John Harrigan: Readers respond on missed shots, access to land
My observation that bow hunters and muzzleloaders have to make that first shot count, on the assumption that there won't be a second chance, drew some hoots and some funny stories.
“I have to disagree with the one-shot deal on bow hunting you wrote about in your last article,” one reader wrote. “From a good high tree stand you can get more than one shot at times.
“The deer will jump at the sound of the shot and the arrow deflecting off a small branch of a tree. You know, that dead thin branch I could not make out in the low light between me and my perspective venison steak supply.
“The deer then looks around and can't make out where the sound came from, and so I am tempted again to take a second shot. This scenario can and may repeat itself two or three times.
“I am convinced that any deer taken with a bow, no matter what size or sex, is a trophy deer. It can be very frustrating hunting. When I do manage to bring down a deer with a bow, it is more an act of divine providence than anything else.”
He's right about getting that second shot in some circumstances. An avid bow-hunter once wrote me about letting fly only to have his arrow neatly through and be deflected by an unseen plastic maple sugaring tube. The deer heard the arrow's release, but was so interested in the falling tubing that the hunter had time for a second arrow.
Being high up and out of a deer's normal sight-line is the overriding factor here. And while the same thing can happen during muzzleloader season, reloading after a shot is quite another thing compared to bow-hunting. Before the advent of relatively new in-line loading, a hunter reloading a muzzleloader from the business end was all flapping and flailing arms, reaching for powder, patch and ball, or for pre-loaded cartridges and then starting the load down the muzzle with a ball-starter, and then, as if that weren't movement and sound enough, pulling his ramrod out from under the barrel to ram the new charge home.
This once happened to me in upstate New York, where a fat doe came along by my stand atop a big boulder. She had no idea that I was there, and after I'd squeezed off the shot and missed — don't ask me how — she still had no idea where or what I was, and just stood there looking baffled.
But the minute I went into my Daffy Duck reloading antics, impossible to perform without noise, she was gone like a missile, taking with her all thoughts of venison, for that day at least.
I wish the mail on the second theme of that column was as much fun. I heard, as I do on just about any given week, about longtime hunting lands being posted seemingly overnight, with hunters arriving in the early morning hours at entrances to land they've hunted for generations finding signs every 50 feet saying, basically, “No.”
Every now and then I get mail from landowners who've just posted their property but, down deep, didn't want to. This has everything to do with repeated disrespectful and callous abuse by the certain element of hunters who give all hunting a bad name. I hate to see landowners posting their property for such reasons, but as a landowner myself, I can certainly understand and sympathize, even as I try to point out, trustingly, that hunters in general are not like that at all.
Abuses of the privilege of trespass can sometimes be mitigated by efforts of hunters to make new arrangements with landowners and address old complaints, but it's another category of landowners that gives us so little cause for hope in the long struggle for access to land, which we're steadily losing.
These are landowners who have no background or heritage in hunting and do not understand it in any way. And given the yawning and growing gulf between urban and suburban America and those who live and work on the land, it is by far the harder of the two battles to fight.
John Harrigan's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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