Traditional Archery: Hunting with a Longbow
Some folks believe in the old adage that history repeats itself. I remember switching from my recurve as a boy to the compound bow. It was easier to shoot, more accurate and just a cool way to hunt deer. It appeared the traditional archery gear was obsolete, and to many it was. There were a few die-hards around that refused to relinquish their recurve or longbow. I knew a few that even knapped their own broadheads like the Indians did for so long. The common term I used and heard many others use back then was “man those traditional guys are crazy” just before releasing another arrow from a high-tech compound bow into a 2-inch group at 40 yards.
Fast forward a few decades now and you see more and more bow hunters choosing to shoot a traditional bow. Whether a recurve bow or a longbow, traditional archery offers challenge as well as nostalgia and maybe even a little respect for those who pioneered the art of traditional archery hunting, like Fred Bear and Ron LaClair. Or you would like to harvest one more deer with your grandfather’s bow or your dad’s old recurve to honor them for passing along the great outdoors to you.
I have my dad’s old recurve hanging in my office. It’s the bow that I started with 40 years ago. I have many memories of hunting with that old bow, a couple of them are at the top of all my bowhunting memories I have wanted to practice with it and take a deer on the ground one more time like my dad did so long ago. Ironically, I live just across the lake from where he hunted with the recurve, and I hunt there now. He harvested a few deer with it there which I remember as a kid. These are good reasons to return to traditional archery, but it is hard to lay down the trusted compound bow with its release, sights, and consistent draw point that makes accuracy easy compared to a recurve or a longbow.
I have a friend here in Kentucky that had just that problem until he finally did it. Chad Crepps is an avid bowhunter and has taken several great bucks with his compound bow. He told me that he picked up the recurve and/or a longbow over the years and just could not make himself relinquish the compound bow come deer season. This year was different. Chad said he wanted to shoot a longbow and was bound and determined to do it this season, and he did. As any true bowhunter knows bowhunters are not short on patience and that is what was needed in this case, but after practicing and feeling confident out to 20 yards Chad decided it was time to make it happen.
Traditional Archery Hunting Over Scrapes
The range of the longbow is probably one of the biggest deterrents to people shooting a compound bow. You must get close and for many traditional archers, 20 yards is the max. So, I asked Chad how he planned the stand site to get so close to such an awesome buck. The answer didn’t surprise me at all. Scrapes. As a bowhunter you learn a lot about deer and their behavior. This is a vital component to getting in a position where you can make a 20-yard shot. Well-worn trails are a good way to do it and rub lines can work or maybe a stand of white oaks that are dropping along a ridgeline, but probably the single best tactic for close encounters with a mature buck, other than bait, is to hunt over an active scrape.
This is exactly how Chad planned this hunt and it paid off big time with a buck of a lifetime for many hunters. Chad says that he creates mock scrapes and begins making them early, like July early, to get them established on his property. The licking branch is crucial for getting deer to visit a scrape. The preorbital scent gland, located in the corner of a deer’s eye, is a scent marker that deer use to tell other deer this is my area. Chad had a buck picked out that he had passed on for 3 seasons and knew that he loved to scrape and to work any scrape he could find. This was the perfect scenario for Chad to harvest his first buck with a longbow.
On this hunt the scrape that Chad hunted over was an active natural scrape. He knew that the buck was hitting the scrape regularly and to top it off, not surprisingly, it was in the middle of a white oak stand on a ridgetop. Chad was pretty sure where the buck was bedding, and the ridge was a couple of hundred yards from there. The white oaks were the only acorns dropping on this particular ridge and Chad knew that there would be deer all over him as he waited for the buck to come in and work the scrape.
On this day Chad told me that there were does under his tree constantly, some for as long as a couple of hours at a time. “The wind had to be right to hunt this spot,” Chad said. It is tough to not spook a deer when they are around you for that long. It would just be fodder for the story and thankfully when the buck came in to work the scrape all the does hit the road. Now Chad only had the buck to fool during the shot.
The scrape was just 20 yards away from Chad’s stand which was situated in one of those giant white oaks. A limb protected the buck while he thrashed the scrape letting everything in the area know he was the dominant one. Twenty minutes later the buck finished tending to his scrape and stepped clear of the limb. Chad told me it was nerve-racking to watch him work that scrape for so long, but it was something he wouldn’t trade for the world. It’s such a big part of the beauty of bowhunting. To witness deer behaving naturally for extended amounts of time is something most people will never encounter.
With the buck clear of the limb Chad instinctively took aim and all the practice and woodsmanship came together at 17 yards. It was the perfect longbow hunt and one that many will only dream about. The buck scored 153” and will make the Pope and Young record buck. To harvest any buck with a longbow is an accomplishment for sure, but to take one of this caliber is a true triumph.
In closing, I want to share with you the answer to the question that many of you may be asking as you read this article. Chad, is this a one-and-done victory for you? Are you going back to the compound bow or sticking with the longbow? Chad’s answer was swift and matter of fact. “I am hooked, I think. I don’t see myself picking up my compound bow in the foreseeable future, if ever. In fact, I’m having a custom longbow built as we speak.” Chad said with a chuckle.