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Bow Hunters Finding Success

Bow hunting is not an easy sport. Hunters don’t just string up the compound bow and start letting the arrows fly.

The work begins before the season even starts. Hunters scout the woods looking for signs of “hooking” — a process where male deer rub their antlers against a tree, leaving marks that allow the hunter to determine the height and size of the bucks before pursuing them.

“Scrapings” are also tell-tale evidence that deer are frequenting a certain area. In the “pre-rut”, bucks will paw the dirt to release the urine scent of does that are coming into their breeding cycle.

Once the deer are located, a bow hunter then prepares to take to the woods.

Hunters must rise before dawn, a circumstance that has precluded me from becoming a bow hunter — I like to sleep in.

The next step is setting up a tree stand in the scouted area. Bow hunters need to be up high to get a good view of their targets. They also need to be close to the deer if the arrow is going to fly true.

“The ideal is a clear shot of 30 yards or less,” says John Downing of Enfield.

Downing, who teaches the state mandated hunter safety course, took his first deer in September. He waited patiently in his stand as the quarry, a good-sized doe, came into range. He sighted in and released the arrow.

The shot was perfect, striking the area right behind the shoulder, piercing the heart. The doe dropped to the ground, allowing Downing to avoid the often tedious process of chasing down a deer that runs before it finally falls.

Bow season is one of the few times that hunters are allowed to take female deer.

“Harvesting does is an essential part of game management,” says Dean Vanier of Canaan. “If a young doe has not yet produced offspring, she’s taking food away from members of the herd that are producing.”

Though Vanier has not yet taken a deer this season, his wife, Rachelle, has harvested an eight-point buck already.

Responsible, conscientious hunters eat what they kill or donate the meat to one of several food banks.

Vanier enjoys venison which can be pricey when purchased over the counter.

“Vension goes for $17.50 a pound at the Co-op,” Vanier says, “so that’s quite a savings when you harvest it yourself. It’s also completely organic and mostly fat-free.”

Bow hunting, like all outdoor endeavors, often becomes a family affair. Shay Emerson of Enfield hunts with her husband and her daughter.

“My husband taught me everything I know,” says Emerson. “He also does all the scouting.”

Her hubby must be a good scout — Emerson harvested a seven point buck that weighed in at 156 pounds.

With all the work involved with bow hunting, Emerson still believes the toughest part of the preparation is carrying the 24-pound tree stand through the woods.

Emerson’s 15-year-old daughter, Jennifer, also gets into the act. Jennifer suffers from a degenerative nerve condition, but that has not stopped her from hitting the woods with her mother. The hunts are therapeutic for both of them.

Emerson field dresses her quarry and usually does the butchering. However, if she is too busy she will take the deer to a specialist who charges for the cutting. The fee for butchering can vary but is usually under a hundred dollars.

Her favorite recipe: “Slice the meat into chunks and wrap it in bacon, then cook it on the grill. It’s really tasty.”

Because venison can be a little dry, I prefer the meat when it’s ground up with beef fat and sautéed with garlic, onions and green peppers.

Even though does can be harvested during bow season, that doesn’t mean every hunter takes advantage of the situation.

John Pelkey of Enfield doesn’t automatically take a shot at every deer that walks under his tree stand.

“I like to wait,” says Pelkey. “I’d prefer to take a buck if possible. Sometimes I’ll let four or five deer walk under me before I take a shot.”

Pelkey confesses to being “stamped out” this season. He has harvested two deer with his bow so he is eager for firearms season to begin.

Bird Hunting Also Under Way

In a stocking program that dates back a hundred years, N.H. Fish and Game releases more than 12,000 ring-necked pheasants for a season that runs through Dec. 31. This accounts for an average of 140 birds on sites in 10 counties. The sites, which include Enfield, can be viewed on the Fish and Game website.

Pheasant hunting is made possible by private land owners who allow their fields to be used for the program. So when hunting for these colorful and tasty birds, remember to respect the private land by closing gates, parking in areas that do not block private roads, controlling all hunting dogs and not littering.

And above all, don’t ever let off a shot in the direction of any house or other structure.

Though it is an unpleasant topic to address, hunting season also sees its share of poachers. These unscrupulous hunters do not observe the rules. They will use illegal weapons and techniques to take more game that the law allows.

To address this situation, N.H. Fish and Game has established a program called Operation Game Thief. Cash rewards are given for tips that lead to the arrest of poachers.

Anyone who wishes to report poaching activity should call 800-344-4262.

Poaching can also be reported on the Fish and Game website.