If our forefathers, who hunted with a homemade long bow and shot instinctively, could come forward in time and see the modern archer heaving forth with all his "necessities" he'd be more than shocked. Some hope that using modern technology and equipment will short-cut them to success. Still it boils down to an archer having to have some idea where his quarry is going to travel so he can set up in its path. A deer must be about 35 yards of an archer for him to get a good shot at it. Then the deer must walk just right, turn just right and be in the clear for the arrow to slice through the brush and woods and hit cleanly.
Archery hunting is not easy but it is fun. One out of every ten hunters in Pennsylvania is a bowhunter. Bowhunting is the state's and in fact, the nation's fastest-growing shooting sport. Shooting a bow and arrow is fun whether one ever goes hunting. Tournaments are big business, attracting thousands and my own son is very caught up in 3 D tournaments.
A Game Commission biologist has some good advice for bowhunters in this drought year. Though not as severe as some previous years, effects of drought have to be considered, for they may have made changes in deer's movement patterns. Just hoofing it to your old favorite stand may not be productive this year.
"There are places where acorn and other mast production is down because of the drought," said biologist Dr. George Kelly. "It's just as true in farm country too. Fields in some places that normally have standing field corn in archery season have already been chopped into silage because crop development has been stunted by the drought.
"This is a year where a hunter better scout and make sure deer are traveling through the favorite areas before he decides to hunt there," Kelly advised. "Find out where deer are feeding and finding water, and make stands there."
That's good advice. Hunters really are such creatures of habit that we will stick with the same stand day after day, even when we aren't seeing anything there, just because it "used to be good." That goes for rifle season too.
According to the Game Commission, the role of bowhunters has become increasingly more important in the state's deer management program. When the first bow hunting season was introduced a couple decades ago, it was thought they were just giving a few hunters who liked a specialized method a time to hunt. But yearly, the number of archers increased until now, archers harvest significant numbers of deer and that cannot be ignored.
In 1972, I bagged my first buck with bow and arrow. It was a milestone for me. Despite the protestings of friends and family that I simply could not go hunting alone, I had, by myself, scouted the woods and selected my stand. When I bagged that first deer, I felt the pride of accomplishment.
But I hadn't considered how the heck was I going to get this 100 pounds of deer the half mile to my vehicle. I quickly found that I was not strong enough to pull a deer out of the woods with my arms like my male buddies did. So I hid the deer in some brush, hiked to my truck, drove to town and telephoned (this was the age before cell phones) my husband and son to come the 40 miles to my hunting spot and drag this deer for me. I realized if I was going to hunt alone, I had to find way to get a deer out of the woods. Through trial and error I fastened on the way to do it.
I use a wide gun sling (any wide piece of leather would do. A narrow strip will curl and bite into your flesh.) and have a metal grommet put in each end. Next take 2 lengths of rope, each about 5 to 6 feet long. Put one length of rope through one end of the sling, through the grommet. Put the second length of rope through the other sling end. Affix an alligator clip on the end of each piece of rope. Loop the end of one length of rope around the deer's neck. (Pull the two front legs up next to the head and wrap the rope around head and legs. This makes the drag even easier.) Secure it by clipping the alligator clip on the rope just above the deer's neck. Do the same with the other length of rope.
Now step inside the area between the deer's head and the sling. Fix the sling against your hips. Reach back with your hands and grip the rope on each side with your hands and simply walk that deer out with your legs.
Go at your own pace. You will be surprised at how this rig simplifies the onerous chore of dragging a deer. Some years ago, at a Becoming An Outdoorswoman Workshop I explained this rig to those in my course. The next year, at the same workshop in another county, one of the women told how she had made one of these deer drags and had easily dragged her deer from the woods.
This simple drag will work for anybody. It is especially effective for women because we have much more strength in our legs than in our arms. From that first day to this one, I use that same drag.