Midsummer Bowhunt

June and July are somewhat dead months for bowhunters. Other than taking a trip to California to hunt Blacktails, the options are pretty limited besides punching paper and foam in preparation for the fall season. Scouting deer is a possibility, but other than an evening spent glassing half-grown racks or running cameras, there isn’t much to do. 

For some reason, I seem to forget most of this stuff each year and then I tend to get kind of crabby as June ends and July starts. It takes a few days before I figure out that my sour mood stems from feeling like I’m not doing much deer-wise, or worse, bowhunting-wise. 

I was getting this way last week when a friend of mine mentioned he had never bowfished in his life. That was all it took before I was in my living room rigging up an extra bow for him and we had a day on a nearby lake planned. We met at the landing and I showed him the basics of bowfishing, which, truth be told, are pretty basic. 

Since he didn’t have a preference on bow or reel choice, I set him up with a 40-pound recurve and an easy-to-use reel. After a few awkward shots at lily pads, he said he was ready to go and we started cruising the shallows looking for a carp with a death wish. 

We saw tons of bluegills and bass, but no carp. It was frustrating but eventually a pair of squabbling mallards on a dock spooked a pair of carp in our direction. I told Josh to get ready and we waited as the scaled duo glided toward us. His shot hit the water low, which is not often the case with bowfishing newbies. My follow-up shot, as both fish took off, missed as well. 

We regrouped and kept going. It took awhile before we located another carp. Josh took a shot and his arrow sliced through the water closer to the fish than his first shot, but not close enough. I sent another harmless follow-up shot into the water and the weeds. While we scanned the milfoil for cruising carp, we spotted enough bass to get us to put down our bows and pick up the fishing rods. 

The bass, long done spawning, were lying shallow under any available cover waiting to snatch up passing bluegills. It was the kind of fishing that necessitated staying as far back as possible and feathering our line so that our plastics would hit the water as softly as possible with each cast. The sheer number of shallow fish created competition among the bass as long as they weren’t spooked by our approach. We hooked and landed quite a few of them. 

Then, while scanning near shore for a largemouth, I spotted a carp loafing away. Josh and I scrambled to get our shooting gloves on and get our bows ready. When we did, I leaned on my foot-control pedal and maneuvered us toward shore. The carp had disappeared, but I could see a spot where continuous bubbles floated through the water column and popped on the surface. 

I told Josh to concentrate on that spot. When we got close we could see the carp rooting through the mud for some kind of tasty treat. Josh waited until we were nearly on top of the carp before drawing and sending his arrow on its way. When the arrow hit, it stopped, and then started to vibrate, which is always a good sign. 

He hand-lined the carp into the boat and our focus shifted from bass to bowfishing in an instant. While it wasn’t lights-out by any measure, the fact that we got to bowhunt for something for a few hours was a good way to tamp down the premature eagerness that some of us know can take a strong hold on us this time of year. I know carp aren’t deer, but they are better than nothing, and it sure feels good to sneak up on them and feel that familiar tension of the bowstring.

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