Archery season in South Carolina reminds me of Christmas when I was a kid. But not in a good way. It’s like that one gift that was wrapped so perfectly and looked so promising. I’d rip off that paper and tear into the box, only to find myself disappointed at the sight of a half dozen new socks or a pack of underwear.
As much as I do enjoy my summers, it’s our spring turkey and fall deer seasons that really get my heart pumping. And, as a bowhunter, I feel that we always seem to get the short end of the stick when this time of year finally gets here.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why our state chooses to devote a mere two weeks in the heat of late summer to the most sporting way of hunting deer.
Sure, I realize that this week we “officially” entered fall according to the calendar, but you never can tell that by the temperatures that we’re always forced to endure in this joke of a bow season that we’re given and I simply can’t understand why.
Let’s consider a few facts, shall we?
Hunting with archery equipment requires that we get extremely close to our quarry, which happens to have the best nose of any critter wandering the woods. Those of you who don’t hunt might not realize it, but a deer can sniff out a drop of human sweat from a distance of hundreds of yards.
Still, when we are deer hunting with a bow in these parts, we’re forced to walk in with our equipment from a pretty fair distance, which gives us plenty of opportunity to be soaked with sweat by the time we arrive at the stand.
We then pour even more while climbing up and getting settled in the tree and every bowhunter out there can tell you that by the time he or she is all set up and ready, their eyes are burning from the salty brine that is washing down their face.
Countless more drops of sweat are falling off of the end of our nose and infiltrating the entire area with that much more human scent.
Add to that the known behavior of deer during this time of year and the odds get even worse. Since deer can’t read a calendar, their behavior is dictated by the weather and the amount of daylight in each day.
As the days shorten, they are naturally inclined to move from their summer patterns into their preparations for the fall breeding season. But the one thing that’s guaranteed to shut down their movement is heat. When the mercury is up, they simply don’t wander around a whole lot.
Despite knowing all of this, South Carolina chooses to be about as backward as you can get. We bring in the hunting season while the temps are still into the high 80s, and tease those of us who use a bow by giving us all of about 14 days to “enjoy” it before the first shots are fired by those toting muzzleloaders.
With the crack of that first firearm going off, the chances of anyone getting within bow range of a deer on property that is shared with gun hunters is only slightly better than those of winning the lottery.
That doesn’t mean that I’m against hunting with firearms — I can assure you I’m not. I do, however, feel that muzzleloaders should be seen for what they really are, which is no longer the weapon used by our ancestors.
Gone are the flintlocks of old with flashpans for holding powder. Gone are the days of short-range, inaccurate lead balls being fired by them, too.
Today’s inline muzzleloaders fire bullets that actually look like bullets and are highly accurate even beyond 200 yards. How’s that really any different than using a bolt action rifle?
If it were up to me — and almost certainly the more than 40,000 other bowhunters in South Carolina — everything would be different.
Our archery season wouldn’t even come in until October rolls around and I’d dedicate about six weeks to using just bows and crossbows. We’d bring firearms in mid-November as we approach Thanksgiving.
Of course, I fully realize that even the idea of pushing back the firearms season makes some of you dedicated gun hunters’ blood boil. But it doesn’t take much study on the subject to see that the states with the most heralded deer hunting operate in exactly the manner that I’m advocating and there’s sound biological reasoning behind it.
In that scenario, far fewer yearling bucks are shot each season and the overall quality of bucks in those states is head and shoulders above anything found around here.
You just have to ask yourself, what would I rather have? Continued seasons full of little deer that aren’t worth bragging about, or the opportunity to harvest something that’s actually worthy of having your picture made with?
Since my scenario would move the start of the season back, I’d do the same thing with the closing of it, and allow hunters to stay in the woods clear through the month of January as, again, numerous other states do.
Granted, none of this is anything more than a dream that will never be realized here because our state has a firm history of allowing politics to hold us back.
Because of that, I’ll just continue to travel and concentrate my most serious efforts in those states that manage their resources properly — providing a better opportunity to harvest the type of deer that are truly worth it.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors