It has been a while since I have of posted so I hope everyone has had a great bowhunting season to this point and your freezers are filling up. I have had some great outings this year some of which were successful and some that weren't. One thing that really has sunk into my head this year is the fact that the kill on a hunt just isn't as important as it once was. Oh don't get me wrong, I love to harvest animals with my bow as much as the next guy but what really matters to me is the experiences and the memories that you gain along the way. My first trip of the year was a Nebraska antelope hunt with three really good friends. Two of us hunted one property and the other two hunted a separate piece. We hunted hard all week and although I didn't shoot an antelope they were successful I couldn't have been happier. That will remain one of the greatest hunts I have been on because of the guys I was with. We enjoyed returning to camp after hunting our butts off all day walking endless amounts of miles to share our daily adventures over a cold beer. On my way home Matt and I made one quick stop to check on a buck I had been after all season and wouldn't you know we found him with his 14 does. Three hours later he made a mistake and walked over the hill leaving his does and came right to the base of the hill we were hiding behind and gave me a perfect 35 yard shot that I made good on. Sharing the moment with a best friend was special!
Deer season was great for our family this season as Zach killed a nice early season buck and I sat in the stand with my daughter Maddie and watched her make a perfect shot on a fat young velvet buck as well. With the warm weather in early October I decided to make one more trip to the Missouri R. bowfishing when I got a call from Zach telling me "dad I just shot the big one!". Though I wasn't there to share in the recovery that phone call was worth so much.
Every year I take a week to a week and a half and go to the cabin for the rut. This year my buddy Dave and his two boys joined the usual crew. We hunted hard during warm temps and persistence paid off as several deer hit the ground including a whopper that Dave connected with. My 80 year old dad also connected on a nice 2 1/2 year old 4x4 and although that deer wasn't the biggest it meant the world to me to be able to see him still get it done with a bow. Although we killed some deer what I really loved was the time spent with friends and family doing something that we all have passion for. The nights in the cabin sharing stories and telling jokes is something that made is so memorable. I am so lucky to have an understanding wife that allows me to take the time away from home to experience these adventures. Thank God for Fall, Friends and Family!!
Many bowhunters look at summer as some of the longest months of the year due to anticipation for the upcoming hunting season. To me the summer months are some of my favorites because of one thing... BOWFISHING!
What a memorable bowfishing season this has been and there still remains a lot of action in the weeks ahead. Some of the highlights have been my son Zach arrowing a beautiful yellow color phase bighead that gave us an epic fight. Then my daughter was able to make her first bowfishing trip and let's just say that she is hooked. If one color phase bighead wasn't enough, Travis Stracke and Zac Hurlbert doubled on another one!
We followed this up with a very memorable paddlefish season!
The best part about bowfishing is it can be a social affair to where you don't have to sit in total silence (you know I struggle with that). We often times have several people in the boat and that adds to the experience and excitement. I enjoy few things more than a screaming drag with a big fish on the end and trying to get it to the boat to be gaffed, but let's not forget about the great table fare this activity provides as few things are better eating than a fresh batch of bighead fillets. Though it is no easy chore boning these things out, to us it is worth every minute.
I love so many things about bowfishing but one of things I enjoy most is just spending time with great friends and family on the water or around the campfire at night. We made a lot of great memories bowfishing this summer and even made some new fiends along the way but we didn't always experience good luck.
Some of those happenings included a big branch falling on the tent, almost losing a tire on the boat trailer, and almost swamping the boat (and that was all on one trip). These are stories that will be told in many different versions down the road. So instead of cringing when you think of the summer months, go pick up your old bow and go chase some fish!
Well by now I am sure many of you have been out after the turkeys and I hope you have found some success. Spring turkey hunting has always been one of my favorites because it is a hunt that can be shared with others and usually means that Spring has arrived. This has been one of the craziest years I have ever experienced. It seemed that if something could go wrong it DIDN"T! I was able to watch my son arrow a triple on opening day and I also connected on a nice tom. Over the next week or so I would fill my two remaining permits, watch my daughter arrow two awesome birds and also witness a couple friends fill their tags. Like I said this was a year that just was about as good as it gets.
Well as good as the hunting had been I didn't know if it could get any better but it did. My dad is just a few months from his 80th birthday but if you followed him for a day you wouldn't know it. I called him one night and he said that he had just disced our food plots and broadcast planted them with his hand spreader. That is a big chore for anyone let alone an "old man". I asked if he would be interested in going hunting on the weekend and before he answered I knew his response. Saturday morning I made my way to our cabin where we met. He said that just recently a few birds had showed up and he had been hearing some gobbling.
We made our way to an old blind that sets on the edge of one of our fields and had been up since last year. Once in the blind and the decoys spread I let out a yelp and immediately got a response. A few seconds later three longbeards appeared about 200 yards looking over the decoys. Slowly they left their two hens and made their way across the field. I told dad "you better get an arrow on". Anyone who knows my dad knows that he is as stubborn and bullheaded as they come. He replied "I have all kinds of time". I finally convince him that even though he may have some time he needed to get an arrow on. I then look at his peep and see that it is cocked sideways. I said "hand me your bow so I can turn that peep". He gave me a dirty look and responded "don't mess with it I just shot it yesterday". I finally took the bow and the release and to his shock the peep was way out of line. After a quick adjustment we were good to go as the gobblers approached 50 yards. Once they got within 30 yards it was a sprint to see which one could kick some jake ass first. With the three toms surrounding the jake decoy he took close aim and put a good shot on one. The bird stumbled off and then took flight as the other toms stood around not knowing how this lifeless decoy had landed a quick blow to their buddy. Once they wandered off we made our way to his big tom. He was pretty happy, so happy in fact that I got him to smile for the pictures. We hugged and enjoyed the moment and when we made our way back to the cabin we had a whiskey to celebrate! Yes this was a Spring I will always remember and especially "Grandpa's Gobbler!"
I love all four seasons, but by the end of February I have had enough winter and start to get spring fever. This time of year the days start getting longer and warmer and it just seems to refresh you. It always seems to me that once the NBA banquet is here, time really starts to fly and I welcome that because what really excites me is spring turkey season.
We are very lucky here in Nebraska to have an archery turkey season that starts in March giving bowhunters a jump on the birds compared to most states. I still get just as excited today watching a big tom run to the decoys as I did when I was just a little guy accompanying my dad on his pursuits of turkeys with a bow. Turkeys are the perfect hunt for beginning bowhunters young and old alike. With todays quick setup blinds, realistic decoys and large flocks throughout the state there is no better time to introduce someone to bowhunting.
Bowhunting turkeys is appealing to children because you can set in the comforts of a pop up blind and being quiet isn't the necessity it is while hunting deer or other big game. Over the years I have managed to take a lot of bowhunters (mostly kids) turkey hunting and had them connect on their first bow kill.
One tip I would give while taking a beginner is set your decoys close. I often times set my decoy at five yards so it gives them an up close encounter and an easy shot. When I started my children I usually had them shoot a cut on contact broadhead so penetration was not an issue.
Turkeys have provided us with so many great memories and also are some of the best eating wild game out there. As I type this it is nearly 70 degrees outside and I can't help but to start thinking about those big toms that are already getting fired up. If you get the chance I encourage you to take a a new bowhunter to the turkey blind this spring. I promise you you won't regret it!
The off season? I don't need no stinking off season! For so many serious bowhunters, once deer season is over they go into a funk and life doesn't even feel the same. I say change all of that and become a year-round bowhunter and end the funk. What to do you might ask? Late December and January I am bowhunting rabbits, pheasants, grouse, and even waterfowl.
There isn't a lot of things any more fun than getting some friends and throwing on some rubber blunts and chasing bunnies. They also make for some great table fare.
Cottontail and Jackrabbit seasons don't end until the end of February and after that is just a short few weeks and Spring turkey season opens. Few things can match the excitement of thundering gobbles and having a big tom respond to your calls and enter into your decoy setup.
Once turkey season is into full swing the lakes and rivers have started to warm and bowfishing is the next item on the agenda. Nothing better than filling the freezer with some nice bighead fillets. I enjoy few things more than a screaming drag with a bighead hooked to the end of your arrow.
I along with so many of my bowhunting buddies cherish the pursuit of all fish and game and I can't imagine only waiting for big game season to role around to pick up my bow and go hunting. The great benefit to these "off season" hunts is the fact that you can share these experiences with friends which is not usually the case with deer hunting. So now grab your bow take the frown off your face and end the "off season". I can promise you that soon you will be looking as forward to these hunts as any!
Every year starting around November 1st I head to our cabin to spend 7 to 10 days deer hunting. This year my buddy Dave Black was going to be able to make it back from Maryland to join us. The weather has been extremely warm for this time of year and deer movement had been somewhat slow but that would not dampen our spirits. The first evening of the hunt Dave was able to connect on a decent buck and we were so happy for him.
The next couple of the days we went from warm to down right hot as far as the temps were concerned. Wanting to get to the Missouri R. one last time bowfishing so I suggested we give it a try. We left very early in the morning and were on the water by 8:30 a.m., and right away we found some small bigheads. Dave had never been on the Big Mo and he was loving it. Though the bowfishing was a little slow we did manage two nice ones and half dozen smaller ones. Best part of the day was when Dave managed to put an arrow in a really nice fish and after a lengthy fight we had him in the boat.
After a long day on the water we were ready to head back to the cabin and give the deer a try once again.
We hunted hard the remainder of the hunt and even though big buck sightings were minimal we did have a couple more close calls. One thing that we were not short on was turkeys, so we took time a couple of days to set for them. We managed to have great action with the birds and my 79 year old father even managed to take a nice jake.
This was one of the slower weeks of deer hunting I have had in recent years but this goes down as one of my most enjoyable hunts. Anytime you can spend time in the outdoors with great friends and family lasting memories are going to be made. Being able to bowhunt deer and turkeys and bowfish for bigheads all in one week reminded me of just how lucky we are!
What a great feeling to be back in the field and what a start my family has had. Last weekend will be one of those that we remember forever.
First off, I was able to be by my son's side when he stalked and arrowed a nice antelope buck and as we walked back to the vehicle we talked about what experiences like this does for ones soul. The next day I was able to set with my 13 year old daughter and watched her arrow a nice fat whitetail buck. It is moments like this that truly make you appreciate being a bowhunter and having children that share that passion. Not only do we enjoy pursuing wild game we love to eat it!
With the warm weather we made sure to get the animals cooled down right away and with their help the butchering process went quickly and smoothly.
Processing our own wild game is something that we truly enjoy and consider it a very important part of the hunt. There is no better way to show respect for the animals we kill than to utilize all of the meat they have provided. I love watching outdoor TV shows but all too often there is no mention of what is going to be done with the meat. There are also a number of programs out there to where hunters can donate their meat all of which are for great causes.
Don't get me wrong, I love looking at trophy's on the wall but I get equally excited when I look at a fully stocked freezer and especially when it is mine. To me there is great satisfaction in preparing and cooking wild game for someone who claims they don't like it, only for them to find out just how delicious it really is.
As bowhunters we have a responsibility to consume our harvest. Just like a mount brings back memories of the hunt, so does a nice medium rare venison steak.
I better call it good for now so I can start working on contributing to our meat stock before my kids fill the freezer. Good hunting and good eating!
Those feelings when everything comes together and you finally tag that buck you have been after for oh so long. You know what I am talking about, exhiliration, happiness, but also a little sadness knowing the quest is over. Well it isn't even deer season and I have already experienced these same emotions. Why, you might ask. It is because my best hunting buddy and son left for college. I am so proud of what a great young man he has grown into and also what a dedicated bowhunter he has become. He arrowed his first buck when he was just 10 years old and that evening a fire was lit that would burn brighter and brighter each season.
Zach is one of those guys that gets it. By that I mean he enjoys every hunting experience wether successful or not and appreciates the opportunities we are provided. He shows great admiration for his quarry and is always thrilled to share in others success rather than to display jealousy. Zach is attending the University of South Dakota where he will be running Cross Country and Track so time afield this season is going to be very limited. This will be my first season in a long time that I won't be able to meet him at the cabin after our sits and discuss our days hunt and experiences. This will definitely be a big change for the both of us. I can imagine that my first sit this season as I walk from my stand to the cabin I will have a big smile on my face and a tear in my eye. I can promise you one thing though, and that is I will be calling him right away because I know he will be missing our talks as much as I am missing him.
Harlin Welch has been an NBA member since 1990 and has been bowhunting for nearly 30 years. He has two children Zach and Madison that share his passion of bowhunting. Harlin has been married to Kara for 20 years and she allows him to pursue small game, fish and big game with his bow year round.