Dog Days Buffalo Fishing
|Bows - Bowfishing|
It's the time between the last gobbler's gobble and the opening day of bow season that drags most hunters down. The symptoms vary but depression and restlessness are common signs of hunting withdrawals usually suffered during the dog days of summer. Stacks of outdoor magazines and a remote locked to the Outdoor Channel sometimes offer temporary relief to this malady but the only sure cure is a heaping dose of hunting adrenalin. I've found the pursuit of buffalo to be just the fix I need to bridge the gap between spring and fall hunting seasons. Buffalo? You say... Here in Tennessee?.. Yep.. That's right!.. And what's more I prefer to hunt my buffalo with a bow and arrow ... at night.
For those new to the sport of bow fishing I recommend starting with a light weight bow that you don't mind getting wet and muddy. Much of the shooting is done instinctively so an old recurve or bare, compound bow are ideal. Something that you can draw quickly and repeatedly over the course of several hours. Poundage isn't critical as long as it is enough to launch a heavy fish arrow to the finned targets. I have an old Browning Micro-Midas youth bow that has worked great on every kind of watery creature from gar to gators. I shoot a variety of barbed fish arrows straight off the bow shelf. The simpler the set-up, the better. While large spool-type reels are available to wrap the heavy fishing line around, I prefer the Bottle Reel which looks very much like a milk bottle and works like a conventional fishing reel. I have used a one pound coffee can bolted onto the riser to wrap the line around.
It is possible to have a productive buffalo hunt while wading in shallow water and wearing a headlamp to shoot by. However, your success will be much greater if you are shooting from a boat. Buffalo are skiddish this time of the year, very unlike the fearless rough fish during early spring rolling ritual which takes place in the shallows. This is hardly the place for an ultra-sleek speed boat, any roomy reliable watercraft is suitable. A steady place to stand, room for fish tubs, and sufficient lighting, are the main requirements. The boat I liked the best was equipped with four, 3,000-watt halogen lights shining down onto the water. Be forewarned that a good night's catch can be a very heavy load which will cause a shallow boat to sink low into the water.
Without exception, most rookie bowfishers will shoot high, completely passing over the top of the fish. This is due to the light refraction of the water. Objects always appear higher than they actually are. It takes a while to train yourself to shoot at nothing but this is exactly what you must do to compensate for the light refraction. Once you've arrowed a fish, just hang on. The really big ones will drag the boat so make sure that you are firmly planted to keep from getting pulled overboard. It's a good idea to allow it time to play the line and wear down a bit before tackling the arduous task of pulling it in. I recommend bringing old leather work gloves to keep the string from biting into your hands if you have to hand-over-hand them in. All night of pulling 20 to 50- pound, fighting fish overboard becomes tiring. I often have to lay flat on my stomach, reach over the boat and grab the fish by the gills in both hands to hoist it onto the boat. As I mentioned, you'll need several old tubs or even barrels balanced in the middle of the boat to accommodate the fish. Wet, slime-producing fish can cause a real safety hazard as well as a real mess if left to flop around in the bottom of the boat.
A valid state fishing license is required to bowfish however there are no size or creel limits when pursing these scavengers. There are several ways of preparing rough fish which include smoking them whole and high pressure canning. I've even been asked by ardent horticulturists for part of the catch to naturally fertilize their gardens. Whether you try this hunting/fishing adventure to cure the dog day doldrums, or to sharpen your bow shooting skills for whitetail, or just to help clean our bountiful lakes, be prepared for an exciting experience. However don't be surprised if buffalo hunting, southern style, becomes as addictive as listening for that early morning gobble or waiting for that elusive buck.
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