No Such Thing as a “Sure” Thing.

Hunting on an amazing property in Georgia with a longbow on my lap.My southern luck has never been the kind I want.

I’ve always been somewhat of a homebody. I’ve often favored the familiar and embraced a routine. I’ve never had big bowhunting aspirations. Hunting throughout the state or in exotic places overseas has had little appeal to me. While seeing other hunters doing fantastic things in fantastic places has created moments of envy or jealousy, I’ve always viewed the adventure itself with a “wouldn’t it be nice” attitude.

Hunting out-of-state wasn’t a consideration early on. I could hardly navigate a small piece of local public land, let alone piece together an adventure in an unfamiliar area hundreds (or even thousands) of miles from my home.

Meeting my friend, podcast partner, and Georgia native Steve Angell changed all that. He invited me down to hunt with him in 2012 and we’ve been rotating ever since. Visiting Steve is like hunting with an outfitter. He scouts the locations and stays clear of them until I arrive to increase my chances. He makes ground blinds, hangs treestands, and does everything within his power to increase my odds at a hog or whitetail. Yet, despite all of his efforts, nothing has worked out.

My first trip included rain, hours of uneventful staring, and chiggers. My second trip was a hog hunt with frigid temperatures, cramps, and clustered pigs with little desire to move. The third trip, while much better, resulted in an arrow in a sapling and two flustered does I am certain are still sounding their alarm on their respective properties.

The worst of the worst was a special hunt on Cumberland Island — a historic and fairly remote place “spilling over” with deer and wild hogs. At least, that is how it was advertised to me. The island, while very interesting from a historical standpoint, provided the worst hunting experience of my life. It rained constantly, the bugs were terrible (ask me about my dung beetle incident some time), and I didn’t see anything save for the occasional wild horse and an armada of armadillos.

The hunting was so awful, Steve and I had all but given up the third day and decided to hike the four miles across the island and see the Atlantic Ocean. I can assure you this wasn’t nearly as glamorous as described. Our clothes were damp, we were exhausted, and my feet were blistered from heel-to-toe, as the result of an ill-fated decision to break in new boots without bringing spares. By the time we traversed the sandy trail and reached the beach, my feet were screaming.

“I cannot take another step in these damn boots, Steve!” I proclaimed, collapsing against the side of a dune.

“Well take ’em off then!” He laughed. “The beach might feel good on your feet. Do what you’ve gotta do, because we have another four miles back to camp!”

“Thanks for the reminder.” I quipped, stripping off my socks and working my toes into the sand. “At any rate, I’m sure this will all be worth it. I haven’t seen the ocean in several…YEEEOOOOOWWWW!”

My blistered feet exploded with pain. It was as if I’d just stuck them in a box of rusty treble hooks.

“What the hell is that!?” I exclaimed, falling back into the dune. “I feel like I have barbed wire in my feet!”

“Uh oh.” Steve said. “Sand spurs. Shoot. I should have told you about those.”

“Ya think?”

I picked up my foot and found several marble-sized burrs stuck to the bottom. Only, they were nothing like the burrs I was used to. The Michigan burr was little more than an annoyance with its velcro exterior. These were a completely different contraption — sinister and defiant — with long criss-crossing barbs that dug into your flesh with the intention of staying there indefinitely.

“Is there a trick to removing these damn things?” I spat.

“Nope. Afraid not.” Steve laughed. “You just have to give ’em hell and get through it.”

His words stuck with me the remainder of the trip. You know a hunting trip was terrible when the highlight was watching the place you were hunting fade from the deck of the boat leaving it. And I didn’t even mention the fact that my flight was delayed due to the aftermath of an actual hurricane.

I couldn’t wait to get home.

Another rainy experience bowhunting in Georgia.

While not nearly as bad as Cumberland, my most recent trip was equally uneventful. Steve had access to prime hunting property on leases near his home and two hours South. He had abstained from hunting both (for the most part) and was confident they would at least grant me an opportunity based on his scouting, the sign, and lack of human interference. I was ecstatic the moment I got off the plane. I had several days of hard hunting in front of me and intended to make the most of every minute.

And I did. I logged over 40 hours on stand and saw a total of three deer — all at once with no shots. The weather was good, save for a little bit of rain at the beginning and end, the locations were fantastic, and the sits were enjoyable. Everything was in place with the exception of the deer.

Steve was flabbergasted. He was certain I would have an opportunity with all of the preparation he had put in. He was still droning on about it on the way to the airport.

“I’m sorry Nick.” I did all I could, Brother. There was sign everywhere, the acorns were dropping, the wind was fine for the most part. I don’t get it.”

“Well, that’s hunting I guess. These are still wild animals we are talking about.”

“Yeah, I know, but I’m still irritated. I hate to see you go home empty-handed again.”

“There’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to bowhunting. That’s why I love it.”

“Well, I’m starting to think you’re just bad luck.”

“Could be.”

“Or that you smell bad. Real bad.”

“That is probably true.”

“Well, I can tell you one thing…we are never hunting in Georgia again. If you visit, you’re coming down to fish. We can hunt some other damn place.”

“Fishing it is.”

Luck is a funny thing — especially when it comes to hunting. Some people believe in it to the point of superstition and adopt rituals to preserve it. Others think it is rubbish. Then there are those who blame it when bad things happen but scoff at being “lucky” when it swings in their favor. I have spent time in every camp and am still not sure where I belong.

I’ve had good and bad experiences afield. I’ve been blessed and I’ve been cursed. I’ve been lucky and I’ve been unlucky. But I’ve always been fortunate. And I’ll never stop trying.

I’d like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and pray that you find GOOD luck the remainder of this hunting season. In the meantime, tune in to the Traditional Outdoors podcast. Also, with Christmas around the corner, please consider purchasing a signed copy of my book Life and Longbows. You can find it here or on Amazon in both print and on Kindle. Good Bless You!

 

 

 

 

 

Shot Placement and Arrow Lethality

This setup comes to 822g with 400g of point weight.

Buckle up. Its the main event. A match for the ages.

I’m not even going to pretend to hide my bias here. I believe in heavy hunting arrows, FOC, and Ashby’s 12 points of penetration. Does my current setup meet all of the points? No, but I am very close, with 10 out of the 12 checked. (I’ll be looking at single bevel heads in 2019).

I want a passthrough whenever possible. Two holes are better than one, even if the one is wide. When placed in the correct spot at an optimal time, this goal will be achieved with most setups, even those of a sub-optimal formula. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if the wild, unpredictability of nature should interfere with our perfect scenario? We are hunting wild game in a wild element after all.

My very first deer fell to a passthrough at 25 yards. I was shooting a 2117 aluminum with a 145g broadhead that was nowhere near as sharp as it could have been. Still, it whipped through the hide, slipped through the ribs, and deflated both lungs before landing in the snow on the other side. The red spray was intoxicating. There was electricity in the air and pride in my heart. I would’ve written the greatest broadhead testimonial the bowhunting world had ever seen had it been requested at the moment. And it would’ve had to have been at that moment. A second doe crossed my path minutes later; and while I repeated the action — the results were different.

She was closer — 10 yards away — but knew something was amiss. We played the game hunters play with wary deer. I was waiting for my moment. She was waiting for my movement. I was young and new to the game. I knew little of shooting at spooked deer and a broadside target at ten yards proved too good to pass up. I was going to tag out my first season afield — with a longbow no less.

Things went as you might expect. I released, she spun, and the arrow caught her in the shoulder. The impact was enough to put her to the ground, but 4″ of penetration wasn’t enough to finish the job. She got back up, shook off my arrow, and ran to parts unknown.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. My shot placement was incorrect and the situation was not ideal. This doe was spooked having seen the aftermath of my first kill. She knew I was there but was curious enough to linger. While I feel I should have aimed lower or passed on the shot altogether, the results would have been different with an arrow that was optimized for penetration. I am almost certain the shot would have been lethal. Despite my error in judgement, a sharper broadhead with a tanto point, and at least 200g of additional weight would have made a big difference.

That being said, I do not condone advocating for heavy, weight-forward setups as an excuse for practicing poor shot placement or bad woodsmanship. That is silly and no ethical traditionalist is doing that.

 

All bowhunters strive for optimal shot placement. If they do not, they shouldn’t be bowhunters. It is that simple. As Isaac Jestus stated in episode 20 of the Traditional outdoors podcast, proper shot placement should be assumed. This is why the shot placement argument is met with such animosity when brought up in conversation. It is inherently offensive to an archer. You are basically telling them to “shoot better”.
Arrow lethality is a failsafe that we can all practice with a little bit of education and tuning. It is not an excuse to shoot poorly. It never was. Ed Ashby conducted research for us to do what we do in a more effective way. He never said “go forth and shoot shoulders”.
On the other side of the spectrum, it isn’t necessary to force opinions and make people feel foolish either. As Todd Smith expressed, “When people tell me something is working for them, I tell them to stick with it.” Bingo. Guys like Todd and Isaac are willing to educate, not judge. This is the proper approach. You are never going to convince someone to try something new by ridiculing what they are already doing. It doesn’t work in politics. It doesn’t work in religion. And it isn’t going to work in bowhunting.
I think we could all take a step back from the keypad and think about how we are communicating with each other. It would be better for the community overall.
For those who are interested in the Traditional Outdoors episode I am referring to, click here. If you are interested in arrow lethality, check out the Ashby Reports. They are absolutely free and worthy of your time.