He looked right at me as I rounded a bend on an East End dirt road Wednesday morning, frozen in place, mid-trail, fully broadside and just 40 yards away. In the morning mist I could make out his rack to be wide and low; an eight-point Long Island white-tailed buck in prime form.
It seemed to me a bold gesture on his part to take such a stand. Had I taken another step, I’m sure he would have thought the better of things and bolted. This day, however, he was king of the forest, and as I eased back down the road and turned to glance one last time, I saw two does and a smaller buck cross the path behind his back.
My purpose in retreating was not to avoid confrontation. Physical or threatening encounters between humans and deer are uncommon. Rather, I had determined this buck was of stature enough to warrant a shot should we cross paths during the Suffolk County archery season. Since I had surprised him at a crossing point between two small wood plots, I hoped backing out would give him little cause to change what I hoped was a daily routine.
For Long Island archers the big game archery season kicks off Oct. 1. That’s just over a week away. By this point, most bow-hunters have given their gear a once-over, spent time shooting at practice targets, checked their favorite hunting spots — and double-checked that their landowner permission is still valid from last year. They should have also acquired their hunting license (available online at dec.ny.gov/permits/6094.html or at official license issuing agents also on the website.)
“The most important thing for archers to do right now is to thoroughly check their equipment and take plenty of practice shots,” said Jared Schneider, manager at Smith Point Archery Lanes, Inc. (631-289-3399) in Patchogue.
Schneider suggests that even experienced shooters will benefit from a couple of lessons with an archery expert. Most archers, he notes, learn to shoot from a buddy or family member but there is no guarantee they’ll get a full briefing on proper fundamentals.
“Shooting a bow,” explains Schneider, “is more complex than it looks. If you haven’t had any professional training, a few hours with a pro can quickly refine and improve your technique.”
The point is valid. Many beginning archers don’t realize that an arrow tipped with a broadhead flies a little differently than an arrow sporting a target tip. An expert instructor can help you make the proper adjustments.
Similarly, you’ll pick up other simple but often overlooked tips such as practicing while dressed in your hunting clothes to ensure that loose fits don’t get in the way of your mechanics — or that tight fits don’t restrict your shoulder movements during the draw.
Smith Point also offers a Hunter’s Success Class designed to teach in-depth hunting that isn’t covered in shooting lessons, such as finding a hunting spot, where to put your tree stand, the best camo choices and how to use scents or deer calls.
“That course,” said Schneider, “cuts the learning curve for inexperienced and intermediate archers who don’t have an experienced hunter to teach them the intricacies of being afield in the deer woods.”