up on the bow hunting, recurves or longbows are very efficient weapons when used correctly and within their limitations.
they are a perfect weapon, when one is able to carry them with you all day everyday as primitive peoples did- and to hunt opportunistically. to only carry them that once a year during hunting season- when we go out a few days during that season- is reducing your chances of success further.
now that does not mean they dont work- i bow hunt exclusively during that "hunting season"- and i put meat on the table. for primitive folks it wasnt just about deer - it was everything and anything- the bow and arrow was merely a tool to extend their reach- frogs, squirrels, rats/mice, fish, anything was fair game!

bow hunting has its own challenges and rewards- solitude , silence- close proximity to your prey- and one will inadvertently learn more about the bush and your prey- as everything has bearing on what you do and what you  see. you will become a better tracker, a better observer- and will get closer to the land. dont get disheartened by your failures- remember a primitive soul might have had a bow of some sorts in his hands from as early as he could hold something. when we pick up these tools later in life- we have a steep learning curve ahead of us.

in my opinion- stay away from the crossbows and compounds- they are both bulky items to lug around all day- sights to get bumped- get hung up in the bush- i can throw my bows down the side of a mountain( well not really!!) pick them up- and they will still hit the same target.
get something that is comfortable and easy to shoot- find your effective killing range- the range where you can absolutely put every single arrow into a realistic kill zone sized target- reduce that distance somewhat- and keep that as your max- realistic hunting range- all situations and prey body positions will have an effect on that range- but thats just a good starting point.
our society is ( remnants of rifle  ideology) so focused on small tight groupings- and i know when i started out- i wanted to be able to get 4" groupings out at 30 yards- my good mate taught me to understand- that was not important yet- and was just putting pressure on me, as the shooter- and was effecting my shooting- - he said if a whitetails kill zone is say12 to 14" diameter, find a distance that you can put all your arrows into say a 9" grouping( dinner plate size) without fail- increase your range to establish you maximum- now you have a max hunting range on whitetails- suddenly changed my whole focus- accuracy went up- confidence increased.  i still limit my range to about 18 paces- but shoot most of my deer in between 5 and about 12 paces.

stay away from the paper punching target shooting- focus more on stump shooting   https://survivalsherpa.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/stump-shooting-as-a-survival-skill/ -  it will give you varying ranges- varied targets- varied positions- will make you a better hunter- and is way more fun- shooting at a target for hours on end- and a known range- unless you plan to be a target archer- is a waste of time- compared to effective stump shooting practice.- you can stump shoot in your own yard- i do most of mine on my front lawn! get some judo points and get started.

if you do shoot at targets shoot one arrow at a time- walk retrieve - shoot and so on- your brain needs that bit of time to process and store the data- your body needs a few seconds to recover from  each shot- or as your body tires your form wll suffer- and that bad form is what will be imprinting in your brain. take it slow.

best advice i can give you- i find a mentor- a good mentor- and learn the skills right- or alternatively check this guy out- get his video- i have tried many different techniques in my hunting and shooting journey- and this guys system is the best i have ever come across- best of all attend one of his clinics- they are phenomenal!!!
 



 
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Hello Destiny,

One thing that I've heard of but not been able to try out myself is to put vaseline on your hands. I know what you're thinking, won't that make your hands slippery and it harder to draw your bow? Yes, but just be careful not to get it on the palm side of your fingers. If you put it on the back of your hands then that area, in theory, should stay at least a little warmer. Another possibility is to try and find a pair of lightweight gloves that won't impair your grip and put a toe warmer, the kind that is sticky on one side, and stick that to the top of your hand. I do this if I ever get really cold while out hunting because it allows me to still use my full hand all while keeping it warm. Hopefully, this helped a little bit. Good Luck!!
 
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