Less Than You Think: Low-Poundage Recurves for Big Game

Video can you hunt with a recurve bow
Less Than You Think: Low-Poundage Recurves for Big Game
I was more nervous about making a good shot on my public-land Georgia bear, than I was about being up close and on the ground with the bear.

from the second I realized it was a bear, I got nervous. It wasn’t the bear that had me apprehensive. It was my equipment and my making the shot. I was hunting public land in the Appalachian Mountains in North Georgia. I was hunting with my friend Steven, a fellow traditional bowhunter who goes by “Tee” and who was going to film my hunt if we found a bear.

To be honest, I didn’t think we would see a bear. A public-land, spot-and-stalk bear hunt with a traditional bow is a tough hunt, especially when the season had already been open for a few weeks, and I was shooting a super-light recurve that was not my normal go-to draw weight.

I was nervous because as I have written about in previous columns, I have struggled recently with some shoulder issues. Things were going well this past year. I was healing up after some physical therapy, and I was excited for the upcoming archery season. Unfortunately, mostly because I am not smart and continue to do things I shouldn’t, I managed to reinjure my shoulder multiple times. Once while throwing hay bales. Once while branding cattle when I tried to throw a calf that was a little too big for one person to handle. And the final coup de grace, was when I involuntarily came off a horse while gathering cattle. The result of all three “accidents” was when I grabbed my Hoyt Satori bow, I couldn’t draw it back.

I was in a panic. There was no way I wasn’t going bowhunting. That was not an option. I am not good enough to try shooting with my teeth like the late Dwight Schuh did when he suffered from shoulder issues, so I had to figure something out.

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I went to a pro shop in Colorado Springs called “The Archery Hut.” My buddy Bill and his wife own it, and I told them I was in desperate need of help. Bill set me up with a Hoyt RX-3 compound set at 40 pounds. I had to draw it toward my belly button, but once it broke over, I think I was holding nine pounds and was able to slowly bring the bow up to my face. It wasn’t what I wanted to shoot, but it was what I could shoot, and that was the key for me. I managed to kill an elk with the RX-3 that I called into 17 yards. Although that hunt was awesome, it just wasn’t like hunting with my recurve, and I wanted to go back to what felt better in my hands.

When I was getting ready to go bear hunting in Georgia with Tee a few weeks later, I called him and said I was struggling with my shoulder, and that I might bring my compound instead of my recurve. Although I am not a traditional snob who thinks if it’s not a stickbow it’s not bowhunting, I do prefer it.

Tee was fine with whatever bow I chose to hunt with, but I could tell in his voice he was a little disappointed. He mentioned he had wanted me to bring what he had seen me shoot on video and on TV — my recurve — which was also the type of bow he was passionate about shooting. I hung up the phone and started mixing and matching limbs and risers I had for my Satori. I still couldn’t draw my normal setup, and I finally settled on a 19-inch riser with 40-pound medium limbs. With the limb bolts backed out and a slightly longer custom Flemish string that my buddy Scott from First String had made for me, I was ready to go. With that setup, my Satori was quite a bit lighter than normal, especially with the shorter draw. I had Easton Axis 500 arrows fletched with little Gateway Batwing feathers, and I went with 100-grain Muzzy Trocar broadheads. I did this because I wasn’t anticipating a pass-through given my light poundage, and I wanted a large wound channel.

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During the first few days of my hunt, Tee and I found some old bear sign, but nothing fresh. Still, I was having a ball hiking the hills and seeing different mountains than what I’m accustomed to.

After hiking up a mountain in the dark on the third morning of my hunt, we found some fresh bear sign under a white oak tree that had quite a few acorns still on the ground. I sat down on a fallen log, and Tee set up behind me. We had tried this strategy a few times already without seeing anything, but as always, I remained vigilant and optimistic.

Suddenly, I spotted movement in front of me. It was a beautiful black bear, and it was slowly coming our way and feeding on acorns.

I was nervous. As the bear slowly fed past us at about 21 yards, I raised my light-poundage recurve. Fortunately, instinct took over, and when I saw a small window through which to slip an arrow, I drew and released.

My shot looked good, but as expected, I didn’t get a complete pass-through. After waiting 45 minutes to take up the track, we followed the blood trail to my double-lunged bear, which only made it 80 yards before expiring. To say I was excited would be an understatement. Tee even caught the whole thing on film, and it will be featured on a future episode of “Everything Eichler,” which airs on Sportsman Channel.

I have always been an advocate of lighter bows, so long as they are properly tuned. And once again, I was happy to see it often takes less than you think…

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>