Big-game archery season officially arrives Saturday -- for hunters headed to sites in Pennsylvania.
New York State's bow benders have to wait until Oct. 15, but most serious archers in pursuit of deer have been tuning up bows with proper arrows and scouting likely deer locations for weeks, if not months. Joining an affiliated bow club also adds to the excitement.
Archery club membership provides hunters not only with opportunities to target shoot, but clubs also offer hunters a chance to share and gain information with fellow hunters keying on archery season conditions. Most clubs have set up 3-D courses simulating actual hunting situations, with life-sized targets set up along wooded terrain near their club.
One such course was open to all archers statewide last weekend at Northwoods Sportsmen's Association grounds on Gulf Road east of LeRoy, site of the New York Bowhunters 10th Anniversary Rendezvous.
These informative gatherings bring together the state's most competent archers shooting every kind of bow legally used to hunt -- primitive "stick" bows to the most refined compound bows. NYB shooting and seminar events brought together some remarkable shooters.
Noah Walburger, 6, son of NYB treasurer Dale Walburger, traveled from LaFayette, south of Syracuse, and camped on Northwoods grounds for the two-day event.
Noah's skills and development result from a level of concentration adult shooters try to maintain while target shooting.
"He just puts his head down and shoots like that all day," dad said proudly while we watched Noah draw on animal targets along the Youth Range.
Dale has intentionally started Noah, a boy who looks more like 10 or 12 rather than 6 years old, on instinctive shooting -- instead of a bow with fixed sight pins. Noah used both a recurve and junior-sized compound bow while taking aim along the practice course. He has already mastered canting or slightly tipping the bow to get off a better instinctive shot. That form shows well in the photo of him beginning a draw while wearing his back quiver.
Concentration, essential to both beginning and experienced archers, also must be blended with patience and determination, according Sharon Pagel, a bow course instructor from Middlesex, south of Canandaigua. Sharon, accompanied by her husband, Tim, personifies both virtues -- patience and determination.
She became totally and permanently blind while having back surgery in 1994. During her seminar she said, "I kept sitting around that first year (after the surgery) asking myself if I would just sit here or go out and do the things I did before." She chose before. With Tim's help, she began shooting archery again, using a most intricate yet simple communication system with Tim.
Sharon, a right-handed shooter, draws in the general direction of the target and Tim guides her vertical and lateral moves with his left hand placed under her left arm between her shoulder and elbow. Tim sights through a tube, which looks like a misplaced scope, mounted at his sight level above Sharon's sight line just above the arrow shaft.
On a signal from Tim, Sharon places some spectacular shots into targets as small as a javelina, shots she took during her seminar presentation. She and Tim have refined her target shooting skills to the point where she has taken up trap shooting.
In the field, her archery accomplishments fully confirm her patience and determination. Since her affliction in 1994, she has killed three whitetail deer, three bear and one antelope.
Her most recent kill came during a bear hunt in northern Minnesota. "They have a serious bear overpopulation there the way we have deer here," said Karl Lockwood, NYB president, who accompanied Sharon and Tim on this late-August hunt.
Sharon scored with a 15-yard shot at a 230-pound boar on August 27 for her third black bear. She and Tim hunted the Gillette area of northeastern Wyoming in 1997, where she downed an antelope at a distance of 30 yards.
Lockwood, deeply involved in developing devices for physically challenged shooters, has invented numerous accessories that assist impaired archers. During a membership meeting he said modestly, "I've been told I could get a patent on this thing or that and make a lot of money. I'd rather give it to someone who needs it to start shooting."
His advice applies to shooters of all ages and skill levels. Sport hunting with a bow takes time and application. Noah Walburger proves kids at any age can get a start in the sport. Sharon Pagel shows even the most severe impairment is not necessarily the end of the hunt.
Bow shooting has no age or injury boundaries. Regular shooting with attention to shooting details can make archery a safe and successful sport for all interested in trying and applying.
To learn more about NYB programs and purposes, call (315) 696-6365 or see their Web site: www.newyorkbowhunters.com.