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Patience, practice keys for bowhunters

For most bowhunters early seasis for antlerless deer. The chase for trophy bucks such as Mel Johnson’s 1965 record from

For most bowhunters, the early season is for antlerless deer. The chase for trophy bucks, such as Mel Johnson’s 1965 record from Peoria County, comes later. | For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 30, 2013 6:25AM

The question I put to Fred Lutger was about the biggest mistake new bowhunters make. His answer applied more broadly.

‘‘As far as hunting, not being patient,’’ he said. ‘‘That goes for new hunters and older hunters themselves. You picked a spot because deer are there. Wait them out. Don’t get out and push them around. Have the patience to wait them out.’’

Ouch. I am only a gun hunter and have made that mistake for decades, be it for deer, turkey or squirrels.

Bowhunting for deer begins Tuesday in Illinois. It is the most involving form of hunting in the state. The 160,000-plus bowhunters trail only firearm deer hunters for individual participation.

‘‘The number of archery hunters and the number of gun hunters have both increased, but the increase in archery numbers has been higher,’’ forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton said.

Adding to that, bowhunters average 19 days afield, according to the 2012 Hunter Harvest Survey. So in terms of days afield, bowhunters for deer are by far No. 1.

That shift in interest in bowhunting is why I called Lutger on Thursday. His Freddie Bear Sports in Tinley Park has been around for three decades and has been at the forefront of the revolution in bowhunters and bowhunting equipment.

As to more suggestions for beginning bowhunters, he said, ‘‘Practice at several distances.’’

He said the first pin should be set at 15 yards from the base. He then would set yard pins for something like 24, then 35 or 40.

‘‘Most shots are 20 yards or less, [but they are] occasionally longer if the deer is standing at 40 yards broadcast,’’ Lutger said. ‘‘And use a range finder because they will give the exact yardage.’’

Think irons or woods in golf.

‘‘I used to practice out to 80 yards,’’ Lutger said.

But he was a competitive shooter, as well as a hunter.

He pointed out that most deer hunting in Illinois is close in, the exception being open fields.

Speaking of open fields, crop harvest is well behind the near-record pace of last fall.

‘‘Based on our hunter-observation data, that generally impacts the number of deer seen,’’ Shelton said. ‘‘However, that doesn’t always translate directly into reduced harvest. If it does, the firearm hunters are usually happy to pick up the slack.’’

There generally is not much slack to pick up.

With the increase in bowhunting, a parallel increase in bowhunting technology came.

‘‘Carbon arrows are straight, not like wood or aluminum arrows,’’ Lutger said. ‘‘They don’t bend.’’

The arrows have smaller vanes and lighter arrowheads, so they shoot faster and hit with higher impact.

‘‘It has really flattened out the trajectory from what it was 20 or 30 yeas ago,’’ Lutger said.

And that goes along with a hope of Shelton’s.

‘‘We hope they hit their target when they attempt a harvest,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve always been supportive in that regard. In my experience, a little practice will help that become a reality.’’

The reality this fall is far different from last fall. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease hit nearly all counties last fall, but only a few reports of EHD have come in so far this year.

There is a subset of change coming within bowhunting, one I know well with a daughter.

‘‘You should see the women coming in,’’ Lutger said. “Once they try it, they find out what fun it is. Our sales of ladies’ bows has really gone up.’’


Twitter: @BowmanOutside

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