Practical Issues > Fishing & Hunting > Hunting - Index

October 16, 2005
Studies point to high archery mortality rate

Ah Ha! Just what we need, an outdoor columnist citing a variety of scholarly studies attesting to a consensus of archery mortality non recovery rates from various areas. This is just what we need to beat the Fudds over the head with! Christmas came early!

Bear proposal sparks debate
By: Tom Venesky

When I wrote last week's column outlining my concerns with the proposed archery bear season, I knew it wouldn't be popular with many archery hunters. I wasn't the first to raise concerns about a separate archery bear season. Former Pennsylvania Game Commission Black Bear Biologist Dr. Gary Alt expressed reservations about the season in 1999, and recommended against the establishment of a separate archery bear season.

The feedback I received, both pro and con, has been significant. Many of those who wrote were from out of state, from places such as North Dakota, Iowa and Mississippi. Some of the writers went on the attack, incorrectly accusing me of being an anti-hunter or a non-hunter. Others escalated their attacks beyond me and directed them toward rifle hunters. I find this extremely troubling because it conveys a "we are better than you" mindset.

However, there were some very constructive emails from archery hunters who are passionate and dedicated to their sport. While I don't agree with their opinion, I respect their position. There was some question as to if I based my opinion on facts. I did.

One of the utilized resources was Alt's 1999 report, in which he recommended against the establishment of a separate archery bear season at the time. "Due to the limitations of archery equipment, compared to high-powered rifles, bears need to be reasonably close and preferably still to assure a killing shot," Alt wrote. "This makes baiting the preferred method for hunting bears with archery."

As we all know, baiting is illegal in Pennsylvania.

Alt further stated if a separate archery bear season is held, it must be tightly regulated. He wrote the additional harvest of archery season bears would have to be reduced from the gun harvest, meaning a limit on the number of bear licenses issued.

Alt also pointed to surveys conducted in 1990 and 1995 that showed 54 percent of hunters who responded opposed a separate archery season for bears. Another study I reviewed was written by Dr. Ed Ashby, a bowhunter from South Africa. Ashby has hunted big game in North America and South Africa for over 38 years. In 1996, he authored what I believe to be the most comprehensive report on arrow lethality.

Ashby has personally harvested hundreds of big game animals with a bow, yet he writes, "As the years went by, I felt that the number of animals being hit by bowhunters and not recovered was escalating. What was causing this increase in hit and lost game? As I delved into the subject, I found that researchers in the field of wildlife management had already detected the same trend. It was not my imagination."

In addition to his own research, Ashby's report cites wounding rate research from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (1.4 wounded deer for each deer killed), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (one wounded deer for each deer killed), Deer and Deer Hunting Magazine (1.13 deer wounded doe each deer killed), and Michigan State University (observed one deer wounded for each deer killed).

While Ashby's report may read like a case against archery hunting, it's not. "The end result could be not only to make all of us better, more skilled and more humane bowhunters, it may well provide some protection from the constant onslaught all hunters, especially bowhunters, face from the anti-hunting community."

That's an admirable goal, and one that I agree with. It's why I feel a separate archery bear season is premature. Perhaps if the season were accompanied with mandated proficiency tests for archers or minimums of arrow weight and draw weight, many of the concerns would be remedied.

In his research, Ashby states large game animals can be killed with a bow. But to reduce wounding rates, he advised using a set combination of broadheads, arrow weights and draw weight coupled with correct shot placement and skill.

This is something that could be addressed through proficiency courses.

As hunters, we owe it to the resource and the public to go about our business in a respectful, humane manner.

These protocols should be addressed beyond a reasonable doubt before any new hunting season or method is considered.

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,