Bowhunting: 5 Popular Big-Game Species in North America
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So, you’ve gotten your bow tuned and your shooting is precise. You have some vacation time coming up, and you plan on taking it around bowhunting season. When fall comes around, which animal will you be setting your sights on?
From the steamy swamps in Florida to the ice caps in Alaska, bowhunters enjoy big-game hunting opportunities that will be engraved in their memories. In North America, there are 29 big-game species. The Pope and Young Club is the official record keeper for bowhunting, and they use the same exact scoring system that the Boone and Crockett Club utilizes for gun hunters. For instance, certified scorers measure sheep by their horns, deer by their antlers, and bears by their skulls.
Animals and the bowhunters that got them are able to qualify for the records program by meeting standards of measurement that are set by the clubs. Aside from being an impressive accomplishment, these records offer vital data for conservation efforts. These clubs share data with wildlife agencies, which utilize the information to assist in monitoring and analyzing the populations of big-game species.
Gathering and analyzing that data is a grueling task for the clubs every year, but it offers insights into the species that get the most pressure from hunters. Based on that information, let’s take a look at the big-game species that are most commonly bowhunted in North America.
Whitetails are by far the favorite prey of everyday big-game bowhunters in North America. Founded in 1961, the Pope and Young Club has entered almost 60,000 whitetails into its record book. These deer are located in just about every single one of the Lower 48 states due to the ability to thrive in countless habitats. Their adaptability and high numbers make them the perfect prey for bowhunters. Their sharp eyesight, wariness, and keen sense of smell make white-tailed deer a serious challenge. A lot of bowhunters learn their craft waiting for whitetails by sitting in treestands, a challenge that seems to never get old.
While black bears aren’t nearly as widespread as white-tailed deer, they tend to inhabit the majority of North America, making them a popular quest for bowhunters. Some states offer spring and fall bowhunting seasons for this animal. The spring season tends to be particularly popular, probably due to the fact that bowhunters have limited chances during that time of year and the fact that black bears are a plentiful prey with thick coats from the winter season.
In September, the piercing sound of bull elk offers the ultimate feeling for a lot of bowhunters. Generally, the elk bow season will fall throughout the rut, creating exhilarating and action-packed bowhunting. Bowhunters will utilize numerous tricks in order to get into arrow range. Whether they use calls to imitate cows with mews or bulls with bugles or they wait by wallows, bowhunters have to make sure they make the absolute most of their skills.
Pronghorn antelope reside on the grassland, providing a unique experience for bowhunters. They are often referred to as speed goats, and they often require you to get out of the treestand and opt for a ground blind. In some states, the pronghorn season is in the late summer, which is dry and hot—conditions that make it productive to place your ground blind near a waterhole. Some bowhunters will opt to spot and stalk, which can be challenging. Ground-hugging cacti and crawling through low-growing grassland plants requires incredible stealth and sometimes a decoy.
While mule deer aren’t nearly as popular as white-tailed deer, they are still among the most popular and hunted big-game species in North America. Most bowhunters will target mule deer early in the season, which is when the deer’s antlers are considered to be in velvet. Big mule deer live in the high country, and the scenery is beautiful. While bowhunters tend to opt for treestands when hunting whitetails, they tend to prefer to spot and stalk mule deer. Regardless, bowhunters who target both whitetails and muleys will experience very different types of hunts.
One of the many reasons that the aforementioned five big-game species are so popular with bowhunters in North America is because they tend to inhabit significant areas of the country and offer lots of lean, delicious meat. This is why these animals make up the majority of the entries into the B&C and P&Y record books. Meanwhile, some of the big-game animals that aren’t as commonly hunted in these record books are tule elk, polar bears, and bison—all of which have fewer than 100 submissions in the P&Y books.
Of course, there are few people that bowhunt simply to get their name into a record book. Bowhunting offers numerous reasons to pursue animals, regardless of whether they are deer, bears, squirrels, or something else entirely. Bowfishing is also very popular.
Regardless of the species that you choose to hunt this upcoming bowhunting season, get out there, have fun, and good luck!