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.
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.
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…