By Robert Lucke
With archery hunting starting, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden Shane Reno talks about the challenges and pleasures that bow hunting can offer.
He should know. He has been doing it for many years.
"I can remember making arrows out of willows when I was very young," Reno said. "And I started hunting with a bow and arrow when I was 12."
Ask him why he hunts with a bow, a gleam will come into his eyes and he has no trouble answering.
"Almost it is a personal challenge," Reno said, "because you are at a disadvantage. You can't just see it and shoot it. There are 99 stages between seeing and shooting."
Most important of all for Reno is that the victory is not in the harvesting of an animal.
"I guess one thing with archery is that you are not always under the pressure of harvesting something because everyone knows it is difficult. An archer will go out for the season and maybe harvest one animal. That is a success. There are many times that archers never shoot an animal."
"I like just getting close enough to shoot the animal with a rifle and then having to get even closer. That is a great accomplishment and makes me feel good about it," he said.
Archery is not limited to a season, Reno stressed.
"Another real part of the satisfaction is with archery you have to practice all year round," he said. "You don't have the luxury to go out four days before hunting season starts and shoot at a paper target. Most of the guys I know shoot thousands of times a year."
There is any number of things to shoot at.
"Around here there are antelope, white-tail deer, mule deer and elk. A small percentage of people who draw bighorn sheep permits attempt to get theirs with a bow and maybe one a season does," he said. "A lot of guys like to shoot carp or gophers or varmints in the off-season. Some guys around Fort Peck hunt paddlefish with a bow and arrow. I would like to do that. It sounds like fun. And every so often someone harvests a game bird or goose with a bow and arrow."
There are three ways to hunt with a bow and arrow. There is the stand, where the hunter builds his stand in a tree and the animal comes to him. Others stalk the animal. And there is the drive, where some hunters will build a ground stand and other hunters will drive the animals to the stand. Which is best?
"That depends of the situation," Reno said. "They are all challenging. But typically I guess that folks have more success with a tree stand. Deer aren't used to having predators coming from the trees. They are usually looking for the bad guys on the ground."
The wind is the No. 1 factor in bow hunter success.
"The most important aspect for hunters to realize is the animal's sense of smell," Reno said. "You can fool the eyes for a moment but an offensive smell and the animals won't be there. Remember they spend 365 days a year in the forest and we spend 30 days a year playing the game. Usually we are the losers."
How much money it takes to get into the sport is interesting. It can cost huge amounts but does not have to.
"First, take a bow hunter education class. They are offered three times a year," Reno advised. "Archery equipment can be as simple as a self bow to the most modern of compound bows. Binoculars are good and you can buy tree stands and good blinds. And there is camouflage clothing. Boots, socks, you know they even have little camouflage socks to cover the tips of your arrows. Not necessary. It's humorous, they have camouflage for everything."
"How much to spend? You can spend a little as $100 to get into this sport or I could spend $5,000 in fifteen minutes," he said, laughing and getting that gleam in his eyes again.
"Some of the guys I know hunt with the simplest of equipment and have a very good time," Reno said. "Remember, an archer's success is not always gauged with what he brings home in the back of the pickup. It is the time you spend hiking around the hills looking at animals with family and friends. Seeing if you can outsmart the animal. And most of the time it is watching the animal get away from you."
Need more information about bow hunting or want to know how to start bow hunting? Contact the Havre Fish, Wildlife and Parks office at 265-6177.