For archery hunters the summer leagues have ended and the focus is now on fine tuning bow-shooting gear and finding where the bigger big-game numbers are moving out there.
But for shooters in the four clubs that participated in the 2014 Niagara Frontier Summer 3-D League, the Tuesday shoot at North Forest Rod & Gun Club in Lockport was an enjoyable, low-key gathering.
The league welcomes team or individual shooters to these Tuesday afternoon-to-evening shoots at North Forest, the 3-F club in Lewiston/Youngstown, Wilson Conservation Club and LaSalle Sportsmen’s Club in Niagara Falls.
Each site offers bow shooters a course of at least 15 game-simulating targets set at varying distances for shooters to practice range finding and accuracy.
Practice and accuracy are the center of attention here, not shooter competitions. “We don’t keep score here, just set up the course and welcome shooters to try each target,” said Charlie Burt, club coordinator during the start of the final summer shoot at North Forest Tuesday afternoon.
The only pressure placed upon shooters that afternoon were ominous, black clouds well off to the southwest showing at about 3 p.m. Later that afternoon a rain gusher moved through, but the early afternoon remained a comfortable, bug-free walk around the club’s course that stated with a fanned-in-full-strut turkey target followed with a standing black bear about to climb a tree.
Many a male archer took to the course, but two female bow shooters did a demo shoot on the first two targets and their accuracy would be a major hit with any archer afield during bow season.
Wrights Corner residents Judy Schmitt and Marge Baker took aim at the turkey and then moved over to the bear target for a combined game and photo shoot. Both Schmitt and Baker shot at the same time and arrows landed in the center of the “bread basket” (heart/lungs cavity) and the neck/spine, both would be a clean kill shot in the field.
Schmitt has been involved in bow shooting and hunting with family members in the Southern Tier; she got her first deer, a 4-point buck, two bow seasons ago. Baker just enjoys attending league shoots with hubby Wayne Baker. Both women shooters showed the smooth, safe handling of gear and a fondness for just being out there in the field with a bow.
Jim Hoffmann, with the 3-F Club, echoed Charlie Burt’s comment that these summer leagues are formed more for the enjoyment of being afield with a bow and for some basic practice. “Summer leagues do not draw the numbers that winter leagues draw,” Burt said, as “most archers are on vacation or busy with family at home during this time of the year.”
Funds from summer leagues cover basic costs, which include a banquet gathering and some gear replacement. “For example, the replacement target center (the bread basket) is now around $100,” Burt said of popular target models that once could be bought entirely for about $100.
This year, the league will hold its banquet at Wilson Conservation Club on Tuesday. Some accolades will be presented and club members will chat about league shoots, but the main topic, in mind and spoken, will be prospects for the coming bow season.
At the North Forest league shoot, Burt, Hoffmann, Baker and others all concurred that new bow shooters out with a new crossbow this year may suffer surprise just short of shock when they realize the device does not accurately hit and kill big game at distances a well-tuned traditional or compound bow hits and kills.
As for the seasons and game numbers, expanded bear-hunt areas, concurrent deer and bear season openings and reports of good fawn survival offer good prospects for the coming big-game seasons.
As always, savvy bow and gun shooters work on both bow shooting and on getting out and checking for deer locations, for feeding and resting areas and for signs of bigger buck presence.
Judy Schmitt and her family are seeing better deer numbers at their Southern Tier hunt site, but the better numbers of both trophy and meat deer remain higher in the northerly counties of Western New York.
Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors North Tonawanda has gotten reports from trail-camera setters around Western New York that show nice numbers and buck sizes. “We didn’t have a dry spell this year and there was a lot of green growth out there for bucks to stay healthy and get bigger,” Pippard said.
Bow shooters set up for the early archery season should do well. Pippard cautioned that newer crossbow shooters should think through tree-stand placement and deer movement during the latter part of the bow season.
As always, archers who set up gear, who practice shoot regularly before the season openers and who take time to scout areas for deer signs and movement increase their odds for success, and, like the summer league shooter, experience the pure joy of being out there and better prepared for their outings.