October 28, 2010
By Eddie Claypool
In this game, there's no such word as downtime
By Eddie Claypool
For a longtime now, I've been blessed to be able to spend a tremendous amount of time bowhunting each year. From August through January of each year, I spend most of my time trekking over hill and dale somewhere on one of my do-it-yourself adventures. Even when all the bow seasons are over, you'll still find me diligently spending most of my spare time working toward future hunting opportunities. For me, bowhunting is a true passion--a way of life. Many have been the time that I've made the statement, "I'm a blessed man; if I died today, I've lived large--spent more time afield than most guys will in 10 lifetimes."
To be successful in the field you must first be successful at the range, especially if you want to hunt year-round. Practice at unknown distances at life-size targets to become acquainted with real-life hunting situations.
On the other hand, being the blue-collar guy that I am, it's a full-time job to manage my life in a manner that allows me to bowhunt at such a top-end level. The sacrifices are many, but to me, it's always been a labor of love. After all, in bowhunting, as with everything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it.
Following, please allow me to share with you all of the many aspects of my year-round bowhunting lifestyle. This accomplished, you can then decide if such a way of life could--or should--ever become reality for you. Here's how the rubber meets the road for this working-class-stiff--a self-confessed junkie of the bowhunting cult...
Ever heard the old saying, "ace of all trades, master of none?" In the case of my life, nothing could be truer because for the past 28 years I've done construction work. My employer, place, type and time of work are constantly varying. This lifestyle has allowed me to make decent wages, yet I'm not "tied down" to any certain job.
I often work six to seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day from late-January until mid-August, then I "check it in" for the remainder of the year--no strings attached! What it all boils down to is this: where there's a will, there's a way; if you want something bad enough, you'll find a way to make it happen. It just so happens in my case, that the thing I want very badly is time afield--and a lot of it--bow in hand!
As for you, what's your story? Got enough time? Make it, or you're out of the game before you get to first base--unless of course, you choose to pay someone to do everything for you (hiring an outfitter), in which case, this little spill on do-it-yourself, year-round bowhunting isn't for you anyway. On the other hand, if you're the independent type who wishes to become a consummate outdoorsman, then there's no shortcut to success--you've got to take the time. Beg, borrow or steal time, apply it in a year-round effort and you'll soon see great improvements in your bowhunting prowess.
In a discussion about hunting time, the topic would not be complete without taking a moment to address the issue of family. Certainly, in our efforts to bowhunt full-time, we find ourselves stealing as much time as possible. However, our bowhunting passion must never overshadow priority number one--our family. Now, here, if you're one of the rare guys (or gals) that are determined to remain single, totally unattached "freebirds," you can skip all this talk about husband/wife/children responsibilities and move on to the next section. However, if you're like most of us who have a family, let me say this from experience: It's easy to get caught up in the do-it-yourself, full-time-bowhunting world to such an extent that your family suffers wrongly--don't do it.
For the average archery hunter, the spring and summer months are usually a time to relax. However, this is untrue for the full-timer.
On the other hand, if you have a family that enjoys sharing your outdoor passion, certainly include them in it! They can be great support, while at the same time, themselves learning to appreciate the great out-of-doors. I'm blessed to have a daughter that truly appreciates and respects the environment, and a wife who shares my bowhunting passion in her own, unique way.
Support--mentally, physically and spiritually--from my loved ones has helped me to excel greatly in the pursuit of my dreams. I'm living proof that a guy who doesn't make a living from the hunting industry, and who is married with children, can still find the ability to bowhunt year-round.
Walking The Walk
Now, we're getting to the real meat-and-potatoes part of becoming a full-time archery hunter, the part where we look at the logistics of combining all the ingredients necessary to achieve top-end success as a do-it-yourselfer. Please allow me to ramble€¦
In the reality of my full-time bowhunting world, I spend more time and effort each year looking for and acquiring access to hunting properties than I actually spend hunting! Unless you're leasing a place to hunt, landowner relations are key to access success. Get land ownership booklets, county road maps and then put the rubber on the road. Make phone calls, knock on doors, establish personal friendships--herein lies the "whole ball of wax" for the "self" hunter.
Okay, we've already established the stark necessity of supplying a liberal dose of the two intangibles, desire and time. If you're applying these to your bowhunting efforts, woods savvy will be an inevitable, priceless dividend. By placing your warm body afield as much as possible--both in-season and out--you'll be well on your way to meat in the freezer and "big bone" on your wall.
One of the most overlooked aspects of most bowhunting efforts lies in "post" and "pre" season scouting. Every year, the beginning of my next bow season starts at the end of my last bow season--get that? Whenever I lay my bow down, I grab maps and pruning gear, and tackle my area with reckless abandon.
Whether bowhunting in the Rockies of Colorado or the rolling hills of Missouri, a full-time archery hunter should be in peak physical condition.
I thoroughly scout every nook and cranny of the habitat, recording all pertinent data. I also locate and prepare new stand locations, effectively trimming surroundin
g vegetation. Finally, whenever I've finished all this "field work," I take the landowner a gift and offer to help him with any work that he might need help doing. At this point, as you can easily see, my "next season" has long-since begun in earnest.
As the next autumn approaches, I take up where I left off the preceding winter. I make a trip to the landowner's residence to make sure that I'm still welcome on his property. I once again offer my services as a laborer, and leave a gift whenever I depart.
If I'm going to hunt during the early season, I'll return to the property shortly before the season opener and make another thorough scouting trip of the area. By combining a little bit of foot scouting and some long distance glassing of feeding areas from afar, I can get an excellent idea of the current patterns of the local deer herd.
I use my early season hunts as a means of getting my "woods smarts" about me, while at the same time, I'll go ahead and "spill blood" on a few does. After all, a freezer full of meat can go a long ways toward making you a more patient hunter later in the season when you'll be holding out for a trophy.
Another thing that I accomplish on these early season junkets is to make quick checks of the stand sites that I'll be hunting during the rut. Make sure that last winter's pruning efforts were adequate, because the new growth from the past summer can pose some serious problems with shooting lanes. In addition to all the dividends I receive from my early season time afield, I also spend midday times driving back roads in search of new hunting areas--you can't have too many of those you know!
Even though I expend a lot of time and work during the early whitetail season, all this sacrifice is focused around one primary goal--bow-killing a whopper buck (or two) in the month of November. Since we all know that probably 90-percent of the big bucks harvested each autumn are taken during the peak breeding season, be sure to not burn yourself out, and/or use up most of your time off, during the early bow season. Get mentally and physically prepared for the "gonzo" effort soon to come. Take a lunch--and maybe a book--and stay all day when "crunch time" hits in early November.
No Down Time
Even serious archery hunters often consider the spring and summer months to be "downtime" in relation to bowhunting efforts. For the full-time enthusiast, nothing could be farther from the truth. For instance, in early spring there's shed-antler hunting and turkey hunting. Here is an excellent chance to bowhunt, while at the same time, acquiring an even better understanding of some of your deer hunting areas.
As soon as these pursuits are finished, you can dive full-time into 3-D shooting. Combine these efforts with occasional trips to your nearest pro-shop offering "video" or "techno" hunts and you're well on your way to mastering the "moment of truth" that you'll surely face next autumn. While pursuing these avenues of betterment, be sure to maintain a well-rounded program of physical conditioning--no room for fat on that backcountry elk hunt that you should be going on soon!
The author works long and hard to achieve his ultimate goal of bowhunting full-time. The results have been phenomenal.
Along this line of thinking, any discussion on full-time bowhunting would not be complete without addressing the issue of "far away places" and "strange critters." Western deer, elk and antelope hunts are well within reach of the average do-it-yourselfer.
Certainly, by expanding your bowhunting efforts to include many species--in many different types of habitat--you can do a much better job of becoming an excellent outdoorsmen. It has certainly been my experience that the mental and physical toughness gleaned from these outings has paid me great dividends in the whitetail woods also--not to mention the fact that such trips can double the amount of time that you spend bowhunting each year!
Mid-summer is also a time to go through all your old gear and make sure it is in good order for the upcoming season. If you kept good notes on your last season, there are probably plenty of suggestions to be found there on ways to improve and/or modify some of the stuff you're already using.
Most likely, you will have jotted down some ideas for new gear that you need for the upcoming season as well. Right here is the perfect time to break into your piggy bank and spring for some new toys. Hey, even shopping is an important support activity in the well-rounded archery hunter's plan of attack!
I Have A Dream
I'll stick my neck out here and say that most hard-core archery hunters have one common trait at the center of their make-up--they are dreamers, planners, wishful thinkers. It's the lure of the unknown and the love of a good challenge that fuels the fire inside them. It's an unexplainable desire to match themselves against the great outdoors that push them to excel at their pursuit. The more time they spend afield, the stronger they fantasize about partaking of more.
In sharing a consuming desire for more time afield, we archery hunters are of a kindred spirit. Beyond this common link however, few are ever able, or willing, to bring to fruition a lifestyle of full-time bowhunting--but then again, this is only as it should be. After all, if everyone was bowhunting full-time, well, you can only imagine the problems!
Realistically, it's okay to dream about taking it to the limit, but don't let such fantasy detract from your current level of enjoyment--simply bowhunt, be happy and have fun--this is the true essence of what the pursuit is all about. And believe me, the forbidden fruit isn't always what it's cracked up to be.
Sometimes it's better to simply strive for a goal, than to actually reach it. At least that's what I tell myself each year after I've just finished hammering myself with another timberline buck hunt€¦another backcountry elk hunt€¦another zillion hours in a whitetail tree stand. Oh well, it's a dirty job, but someone has to do it! And by the way, if you're a full time archery hunter that simply has more good places to hunt than you can handle, just let me know and I'll call for the help of a certain full-time archery hunter that I know€¦Captain Claypool to the rescue!