Traditional Bowhunters of Florida

A Departure from the Norm

 By Gregg Dudley

The sound of several large animals splashing through the creek served to increase my heart rate and heighten my senses.  Focusing on the direction of the sound I spotted three deer working their way through the bottom below me at a steady trot.  I silently willed them to follow the trail up through the saddle that I guarded.  As they headed my way, I reached up and pulled my Dwyer Longbow from the bow hook and prepared for a shot.

What?  (Insert sounds of rewinding here)  Dwyer Longbow?  Those of you who know me are aware that I am a diehard Black Widow recurve shooter!  I’m one of those people who find something they like and stick with it.  If I discover a meal I like at a restaurant I order it every time I go there.  On Saturdays I wear my favorite jeans that my wife, Renee, keeps trying to throw out.  I have a favorite knife that I carry everywhere. I own many bows, but the one that I have taken to shoots and tournaments for the past ten years is a Black Widow PMA II.  It practically springs into my hand when I walked out the door!  What was I doing in a tree with a longbow?  I had asked myself the same question all weekend!

The answer to the question had actually taken root the previous March at the State Championship shoot.  I had taken the Dwyer to the event and put it up for sale.  Every time someone talked to me about it I told them that it was the prettiest bow I had ever seen, that it shot great, and I didn’t really know why I was selling it.  About the third time I gave my sales pitch I talked myself out of selling the bow.  I put it back in my truck and vowed to kill something with it the following season.

When the season started, I remembered my vow.  Each time I headed to my hunting camp I put the longbow in the truck.  However, I always took the Black Widow with me as well.  Invariably I would end up taking the recurve to the woods.  I finally decided that the only way I was going to fulfill my goal of taking a deer with a longbow was going to be by leaving the Widow at home.  So one Thursday afternoon I loaded the truck and left the ole’ faithful Widow on the bow rack.  I hurried to the truck so I wouldn’t change my mind. 

I made the drive up to my hunting lease in Georgia and met up with my hunting partners.  Fred Gimbel and his grandson had come down from New Jersey to join me for a long weekend.  They had been the high bidders for a hunt that I had offered on a Tradgang sponsored auction to benefit St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.I was determined to show them a good time.

The first sit of the trip was a morning hunt. After dropping my guests off at their stands I quickly made my way to mine.  As I settled in to wait for daylight I had time to contemplate my choices for the day.  Had I put the boys in the best spots?  Would they get a shot at a pig or a deer?  Would I get a chance to kill something with my longbow?  It wouldn’t take too long for at least one answer to be revealed.

Thirty minutes after daylight the scene at the start of this story began to unfold.  As the deer came closer I realized that there were two mature does and a yearling in the group.  It soon became clear that they would pass on the left side of my stand.  If all went well they would pass within 18 yards of my stand.  This was both good and bad.  The good part was that I would be able to shoot from a seated position and my movement would be minimized.  The bad part was that they would cross the path that I had walked in on and they might spook when they crossed my scent trail.  I held the Dwyer in readiness as they closed the distance.

As the deer worked their way towards me, I slowly eased my bow into position for the shot.  When the lead doe reached my entry route she put on the breaks and threw her nose in the air.  The doe and yearling that were following her stopped and looked around cautiously to see what was going on.  I waited, albeit impatiently, for the deer to relax.  After a few minutes the doe and yearling in the rear started feeding on the abundant acorns that covered the ground.  A minute or so later the lead doe did the same.  I eased the Dwyer into position and let muscle memory and instinct guide me through the draw and release.

The arrow hit within an inch or two of my “spot” and I knew that the deer wouldn’t go far.  The doe jumped and ran over the crest of the saddle and a few seconds later I heard a crash in the dry oak leaves.I smiled to myself,secure inthe knowledge that the Magnus Stinger had done its job quickly.

I waited in the stand for fifteen minutes and then I got down and snuck out of the woods following a long sweeping route that would take me away from the deer and the other hunters.  Even though I was sure that the deer was down I wanted to err on the side of caution and I knew that I would not do that if I stayed there.  I passed the next several hours in another tree stand on the side of a soybean field watching turkeys feed.  Finally the appointed meeting hour arrived and I set out to pick my guests up from their stands.  I was excited to hear that they had both seen game as well though neither had a shot opportunity.

Together we eased back into the spot where I had shot my doe.  We picked up the blood trail right away and began to follow it at a slow and deliberate pace.  Ten yards into the trail, Fred indicated my arrow lying on the ground.  It was covered with blood and we smiled and gave each other a “thumbs-up” as we continued along.  None of us expected the deer to be very far and we were right.  After cresting the lip of the saddle the doe had quickly piled up at the base of an oak tree.  She had run perhaps 45 yards.  The sharp Magnus broadhead had indeed done the job quickly.

As I posed for pictures with my first longbow trophy I savored the satisfaction of making a quick, clean kill with a simple stick and string.  It was something that I had longed to do for a while, but something that required me to leave my comfort zone to accomplish.As I thought about it I laughed when I considered the fact that it had been much easier for me to ditch the compound completely than it had been to just leave my recurve at home for a weekend.  Both steps had been worth it to accomplish personal fulfillment as a hunter.

I’m back to hunting primarily with my Black Widow now, but I have been known to occasionally show up in camp with the ole’ Dwyer.  I’ve got a primitive bow hanging on the wall now that needs to be blooded.  It just might be time for another “first”…