Thursday, September 1, 2005
For Dennis Slunaker, getting close to a deer or elk is the "thrill of a lifetime" that separates bow hunting from other types of hunting.
"A lot of times, I'll be watching the animal do something interesting, and I forget to shoot," he said. "That's the part rifle hunters never see -- (deer and elk) have a personality just like dogs and cats."
Slunaker, who has bow hunted for 30 years and lives in Steamboat Springs, is among a growing segment of hunters relishing the challenge of the sport.
In 2004, the Colorado Division of Wildlife issued about 16,000 bow-hunting licenses for elk and about 5,000 licenses for deer, said Randy Hampton, DOW public information specialist for the region.
Those numbers are up from about 16,000 archer licenses issued in 2003.
A big pull for bow hunting is the balmy and beautiful season, which runs from late August through late September -- earlier than other hunting seasons.
"The weather is better, and there's less people," said Rob Syvertson of Craig, who has bow hunted for about 34 years and also is a rifle hunter. "Plus, the animals are less disturbed."
The skill involved in archery -- hunters have to be stealth and have very good aim -- is what attracts hunters such as Slunaker to the sport.
"I feel it's more fair to the animals," said Slunaker, a regional representative of the Colorado Bow Hunters Association. "I have to be within 30 yards to hit. I'm matching my wits to theirs."
The learning curve for bow hunting can be steep, with most hunters going four to six year before taking home an animal, he said.
Last year, in Game Management Unit 14, which runs east of Steamboat and north almost to Wyoming, 4 percent of bow hunters harvested deer, compared with 30 percent of rifle hunters, Hampton said.
Overall, about 18 percent of bow hunters harvested an animal in Northwest Colorado in 2004, he said.
Experienced hunters have a good feel for an animal's behavior, foreseeing their movements before taking a shot.
Quality shots are important: Hunters should aim for an animal's lung cavity, just behind its shoulder. Hunters farther than 30 to 40 yards away risk wounding an animal, Slunaker said.
A well-placed arrow is as quick a kill as a rifle shot, with animals expiring in about 11 seconds.
Bow hunters also like that the sport is affordable, with equipment costing between about $500 and $1,000. Hunters can reuse arrows hundreds of times, he said.
It's important to purchase equipment from a knowledgeable dealer. Fort Collins, Meeker and Grand Junction are good places to find such dealers, Slunaker said.