Paul Dreher hunts with a bow.
Dreher hunts with every type of bow legal for big-game archers in New York State: compound, recurve or stick bow throughout the bow and gun seasons.
His wife Melody and he have Mathews, Bear and Martin compounds. He shoots a Northwinds Traditional "stick" bow, a basic, straight bow, and a Great Plains recurve, with limbs that curve back from the bow's arch at each end of the limbs.
He prefers his recurve and puts in many hours afield with this bow.
"My hope is to some day get a deer with all three bow types in one season," Dreher said as we returned from a gorgeous afternoon hunt up the hill from his home in Frewsburg.
"I've had kills in years with a compound and recure, a recurve and stick and a compound and recurve, but never with all three," he said of ventures that have resulted in more than 100 deer harvested since he became seriously interested in bow hunting in the 1970s. "Most, more than 60 of those deer, were with a bow."
Dreher, a highly successful charter captain on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (www.fortunecharters.com), switched to traditional-bows only in the late 1970s. Last year, at age 57, he reflected on what it would be like to just climb a tree and sit in a deer stand when reaching age 80. His father, Ray Dreher, showed his son just that during the 2007 bow season. His dad not only climbed a tree near Paul's hillside home, Ray took a nice 8-point buck.
Genetics suggest that Dreher will continue for decades climbing high up trees with his clamp-on stands, an outing we enjoyed Wednesday afternoon.
Dreher greeted me at their newer digs, a lodge-like dwelling overlooking the Allegany River above Onoville, for a look around his home before an evening hunt. He and Melody have built and improved their comfy chalet-like home since moving from Orleans County in 2000.
Behind their home hangs proof of Melody's bow-hunting proficiency. On opening morning of bow season (Oct. 18), she took her Mathews Q2 compound bow out back of the house at dawn and downed a fork-horned buck at 8:30 a.m. The left fork was missing, but that won't curb the meat quality.
"With that one hanging, I can concentrate on getting a better (trophy) buck," Paul said as we sought the right light for a few good photos.
As we headed up the hill to a working farm above their house, the Jamestown to Mayville valley, which includes the bed for Chautauqua Lake, became more prominent southwest to our right. This area lies right on the county lines for Cattaraugus and Chautauqua, the start of the awesome Allegany Mountain chain.
Dreher caught sight of a doe or two just at sunset, deer he would have passed on even with a good shot opening. While we didn't see and shoot deer that stunning afternoon, I got to watch six turkeys -- one fair tom, two jakes and three hens -- emerge from the center of the newly-planted hay field some 200 yards from our tree stands at the corners of this field.
This six-pack appeared at 5:10 p.m., pecked and walked toward my stand. After these birds came within 60 yards they finally poked and prodded their way into the woods at exactly 6 p.m. No turkey, no deer, but a great outing.
"Most local and visiting hunters come here to hunt deer, but bear are everywhere," he said while showing his 200-pound bear done as a rug and couch drape. "I would have passed on this one up in Canada but since it was right near my home I took it," he said of the bruin taken with his recurve bow during the 2006 season.
As for crossbows, he sees no problem with them for hunters who prefer their use.
"Heck, the Vikings were using steel crossbows 2,000 years ago," he said.
As for hunting set-ups, Dreher asserted: "God planted Hemlock trees for bow hunters," explaining that these trees give off a nice cover scent, have good limbs for climbing -- their fibrous structure doesn't snap easily, they don't have sap that gets on climbers' hunting cloths, and the deer seek cover in hemlocks during rain or snow.
The "pressure" of having a dad that can kill a deer at age 80 and a wife that gets her deer on opening day doesn't phase Dreher. He practices traditional-bow shots out to 40 yards and is confident with kills out to 30 yards, which he has done in seasons past.
Bow season continues to Nov. 14 and signs of early leaf drop and heavy frosts could start rutting activity earlier than predicted for this season. Dreher hopes so.