Many of my columns usually end up with the phrase... "hunt safe and have fun out there." It is something I like to leave my readers with and something that I take to heart whenever I go in the field either with a friend or when it is just myself and my bow. I firmly believe that if you are not having fun, then what is the use of bow hunting at all. In my hunting classes, my students always list having fun as being one of the main reasons they want to hunt. I suspect it may be high on your list as well.
A successful hunt does not necessarily mean that you bring home the venison. A successful hunt is when you come home safe with a smile on your face ready to face the world and look forward to another day in the field. Filling your freezer is a bonus as far as I am concerned.
Oh, I can already hear the sneers and jeers from some readers blaring through the speakers of my computer. Think about it for a minute, if you will. Bow hunting means you have to have the ability to completely fool the animal you are hunting. You need to convince the animal that it is safe from any predators while you come to a silent full draw with your bow and all this has to be done at very close quarters. THAT is the hunt. Once you have the unaware animal in your sights and in your known accuracy range, the hunt is over. You KNOW that you can harvest the critter you are aiming at. You know that all those hours practicing have paid off and your confidence level is high. The HUNT is over. Most hunters agree that the peak of your "fun" hunt is just before you release the arrow.
If you decide to loose the arrow, then the fun turns into work and it is a whole new ballgame. That is a decision that every bow hunter has to make at the appropriate time.
Being safe is probably the most important attribute a bow hunter can have. I really do not care if you could carry three tree stands at once. I could not care less if you had the ability to field dress a deer in 3 minutes. It does not matter to me if you can shoot an arrow 50 yards and hit an aspirin (81mg). If you are not a safe hunter, then you will not be hunting with me. Period!
What does it mean to be a safe hunter? There are a host of answers to that question and I will talk about just a few.
Does your hunting buddy ever walk with an arrow knocked on the string? It happens and it happens a lot. Strange as it may seem, there are some bow hunters that think that if they jump a deer, they will still be able to get a nice clean shot on the animal. It is even worse if he is behind you with that knocked arrow out of the quiver, even if he is just walking with his bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. The razor sharp broadhead makes for a dangerous situation if not stowed away properly.
Does everyone in your hunting party have and USE a safety harness? I am simply amazed at how many veteran hunters out there who do not bother with a safety harness. Every year, we read about a few people that fall out of tree stands and die. There are other stories of hunters who have fallen from their stands and now will spend the rest of their days in a wheelchair. It is true, the free safety harness that comes with your tree stand, can be extremely cumbersome and difficult to put on with only moonlight to guide you. It is hard enough to figure out how they go on in the light of day. For those people I can only recommend that they purchase a Hunter Safety System vest and USE it! It will cost you anywhere from $60.00 up to $150.00, but they are worth it at twice the price. It is your life we are talking about.
Do you know about any health issues that could be serious for your fellow hunters? Does anybody have a heart condition? Where are their meds? It might be an issue of a hunter being overweight and out of breath when he reaches his stand. WE make it a habit to always carry two way radios and extra batteries. You need to keep in contact with your fellow hunters periodically. Call them on the radio every 30 minutes or so and make sure they are all right. Hey! If the hunting is slow where you are, you might get a good two-way radio report of deer activity near your buddies stand. We also carry our phones in the woods with us as a backup plan.
Speaking of back-up plans, if you are hunting alone, are you in the habit of leaving a note for a family member to see. It could be as simple as, "Hi Mom, Im out in our woodlot today hunting for deer in the stand near the soy bean field. Be home a little after sunset." It is always a great idea to let someone know where you will be, just in case. Bring them out to your tree stands before the season so they know which ones you are talking about. I used to just name my stands 1,2,3 and so on.
Safety is paramount if you want to be able to enjoy many more bow hunting experiences for years to come. Remember, there are many deer in the woods, but only one of you. Stay alert while hunting. Accidents will happen when you get a little lazy or when you convince yourself that nothing like that will ever happen to me. Make sure it doesnt.
So, I will leave you with this last sentence once again.