When deer hunting season begins I always think back to my youth. Back then I hunted with my dad and grandfather and hunting was a way of saving money. We wandered the woods carrying rifles with old fashioned iron sights and we had no fancy designer clothing.
My dad would never pay money to belong to a club, nor would he spend hard earned cash on scents, fancy soaps, calls, tree stands, feeders, two-way radios or any other accessories other than a compass and some matches. We scouted and did our best with what we had. It was fun.
Many scopes now have range finders that can automatically adjust for elevation. Some even have night vision capability for low light situations. This lets hunters stretch the shooting hours a little. Some guys will go to any limit for an edge. My pocketbook and conscience would never let me.
In my late teens I became interested in bow hunting. A simple recurve was all I could afford, but I got pretty good with it. The arrows had such arc at 40 yards or more that I felt like Carlton Fisk in the 1975 World Series, trying to will my arrows to their target. My success was spotty, but I’m proud to say I never killed anything I didn’t retrieve.
Later I bought an inexpensive compound bow and that was a lot better. It still pales to the new ones which propel arrows at over 330 feet per second with an 80 percent let off. Modern releases make shooting even more accurate. A few years ago I bought my son a Mathews Switchback and when I pulled it back I thought I’d broken it. I could have held it at full draw for an eternity.
Even supposedly primitive muzzle loading rifles have been technologically juiced up. My first experience with a muzzle loader was an old flintlock and if conditions were damp it might not shoot at all.
The percussion types were better, but if the hunter didn’t hold on the target success was variable. Many times there was a delay between the pop of the percussion cap and the lighting of the powder charge.
Many modern inline muzzle loaders when equipped with state of the art scopes could shoot rings around my dad’s old Model 94 Winchester. So much for primitive firearms.
A couple years ago a friend of mine told me he calculated how much his venison cost him. He’s an accomplished hunter and along with his son they have no trouble filling all their tags. He still estimated his deer meat cost over $11 per pound, and he assured me he was being conservative. I believe him.
Hunting club membership, ATVs, fuel, ammunition, arrows, broad heads and numerous gadgets, soaps and fancy clothing really add up. I don’t mean to criticize the modern hunter. The sport has changed. I’m just old school. I think many others would like to be old school too, if it didn’t hamper their success.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.