Handmade and Deadly

Adam Stewart’s foray into the world of recurve bowhunting has proven to be a good one. He killed this trophy last season with a bow he’d made himself.

Lauderdale County bowhunter Adam Stewart downed the buck of a lifetime with a recurve he made himself.

Adam Stewart scoured the surrounding woods in search of a deer, and marveled at the splendor of it all.The young hunter had joined his Uncle Bobby Pinkham for his first bow hunt, which took place in Lauderdale County. Though Stewart didn’t think he would like bowhunting, he finally gave in to his uncle’s pleadings.

“If you’re going to hunt with me, you’ve got to bowhunt because all of my stands are set up for bowhunting,” explained Pinkham.

Now Stewart was perched high atop the forest floor in the “Millionaire Stand” searching for that first bow kill.

With dark approaching and the sun disappearing swiftly, Stewart suddenly heard a crack directly behind him. Without thinking, he turned his head and stared straight into the eyes of a 12-point buck, looking back from a mere 18 yards. The jig was up, and the buck waved goodbye with a flick of his white tail as he disappeared into the safety of the woods.

Though the encounter occurred instantly and was over in a split second, Stewart was forever hooked, and a bowhunter was born that day.

Stewart had killed a buck or two with his rifle, but he had never had much time to hunt while playing baseball at West Lauderdale High School. Stewart played baseball for seven years under Coach Jerry Boatner, and was a part of three state titles. In those days, baseball was just about a year-round sport, and not much time was left for other pursuits such as hunting. It wasn’t until he graduated from high school that he really had the opportunity to hunt.

After going through quite a learning curve, Stewart finally harvested his first buck, a fine 7-point, with a Hoyt compound bow, and his appetite was whetted even more. That deer was killed near Meridian while hunting with Michael Knost.

Stewart’s Uncle Bobby hunted exclusively with a recurve, and even gave him one to try. From time to time, he would use the bow with no luck, and eventually went back to his compound. A trip to visit one of his uncle’s friends ultimately changed his way of thinking and his mode of hunting forever.

David Speed had made a fine recurve bow from scratch for his brother, and Stewart and Uncle Bobby stopped by for a look. Speed, an accomplished bowhunter, is also an accomplished bow craftsman.

After admiring the specimen and talking with the craftsman, Stewart decided he wanted to make a bow of his own.

“I figured that if I made one, then I would hunt more with it,” he said.

Speed volunteered to help Stewart get started with the process.

“I’ve got a piece of Paducah wood that would be just perfect for a riser,” Speed volunteered.

The aspiring young bowhunter didn’t have to be coaxed anymore as he quickly accepted Speed’s help, and determined to utilize every ounce of his wisdom.

“Since David already had a block of wood for the riser, we ordered strips of red elm for the limbs, and we cut pieces of antler from a deer I had killed earlier for the bow tips,” Stewart said.

Speed had a template for the block of wood to get the outline and proper angles for the riser, so that they could mount the limbs properly. After putting the template on the riser wood, they cut the shape out and fitted two pieces of yellow Osage wood into the riser for aesthetics. Then they began the tedious task of hand-sanding and molding the grip into the riser.

While all of the details are important in constructing a bow from the ground up, nothing else will matter if the hand grip is uncomfortable for the shooter.

Once the riser was fitted with the Osage wood, it had to be glued together and put into a heat box for curing. Next the limbs had to be laminated and fitted — two pieces of glass and two pieces of wood.

Once they were fitted and glued together, it was time for the molding and curing process in the heat box. During this process, the limbs were also molded into the traditional curves of a bow. Once out of the heat box, they were formed and ready to be fitted to the riser.

Finally the bow tips were cut from the antler base, fitted to the bow and cured. The final piece of the puzzle had been installed.

Once the string was attached, Stewart was in business.

It took approximately 30 hours of work to complete the bow and get it ready for shooting. Each stage of the process had to be completed separately, and needed time for the glue to seal and set. Even with all of the time and work involved, Stewart and Speed accomplished the task in a mere two weeks.

And what a thing of beauty it turned out to be. There’s nothing wrong with hunting deer with state-of-the-art compounds, but there’s just a little something special about hunting with a “stick and string” like the Indians did in the days of yore.

Next on the agenda for the budding bow hunter was his first deer kill with the bow. Needless to say, it took quite some time and effort to become proficient with the recurve after mastering the compound bow. Stewart practiced over the summer, and hunted with the bow in the fall of 2005. Though he never got a shot at a buck, he did have an opportunity to shoot at a doe.

Alas, that unfortunate miss just buoyed his enthusiasm and steeled his desire to become proficient and master the recurve.

“I knew that shooting a recurve was much different than hunting with a compound or rifle,” he said.

There’s no guarantee when shooting a recurve with a 52-pound draw weight and shooting with three fingers. That’s a fact of which Stewart was well aware and part of what motivated him to master his new handmade recurve.

“I started hunting with a rifle, and can still say with a pretty good certainty that if I put the pin on a deer with my compound, I’m going to hit him, barring any unforeseen incident. But with a recurve, everything must be perfect. And that’s still not a guarantee that you’re going to make a good shot,” related the avid hunter.

During the fall of 2006, Stewart and his companions hit the woods again. This time they were hunting an area of land that had been transformed by logging, and was basically new to them. Most of the timber had been harvested, and the loggers left trees only in the bottoms of the ravines and hollows that ran through the area.

Most of the early season was spent in tree stands, with no luck and few sightings.

On Oct. 30, Stewart planned a late-afternoon hunt with Pinkham and Speed. The avid bowhunter had hunted 16 times and not gotten a shot at a nice buck. Though they never usually saw a lot of deer in this area, the trio hoped to see more deer with the emergence of new honeysuckle. Any buck spotted would more than likely be a good one.

Pinkham and Speed arrived at the camp before Stewart, and discussed where to go. After checking the wind direction, they determined there were only three stands that would be conducive to hunting that afternoon.

Being gracious, Stewart volunteered to take the stand nearest the road since he would be coming in later. Turning down his offer, the two veteran hunters decided to hunt the first two stands and leave the other one for Stewart.

This particular stand hadn’t been hunted all year, most likely due to its proximity to the cutover. The ladder stand was positioned on a tree at one end of a narrow green field overlooking mostly cutover ridges. The only trees left from the cutting were situated along the bottoms of the draws that converged at his stand, making a four-way intersection.

Stewart could see any deer that came along the ridges in either direction since they were devoid of trees. Hmmm, maybe Uncle Bobby did know something about this stand that he didn’t let on. No cover and no deer to watch made for a boring afternoon.

Like most of the others, Stewart had steered clear of this stand, and now he wondered if he had made a good choice.

“The afternoon was very uneventful,” he said. “I didn’t see any deer or anything else, except a few small birds, and it really made for a boring afternoon.”

With the sun fading fast over the hill and daylight fleeing rapidly, Stewart was about ready to call it a day. As luck would have it, he decided to wait five more minutes.

Just about the time he was contemplating getting up, a limb popped and shattered the quiet evening stillness. Cutting his eyes slowly across the field Stewart was astonished to see that a buck had made it into the narrow food plot.

How had the deer made it into the field without being detected? If it had come across the ridge, he would surely have been detected by the keen eyes of this young hunter. Stewart later theorized that the buck had been bedding down somewhere in the draw, getting up to feed during the last fleeting moments of daylight.

As the deer edged closer and closer to the kill zone, Stewart waited for him to turn broadside. On and on, the deer came until he was in dead range, but still he didn’t turn and offer the optimum shot.

With muscles tightening and nerves straining, Stewart knew the moment of truth had come. It was now or never, as the young archer drew his bow and released the carbon arrow in one fluid motion. The shot was met by silence, save the deer running off in the other direction.

“Normally I hear a thwack, or plop, when the arrow hits the deer,” noted Stewart.

This time nothing greeted the twang of the bow string, but the sound of retreating hoof beats.

“How could I have missed that deer this close?” Stewart wondered to himself.

Just about that instant, he heard the buck crash in a heap, somewhere in the darkness. Seconds followed, and only the thrashing sounds of a dying buck could be heard. Or so he thought, still not believing he had hit the deer after hearing no report from the smack of the broadhead.

Quickly getting his gear together, Stewart made his way to the scene of the shot. Not a sign of an arrow or speck of blood could be found. However, his adrenalin surged sky-high as he found the blood-drenched arrow about 20 yards away. That was enough confirmation that a good hit was made and that the sounds had indeed been from a dying deer.

As soon as Speed and Pinkham came on the scene, they inquired as to the size of the buck.

“I think it’s at least a 6-point,” responded the charged-up hunter.

By now the blood trail was spraying out wide like the deer had been hit by a rifle bullet. Trailing the blood up the hill, Stewart came to a dead end on the blood trail.

Suddenly, he heard Speed call out, “How big did you say that deer was?”

As he turned to look, Speed’s flashlight lit up the head of an enormous buck. At that instant, the celebration began.

With the light very low and Stewart concentrating on a shot, he had not realized what a great deer the buck was. In hindsight, the shot had been perfect. Since the buck was quartering toward him with his head down, Stewart’s arrow had penetrated right at the base of the neck, near the shoulder blade, before traveling into the rib cage. The buck ran a mere 20 yards before the arrow came out and blood started gushing out, leaving a trail not typical of an arrow hit. The monster ran another 30 yards or so up the hill before expiring.

The 9-point typical buck had an inside spread right at 18 inches, with 25-inch main beams and 10- and 11-inch G2s to boot. It green scored at 143 3/8 Pope and Young, and weighed in at 190 pounds, a trophy in anybody’s book, especially coming from East Mississippi.

The fact that it had never been seen on the property by hunters or game cameras was astonishing. Even more impressive was the fact that Stewart had taken the trophy buck with a 52-pound recurve he had made himself. He had harvested a trophy buck with a stick and string, much like the Indians that roamed the area hundreds of years before.

Stewart harvested the buck of a lifetime with his own handmade bow scarcely two years after making it. In the process, he finished in third place in a local big-buck bowhunting contest, and won yet another bow, a Hoyt Redline.

Lest anybody think his feat was a fluke, this young Daniel Boone harvested yet another good buck in December while hunting by himself at 4:15 one afternoon. That deer was a fine 7-point, and weighed in at 191 pounds, a whale of a buck by Lauderdale County standards.


About Michael O. Giles 396 Articles
Mike Giles of Meridian has been hunting and fishing Mississippi since 1965. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer, writer, seminar speaker and guide.

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