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Did you know the U.S. deer population is sharply declining? Can the Typical World Record whitetail bow harvest be broken after 50 years? Do you realize the number one bowhunting myth is…
by the HuntDaily staff
Are we living in bowhunting’s Golden Age? Some would say so. Others may qualify that with a, “Maybe, but…” The truth is, change is a universal truth. Whether that change is for the better or not depends on many factors. As bowhunters, it is important that we see the long view—where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going—in order to ensure the sport we love today will be around for us to enjoy tomorrow. Let’s frame that long view with a few facts…
FACT #1: Our Bowhunting Legacy Almost Never Was…
As recently as the 1970s and early 1980s, simply seeing a whitetail deer track was cause for much excitement in many parts of the country. We take it for granted that deer are always “out there” waiting to match wits with us (or as is often the case, waiting to outwit us), but this wasn’t always the case. After being nearly wiped out due to market hunting and unregulated harvesting in the 1800s, whitetail deer were on the brink of annihilation in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, deer populations were barely hanging on in remote and isolated pockets of the country—mostly in the northern woods of Michigan and Wisconsin. It wasn’t until state wildlife agencies, with the help of sportsman groups and conservation-oriented organizations like the Pope & Young Club, initiated comprehensive restoration and regulatory programs that deer populations began the long journey back to the habitat-sustaining levels we see today.
FACT #2: Deer Numbers Are Falling…And Fast
Deer populations are on the decline across the U.S. That may be a difficult fact for most of us to wrap our heads around, but it is statistically verifiable. From around 1900 to 2000, deer populations rose from an estimated 500,000 to just over 30 million. Since then, deer numbers across the country have seen a sharp drop. Biologists believe that several factors are responsible for this, depending on the region of the country. Common causes include habitat loss, coyote expansion, maturing forests, and climatic conditions.
FACT #3: The Secret Whitetail Formula
Veteran bowhunters know that the most productive whitetail hunting usually occurs in areas with succession growth—where open fields, brushy edges, and early growth timber meet. Mature forests with little understory generally make for poor deer habitat, with fewer places to hide and marginal food to eat. The maturation of our country’s woodlands and the abandonment of small family farms throughout the nation have led to a loss of high-quality whitetail habitat in many regions. If this trajectory continues, the quality hunting opportunities we have enjoyed over the last decades may no longer be available to us or to future generations of bowhunters. This is why bowhunting advocacy organizations such as the Pope & Young Club are essential to the survival of our sport and our way of life. Their support of conservation programs and bowhunting education efforts nationwide will help ensure that bowhunting survives as a sport and as a vital tool for game management now and into the future.
FACT #4: The Perfect Whitetail Storm
Illinois holds the distinction of being the number one producer of record-class bucks harvested with a bow in the entire U.S.—according to data gathered by the Pope & Young Club— and Pike County is the board leader for big Illinois bucks. Why Pike County? Refer to FACT #3. Pike County has the enviable mix of high-quality agriculture lands intermixed with protective woodlands and lush creek bottoms that, combined, produce optimal whitetail habitat. Whether by intent or fortunate happenstance, when the ideal combination of food and cover merge, excellent bowhunting opportunities are the result. This is why ongoing conservation, education, and advocacy efforts by organizations such as the Pope & Young Club are integral to ensuring quality habitat for deer and other big-game species throughout the country.
FACT #5: The Record That Can’t Be Beat (or can it?)
The Pope & Young Club Typical Whitetail World Record may never be outdone. In 1965, Mel Johnson of Metamora, Illinois, harvested a phenomenal 204-4/8 buck with a 72-lb recurve bow at roughly 15 feet distance. This outstanding buck was wandering in a Peoria County bean field at a time when deer populations were still on the rebound across much of the country and deer were considered scarce in many states, including in the Midwest. Interestingly, in spite of decades of intense quality deer management practices on both public and private lands, that record still stands 50 years later. It begs the question…”Will Mel Johnson’s buck ever be topped?” Better yet, “Why hasn’t that record been broken?”
FACT #6: The Pope & Young Club Is Open To ALL Bowhunters…Not Just To Those Who Harvest A Record-Class Animal
Perhaps we should call this the #1 Bowhunting Myth because even most of the lifelong bowhunters we know have the same misconception.
If you are a bowhunter or a student of archery history, you know the Pope & Young Club as the place to register all trophy-class animals taken ethically with a bow and arrow. While the club is the official record keeper of such harvests, it is NOT TRUE that you have to take a minimum-scoring animal with your bow to become a member of this venerable organization. In fact, you don’t even have to be a bowhunter to join the club!
The Pope & Young Club is an organization that is open to and represents ALL BOWHUNTERS. The myth that club membership requires harvesting a “book-size” animal no doubt stems from the fact that the club is best known for keeping records of the most outstanding North American animals ethically harvested with a bow and arrow. Those records are actually an integral part of the club’s conservation program, and are of significant value to game managers across the country, as well as club members who take a statistical-based, methodological approach to determining the best hunting locations and times for all manner of big-game species. In short, the club is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to improve their odds of hunting the finest animals in North America.
But membership benefits in the Pope & Young Club go beyond the record book resources. All members enjoy:
- Quarterly P&Y Ethics magazine
- A P&Y decal
- Membership certificate and card
- Invitations to P&Y events
- Members-only website access
- Being a part of bowhunting’s future
- Support of wildlife conservation
- A free Outdoor Edge knife with each membership
- The opportunity to place your minimum-scoring bow harvest in the official P&Y record book.
While the benefits of being a member of the Pope & Young Club are deep, perhaps the greatest value of becoming a member of an organization founded almost a century ago by our legendary bowhunting and archery forebears is the satisfaction that you are “doing right” for the preservation of bowhunting. If you enjoy seeing game animals, take advantage of your state’s archery season, or feed your family with game harvested with your bow and arrow, you are already benefiting from the work of the Pope & Young Club members who’ve come before you.
Quality bowhunting opportunities and healthy game populations cannot be taken for granted. The legacy we enjoy today was built by the efforts of our bowhunting predecessors. Now it’s our turn to put our shoulders into the sport we love so much. Join the Pope & Young Club today and help ensure that our bowhunting legacy will live tomorrow.
Article copyright 2015 by HuntDaily.com; promoted by Pope & Young Club