Big-game archery hunters primarily target white-tail deer, but with each bow season black-bear harvests are added to the telling of big bow-hunt stories.
Deer dominate as top target for big-game hunters across North America. A 2006-2010 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey has 80 percent of big-game hunters seeking deer, tops in the list, with bears finishing a distant fifth at just three percent bearing down on bruins.
Nonetheless, bow hunters in the Western New York area in increasing numbers have filled big-game tags for trophy- and near trophy-sized bear during recent early-fall hunting seasons.
Often, those successful hunters took their trophies while on hunts in search of deer -- not bear -- meat and/or trophies.
Two archery hunters are currently working with taxidermists to process mounts of their bears taken while awaiting a white-tail. Both hunters took one killing shot and recovered their black bears in good condition for mounting procedures.
Colden archer Barry Tanner has hunted for decades with partners Andy Zwick of Colden and Paul Woodson of Cheektowaga.
During an afternoon hunt in Colden on Oct. 22, the three took stands in a virtual triangle. Tanner has been making arrangements for bear hunts elsewhere and had not considered taking a bear from his reliable deer stand. Colden is located in a northerly section of DEC management area 8G; bear presence has increased throughout that area, but Tanner was not focused on a bear kill.
But he did.
"At first I thought Barry fell out of his tree," Zwick said of a crashing noise coming from the direction of Tanner's tree stand.
"The bear only went about 30 to 40 yards," Tanner said of the heart-lungs shot he took at 5:15 p.m. that late afternoon. The trio had Tanner's bear out of the woods that evening and it had a dressed-out weight of about 200 pounds.
Tanner takes pride in his deer trophies taken with his Mathews Switch-back bow. During the last weekend of the 2010 bow season, he took a respectable 11-point buck in this same area.
"I'm going to have S&S Taxidermy do a rug mount of this one," he said of his respectable black bear.
Ryan Cordova, 16, of Concord also dropped by S&S Taxidermy after an Oct. 23 and 24 hunt near home.
Hunting with dad, Bryan Cordova since he could legally hunt with bow and gun, Ryan has logged some impressive takes with his bow. At 14, his first year of legal bow hunting, he took a doe.
During the 2010 season, Ryan used his Parker bow to take a 9-point buck on the opening day of the season and a doe the day after. His hunting pursuits are in constant conflict with his involvement in football as a middle linebacker in his junior year at Springville-Griffith Institute.
During free time from practice and games, he hunts. On Oct. 23, while in a tree stand 15 feet off the ground, he saw a bear move in to just five yards from his tree.
"I shot at about 6 p.m., but we couldn't find a trail," Ryan said of what turned out to be a clean shoulder and heart shot. The family went out early the next morning and found Ryan's bear about 150 yards from his tree stand.
Tim Spirito, DEC senior wildlife biologist, aged the sow bear at two and one-half years with an estimated weight above 200 pounds.
"I play the last game of the season on Thursday this week and will be able to hunt more after the end of football season," Ryan said of his quest for deer with his bow.
For dad Bryan, his quest for mount space has been accomplished. The family is having Ryan's bear done in a full mount.
"We'll have room for it in a special place in the living room," dad said after a visit with experts at S&S Taxidermy.
Through all these bear-harvest stories, bow hunters generally report an abundance of deer sighted each day out.
This past week, close observers such as Jim Monteleone, area deer-scouting maven, has seen early signs of rut movement.
"Some experts are looking at moon phases and think the rut will be late, but from the signs I'm seeing, the rut could be early this hunting season," Monteleone said of the numbers and activity-levels he and other have noted recently.
Bow hunters have seen good number of deer; some trophy-sized deer have been taken in the northern swamps/wetlands and along the Southern Tier. If bow season is an accurate precursor or gun season, this could be the year of the deer -- but watch for a bear here and there.