As the opening date for bow season draws near, new and experienced hunters are taking care of last minute preparations and safety precautions in time to search for deer.
“Everybody gets interested in it this time of year,” said Jesse Taylor, a bow technician at Mahoney’s Outfitters in Johnson City. “You have to look at it this way—the cooler weather hits and it makes them realize that it’s time to go bow hunting.”
People are allowed to bow hunt in Tennessee beginning Sept. 24 and the days leading up to it are nothing short of madness for Taylor and other bow specialists who have a list of fixes and refletching to do. Mahoney’s staffers will do more string and cable work in two weeks than they do all year long.
To combat the rush of customers, they’re stocking cables and arrows as fast as they can. In between answering questions and keeping the shelves full of the latest and greatest equipment, Taylor is working his way through a row of bows hanging on the back wall that all need some tweaking before the season starts.
One of the biggest issues the technicians deal with is the repercussions of a dry fire.
“That’s when you take a bow and draw it with your fingers and you accidentally let it go without an arrow in it,” he said. “You’re causing all the energy that the bow creates to go through the limbs and that will inevitably fracture them and warp the cam.”
“Don’t ever draw a bow without an arrow in it.”
There are several safety steps Taylor recommends going through before putting a bow into practice — making sure strings and cables are OK, checking for grip fractures in the bow, flex checking each arrow and making sure the target release is working properly.
“A lot of people are misconstrued about the time span of recabling and restringing a bow,” Taylor said. “It needs it every three years at the latest. If you’re shooting a string that’s older than five years, you’re really on a risk of causing some major damage.”
Forgetting to bend arrows back and forth for a flex check can be dangerous, too.
“You check it in case there’s a fracture in the middle of the shaft,” Taylor said. “If it breaks, that’s good because you would rather it break in your hand than mid-flight.”
Some bow hunters have been practicing their shot all summer, but now it’s time to do a test run with any additional clothing like jackets and gloves that can change the technique or the way the bow feels. Hunters also have to consider what position their body will be in whenever an animal is spotted. If a blind or stand is the hunting location of choice, shooting while sitting is a good way to practice for the real situation, Taylor said.
“I’ve hunted and shot a bow since I was 8 years old and as far as the shooting part of it, I think that’s the most fun,” he said. “Inevitably, hunting is fun, but practicing is probably my favorite part.”
As far as places to hunt, Taylor recommends contacting the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Their Hunting and Trapping Guide lists all the public spaces and can be found online at www.tnwildlife.orgâ€‰ .
Once hunters find themselves in a permitted area, Taylor says the best thing to do is just walk and look for trees with fallen acorns or fruits, which are prime area for deer. White and red oak trees are shedding their acorns, plus persimmon and apple trees are good targets, too.
Even if someone is interested in entering the bow scene, it’s not too late.
“They have plenty of time to get started,” Taylor said. “But it’s just one of those things that if you’re going to do it this time a year you need to apply yourself and shoot everyday for the next two weeks even if it’s just five arrows just to make sure you’re completely ethical. It’s our job to do justice to the animal and take care of it the right way instead of just shooting at them.”