One can't help but admire the benchmark attributes of a truly dedicated bowhunter. I am no longer counted among the ranks because a shoulder injury prevents me from pulling and holding a bow at full draw. In fact, I gave all my bowhunting gear to a guy at work who wanted to get into it. Now he suffers from the affliction of bowhunting.

However, having given up the stick and string has not made me forget what it took to get in shape to shoot accurately and to stay in shape throughout the hunting season. It takes far more effort to be a consistently successful deer hunter with archery gear than anything using powder to propel a projectile.


The bowhunter mindset

Most gun hunters I know don't even touch their hunting firearms from the end of one deer season to the start of the next one. Some guys in my own camp never even clean their rifles after the season closes.

One member's rifle has rust creeping in all over the metal, and the bore is beyond dark. The optic's glass has never been cleaned as far as I know. This hunter never even shoots his rifle at the range before the season starts each year. He would never, ever make it as a bowhunter. His mind is just not up to the challenge.

On the other hand, the classic bowhunter exhibits the complete reverse of this behavior. His equipment is in top condition at all times. Since he is constantly practicing his shooting skills all year long, he knows exactly how well his gear is working. If the bow needs tuning or adjustments, he is on it pronto. So-so is never good enough for the hard-core bowhunter when it comes to the performance of his gear.

One such hunter is Randy Pearcy of Madison. He is a bow hunter first and foremost. Sure he owns a muzzleloader and uses it sometimes, but he is a bowhunter fully dedicated to the practice.

Disciplined? Pearcy is a commercial pilot and heads up the Aviation Department at Hinds Community College headquartered on the Raymond Airport in Western Hinds County.

"I guess every pilot is disciplined or better be in this day and age of congested air traffic, as well as the high-tech electronic navigation and communications systems that are commonplace in aircraft these days," he said. "Maybe it is the pilot training constantly maintaining an edge to perform well that makes me a decent bowhunter. Or maybe it's being such a fervent bowhunter that helps me keep a sharp focus on my flying. For me, it seems to work both ways.

"Mainly what makes me sort of different these days as a contemporary bowhunter is that I hunt public land exclusively. And national refuges at that.

"My favorite haunt is the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge near Hollandale in Washington County up in the Delta. Sometimes I ease over to the Hillside NWR west of Lexington in Holmes County because it's closer to home. It depends on the weather forecast.

"Anybody who has ever set foot on these national refuges, or even driven around to look or scout the place, has a rough idea of the challenge these hunting properties offer to a deer hunter.

"The common denominator is water. Even in normally dry years, Yazoo can be wet. In wet years, it is flooded. To deer hunt there with bow or a gun, you have to learn to deal with the water.

"This makes getting in and back out a real test of your desire to see a trophy buck and maybe get a clean shot at one. Deep in the woods at Yazoo and in water sometimes 2 feet deep is where the trophy potential bucks hang out. From my stand, the only parcels of remotely dry land for most of the season are the root balls of fallen trees.

"You can hear deer sloshing in the water all day long. The deal is, though, you have to be prepared to sit there all day waiting on one with big antlers to slosh under your climbing stand that you brought in by boat and then toted to your tree on your back.

"Then there's your backpack, bow, quiver full of arrows and whatever else you're able to carry 200-300 yards from the boat canal to your stand before light and back well after dark.

"When I first started hunting Yazoo NWR when I was in college at Delta State, I began my long-term trek all from scratch. It took me years of map study, miles of waterproof boot rubber and visit after visit to learn the place halfway enough to hunt it. Today my honeyholes and hotspots are highly guarded secrets that I don't share, but the gist of my own work is essentially the elementary foundation of deer-hunting basics.

"It isn't really rocket science as much as it is plain old hard work, time, along with a good measure of trial and error, lots of error. But then that goes with any kind of hunting. Is deer hunting public land harder? Are national refuges tougher yet? Well, yes and no.

"Yes, I suppose, because we naturally expect to see more hunters more often on most public lands. Hunting pressure can definitely be higher.

"No, because in the case of the tracts like federal refuges, they are so big, or so much more difficult to access and deal with due to more deer hunting rules and regulations, that finding and isolating your own little private space is a real possibility. For me, this is why I hunt the tougher refuges, and learn to accept the rules."

Beyond these basics, Pearcy detailed that his pure enjoyment of bowhunting is in the dedication of time he spends in the woods waiting on the potential of the next deer slipping through the swamp being the biggest buck he has ever seen. Maybe that is what separates this bowhunter from others.