Bow hunters prepare for first crack at deer

CorrespondentSeptember 4, 2013 

— It was so hot that climbing out of a truck and walking 30 feet was enough exertion to soak a T-shirt with sweat. Climbing a ladder made the 90-degree temperature and 98 percent humidity nearly unbearable.

Although it hardly seemed hunting weather, Jerry Simmons and Jerry Simmons Jr. were riding narrow roads hacked through a pocosin. They were preparing for opening day of archery season for deer, which was one week away on Sept. 7.

“We’ve been putting out corn for three weeks,” said Jerry Simmons, a 65-year-old retriever and pointing dog trainer from Rocky Point. “The deer are visiting the bait piles. Now we have to make sure our stands are ready.”

“Pocosin” is a Native American word that means “swamp on a hill.” The road ditches were full of water. Besides the heat, mosquitoes hatching in the dark water were another irritating factor for the early-season hunters. They sprayed on repellent before checking the steadiness of some permanent ladder stands. They were also setting up tent-style ground blinds they had used during the spring turkey season.

“A ground blind prevents deer from smelling you, keeps the sun and rain off, and keeps mosquitoes away,” Simmons said. “You can hear them whining and see them bumping against the see-through mesh covering the windows trying to get at you. When I’m hunting, I switch on a ThermaCELL on before heading to the stand, so it is generating before I arrive. It doesn’t give off as much scent as a spray repellent so it’s less likely to alarm deer.”

Both hunters said ground blinds and the innovative insect repellent device, which uses heat from a butane cartridge to heat a wafer impregnated with insect repellent, have made archery hunting more comfortable. Another innovation that was not available when hunters had only recurves, longbows and other “stick” bows was the scouting camera.

“We’ve seen five shooters on our game camera,” Simmons said. “Their antlers were still in velvet, but the velvet has been coming off. A buck on our property has to have at least 8 points before we can take it.”

The two men hunt 400 acres on a hunting club that covers 2,000 acres. They have five ladder stands and three ground blinds. Last year, Jerry Simmons Jr. took the biggest-antlered buck either of them has harvested.

“I was using a compound bow and shot him with an arrow that had a mechanical broad-head,” said Jerry Simmons Jr., a 40-year-old computer programmer who works for Brunswick County. “A doe had walked the same path 30 minutes earlier. I don’t know if he was following her or not. He may have just been moving in the coolness of dusk or he might have been coming out of the bushes to eat corn.”

Jerry Simmons once used a compound bow. However, he switched to a crossbow the past three seasons. A shoulder injury that would have allowed him to seek a crossbow permit coincided with the same year crossbows became legal for anyone to use during the archery season. Even without his injury, he wouldn’t go back to a hand-held bow.

“It takes a fraction of the time to get ready for hunting season with a crossbow,” he said. “All I have to do is check the adjustments on the scope and I’m ready to go. I replaced the batteries in the scope, which has a lighted cross-hair, greased the rails and had my arrow fletching replaced. The scope was only off a couple of inches.”

Simmons Jr. will be hunting with a Matthews compound bow he bought three years ago to replace an aging Browning compound bow he had used since his high school days.

“My Browning shot an arrow at 190 feet per second,” he said. “But my Matthews shoots an arrow at 350. The arrow has more power and its trajectory is flatter.”

Both hunters took a deer the same day last archery season. Simmons’ deer was a small doe.

“I told him mine was a small one too, when he called on the cell phone,” Simmons Jr. said. “You should have seen his eyes pop open when he saw the rack on my 8-pointer.”

Such good luck is the reason they hunt during archery season. During gun season, their deer sightings diminish considerably.

“I want to get my season limit of six deer with an arrow,” Simmons said. “Once gun season arrives, hunting pressure makes them move more at night. I’m going to hunt Saturday and Sunday afternoons.”

“My dad’s more ambitious,” Simmons Jr. said. “I have two kids. Ella is 8 and Brett is 2. I’m lucky to be able to hunt on Saturdays. But I’m planning for the future. Ella is already shooting a Genesis compound bow. It has unlimited draw length and is specially made for children to shoot.”

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