Through the lens of a camera and the eyes of a sportsman, Gerald Burleigh has seen many amazing things in his career. The longtime TF&G photographer grew up as a hunter and found a love for photography at a young age. He has done everything from bowhunt mule deer in New Mexico to crawl into rattlesnake pits with editor Chester Moore and photographed the Northern Lights with his wife in Alaska.
He recently wrote a testimonial on his journey as a bowhunter we would like to share, because it matches so well with feedback we have received on crossbow hunting over the last few years. It is also perfect timing as the TF&G staff heads to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas where we’ll see the latest in crossbow innovations.
“As we grow older, we start to think back to our youth. I grew up on an egg farm on 10 acres of land in Orange County Texas. There was no one close to play with so I used to entertain myself with hunting and fishing in nearby woods and bayous. Someone gave me a 35-pound Bear recurve. Back then it was just a stick and string. I learned to shoot instinctively with bow and wooden arrow. Living on an egg farm meant any varmints posed a loss of egg production. Pop would pay in bullets for every rat, opossum and other varmints.
“I like the bow because it was quiet around the caged chickens. Learning to hunt also put food on the table which helped out on the farm. That started my taste for bowhunting. I found out years later we were poor. But as a kid I had a full stomach, clothes on my back and a loving family.
“Growing up that way put a lot of good values in my soul. To me it would be hard not to see the amazing creations in animal and plants and not believe in God. As some years passed, they came out with compound bows. I purchased a Bear LTD compound bow. Man, this was a lot faster and had sights on it. I was up town with this bow. Hunted and killed some good deer with this stick and wheel. As technology goes, this bow was out date before long. But I hunted quite a few years with it.
“I got married and had two boys at first. Then a sweet little girl came along. We still lived on the old farm place. It was ideal for two little boys to grow up on. I taught them the skills they need to hunt and fish. They each started out with a two-wheel kid’s bow. As they got older, they moved up to hunting bows. We did this as a family. They now have deep roots in the outdoors. As time speeds up, I am 50 years old. I have a faster bow with more let off ̶ easier on the old man, my oldest son told me. However, as things go, I had heart trouble and had to have five bypasses. I did not have a heart attack, so the surgery went well. However, I could not shoot my compound bow any more. And I could not bowhunt with the boys anymore.
“Now I am closing in on 65 years; and as usual, technology keeps going. The crossbows have come a long way since knights in shining armor. I got my hands on a TenPoint XLT cross bow. It is one fantastic piece of equipment. It has a cocking device on the bow, so an old, wore-out bow hunter can cock it. The TenPoint also has a nice scope on it with the yardage mark inside it. It was getting hard to see the sight on my old compound bow. With this bow I can now bowhunt with my oldest son and his 13-year-old stepson.
“They both still use compound bows, but my grandson sure is eyeing this crossbow. With the help of technology, disabled veterans ( I am one) or anyone else with upper body strength will be able to hunt and enjoy the great outdoors and pass along their love and skill to the next generation.
“It is a great feeling to watch a young person learn and enjoy the outdoors. Take time to take a kid ̶ yours or some else’s ̶ fishing or hunting. It’s great for the soul, and the use of a crossbow is a great way to bridge the generation gap and share the excitement of close-range hunting with all generations.”
Just as Burleigh sent in his testimony he called us with news he had picked up a TenPoint Stealth SS crossbow and was headed to Manitoba to realize his lifelong dream of hunting black bears. “I’m like a kid at Christmas. I just can’t wait to get up there and hunt bears in the great woods of Canada,” he said.
Before deadline time we received an email with the photos you see attached and exciting news. “I took a 241-pound bear with the TenPoint Stealth SS. It had a 19 1/16-inch skull and the most beautiful coat you have ever seen. I could not have been happier with the hunt or the performance of the crossbow,” he said.
Burleigh pursued his bear-hunting dream with Scott Smith of Canadian Wilderness Outfitters (www.canadianwildernessoutfitters.com) and said the whole experience was top-notch.
“Scott is a straight-up honest guy with lots of bears on his properties and a strong work ethic. If you hunt with crossbow, bow or gun, he is the man to see. I could not have been happier with my experience,” Burleigh said.
Burleigh said his journey from hunting with longbows and recurves to crossbows has been an exciting one. “It’s nice to know that no matter what your age or situation there is an effective hunting device for you. I’m now more motivated to hunt than I have been in years and taking a bear with that crossbow is a big part of that.”