As weather continues to improve and days become longer, we are more apt to want to stretch our legs with long walks in the woods. Searching for mushrooms and shed antlers is reason enough to venture into wild lands, but for added fun, consider carrying a traditional bow and flinging arrows at stumps, clumps, banks and blow downs.
Shooting archery is a pastime nearly anyone can partake in. Men, women and children are able to stretch a string and send an arrow towards its target. Archery offers a physical and mental challenge to all who bend a bow. Like most sports, hobbies or pastimes, technology has invaded the realm of archery. Necessary hand eye coordination has been diminished by the institution of mechanical releases and accurate sight systems. The once limited range of archery equipment continues to expand as compound bows become more powerful and more disconnected from instincts.
Traditional archery is defined by shooting a bow void of mechanical assistance. No sights, no mechanical releases, no wheels or cams. Just a stick and string. Point and aim accuracy is dependent upon the archer not the equipment. Success is enjoyed by propelling an accurate arrow. Of course, shooting a bow is not only for hunters. It’s also for those who simply enjoy shooting archery for fun.
In 1948, Eugene Herrigel penned the book, “Zen in the Art of Archery.” Herrigel describes Zen in archery as, ‘The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art.
Walking through a blooming spring woods with a bow in hand searching for wild morel mushrooms brings a sense of closure to winter. And this past winter, having been as long and hard as any in recent memory, is one I’m particularly glad to see go. My longbow has been pulled off the rack where it spent the last few months collecting dust and is strung. My mesh mushroom bag is riding shotgun in the truck. Let the stump-shooting mushroom hunts begin.
Stump shooting is nothing more than walking through the woods and firing arrows at anything that catches your fancy. Stumps, rotten logs, clumps of grass and lone leaves tangled in the grasp of multiflora rose are prime targets. Not only is it just plain fun to shoot arrows, it is a skill building exercise. The hand-eye coordination that comes from repetitive shooting year-round becomes quite valuable when a buck walks into range during bow season.
You can stump shoot with any bow, including a high-tech compound, but I prefer using a traditional bow with a reduced draw weight. I don’t use arrows I’d mind losing or breaking. Stump shooting is a great excuse to break out those old aluminum sticks from the 90s and give them new life. I’ll occasionally find old arrows at garage sales or bunches for sale on Craigslist, and pick them up for next to nothing. With such minimal financial investment you can loose shots into some wild places, without worry of finding the arrow. I use blunt tips on my arrows, which keep them from sticking into whatever you shoot, but field tips will work fine, as well.
Stump shooting mushroom hunting has other advantages, too. Any time you can get out and walk your hunting property in the spring, you’re going to learn something new to apply to your plan for the coming deer season. You’ll find trails you didn’t know existed, old rubs, scrapes and bedding areas. You can learn where deer are crossing creeks and fences. And there are still plenty of shed antlers to be picked up. There’s a good chance a rodent or two will have gotten to them first, but the sheds will still offer clues as to which bucks you may be able to hang a tag on come fall.
See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler is the Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri