By Jo Lee Ferguson | Photos by Chris Pound
The adrenaline rushing through the hunter’s body is intense: A deer is close, within fewer than 40 feet to be in range, and any movement, any scent, could send the animal running.
Time stands still. “You start shaking.”
That’s how two bow hunters — Chandler resident Hans Dorey and Longview resident Tom Tutt — describe the moments before they let the arrow fly.
“You start trying to remember to take deep breaths,” Dorey says. “You can hear your heart in your ears. It’s very intense. It’s a very powerful thing. To me, any animal taken with a bow and arrow is a trophy. It’s a very hard thing to do. There’s a lot of work involved. It’s a big deal. You respect every animal you take, and to me every one of them is a trophy.”
There’s no way to explain that moment, Tutt says, describing how the seconds pass by slowly, like minutes.
Bow hunting season in Texas kicked off at the end of September, a month earlier than the regular hunting season.
It’s a pastime Tutt and Dorey took different paths to their involvement.
Tutt has been hunting most of his life, first with a rifle and then also with a bow. His older brother was in an archery club at the University of Texas at Austin and introduced him to the bow when Tutt was about 14.
He remembers being impressed as he watched his brother shoot at a target deer in their family’s yard.
“It’s a lot more challenging to get (a deer) close enough to shoot with a bow than with a rifle,” Tutt says.
Dorey, on the other hand, did not come from a family legacy of hunting. He didn’t start bow hunting until about 15 years ago, after being introduced to it by a family member and friends. Now, he hunts solely with a bow and arrow, regardless of what he’s hunting.
“I was hooked from the second I started,” Dorey says. “That was it.”
Typical bow hunting is not like what Native Americans did. Dorey and Tutt use compound bows.
“There are still guys that are into that primitive archery thing,” Dorey says. “I didn’t get into that, but I can appreciate that. The challenge is just that much more intense and real when you’re trying to do it with a stick and string essentially.”
Bows these days, though, are modern, with technology that continues to progress.
“They’re very high-powered weapons,” Dorey says. “I like them because they’re quiet, and you have to get really close to the game. It’s a lot more challenging … With a bow, you have to figure out when you can draw back.”
Dorey and Tutt say bows start around $400 but can cost as much as $1,000. Dorey hunted with an entry-level bow for three or four years.
“There is a big difference between entry level bows and higher level bows,” Dorey says, explaining that more advanced bows are lighter and shoot smoother and faster. “They’re just produced with much better materials, far better than inexpensive bows. The bows they’re putting out today, the high-end bows pretty much shoot themselves. It doesn’t take long to learn how to shoot.”
Bows, like rifles, have a system for aiming. Hunters typically use a “release” system for actually letting go of the string, Tutt says. There are different types of releases, but they’re essentially a “trigger” a bow hunter uses to release the string of the bow, instead of using his –or her—fingers. The release clips to the bow’s string, with the hunter either holding the other end with three or four fingers, or wearing a wrist strap that holds the release.
“You use a release so it doesn’t mess up your aim,” Tutt says.
The process, though, doesn’t stop at the bow. Lighted arrows for nighttime use are available. Different points –or broadheads—are designed to fly differently and enter an animal in different ways.
Range fingers, trail cameras and tricks to mask your scent: They’re all part of the bow-hunting experience.
Tutt says bow hunting is humane because hunters aim for the heart.
“(The arrow) is so sharp, so quick — they don’t know they’ve been hit,” he says, a fact he illustrated with a hunting show on television. It showed a hunter releasing his arrow and striking a deer. The deer barely flinched, and then walked on a little before collapsing, dead.
Tutt and his family, including his sons, Jonathan and Andrew and extended family, hunt on a deer lease in Central Texas, where they stay in a small cabin with no television and no phone service. His sons, he says, are the fifth generation of children to hunt on that land.
“For us, it’s not about killing something,” he says. “It’s about spending time with your family. It’s important that I teach my boys about the outdoors.”
The boys have been accompanying their father on hunting trips since they were in diapers. Tutt’s wife, Karen, says safety is very important to him.
“He’s taught that to the boys,” she says.
The Tutts butcher their own meat, something Dorey says he did at first, too. Now, though, he pays someone else to do it.
“It’s what my family eats, me and my wife, all through the year,” he says, explaining that deer meat can be used in any recipe that calls for beef.
“Deer meat is extremely healthy for you,” Dorey says.
It takes a lot of patience to hunt a deer with a bow.
Dorey says after he started bow hunting, it was a couple of years before he “harvested” his first animal, in part because he was hunting on public lands instead of deer leases. The deer are more aware of their surroundings and finicky.
“It was several years of a lot of work and patience before it started to pay,” he says.
In August, Dorey already looked forward to the start of bow hunting season.
“I’ve been scouting a deer this year that’s the biggest I’ve seen in East Texas,” he says, explaining that a neighbor has said he can hunt on his land. It’s one of the best places he’s ever hunted on.
“(The deer) doesn’t know he’s in a danger zone yet,” Dorey says. “He will be huge.”