About The Author

Kim Hiss, an associate editor at Field & Stream, has hunted ducks, antelope, turkeys, and deer throughout the country, enjoying a number of women's hunts along the way. She lives in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Click here to email Kim.

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November 20, 2008

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Dispatch from Michigan

    Well, I was planning on doing a news post today, but unless we want to talk about a potential handgun ban in Ireland, a buck breaking into a St. Louis mall or the increase in German boar hunting, I'm changing my mind and  putting up a mini-essay that blog reader Judy Black emailed me to share with you. I thought her comments were pretty interesting, so I'm sure you'll join me in thanking Judy for saving us from a "thrilling" discussion about another of today's breaking headlines, like the Associated Press' "Angler numbers drop as hunting season opens" -- shocking! 
     So, here's Judy's dispatch from whitetail season in Michigan, wherein she mulls the differences between archery and rifle hunting. I realize not all of us are bowhunters, but it's still interesting to think about.  -K.H.


    Yesterday, while sitting in my blind I got to thinking. While I love to archery hunt, rifle season is all I knew up until 2003 when I got my bow. Even though they are the same sport, they are different in so many ways.
    My thought yesterday morning was, when sitting in your tree stand, all of your senses are so much alive. You hear the birds, you hear the young turkeys approaching and you hear the snap of a twig from an approaching whitetail. You smell fall in the air and see every thing that is going on around you, right down to the little chickadee that sits on the branch only inches from your face. It all seems so up close and personal from your front row seat in a tree.
    But when you sit in a 6x6 shack with a heater running and windows on three sides, it all changes.  There were no birds chirping and the turkeys were directly in front of me before I even knew they were there. The six or eight deer on the south end of my field just seemed to suddenly appear and there was no sound, and no smell. All I could hear was the hum of my propane heater that was keeping me warm, whereas in my tree, it is only the extra layer of clothes that keeps me warm.
    My other comparison between the archery whitetail hunt and the rifle was the fact that from my tree it was all about patience…  waiting for that deer to come within your shooting range to make the harvest. Whether it is 20 yards or 50 yards, you know your capabilities and you must wait for that animal to enter your “comfort” zone.
    Rifle hunting offers you a much bigger “comfort” zone.  Last year I shot a buck at 150 yards and I could not have been more excited. That was the first time I had ever shot that far and when people used to talk about a 200-250 yard shot I'd just think no way. But with the guns today, that is not a long distance at all.   
    But, just as I was having all these thoughts, watching the deer in my field, a blue jay came and sat in the tree outside the window of my blind. I watched as he pecked at the tree and jumped from limb to limb. Pretty soon he started his cawing and soon jays from other trees in the area joined in. I realized that the wildlife is still there, the sounds are still there but from the inside of a blind with the heater running, you just have to wait until they get close enough to experience them. At the same time, two deer ran up behind me and I thought they were going to climb in the blind with me. Something had scared them and they were running so fast and came so close to the blind that I couldn’t even see their bodies under my window, I had to wait until they were past me to see them.
    So, same sport but totally different experiences. And with that said, I am going to push in my chair at work and head for the woods. -J.B.


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its a choice to hunt from a "6x6 shack with a heater running and windows on three sides"...You could bow hunt from one if you wanted to. You can also rifle hunt from a treestand. Only difference to me is the shot.


Sometimes when it's 15 degrees out & I've been sitting on the same cold boulder with or without snow all around me, I've wished for a heater... however then I'd miss the sound of the wind thru the bare trees or the evergreens, all those noisy &%#@ squirrels running everywhere & chattering. Plus to me, to make hunting fair, I should also be out in the elements, but that's just my opinion.

Here in the Northeast, the only different between bow & rifle season is a shot from a rifle can maybe be taken from 100 yards out, if you're lucky. (And yes, I know there are spots that are much more open, but the norm is close shooting)

Lou Alexander

Bow hunting is not totally new to me, but this is the first year I have been able to spend some quality time at it since my girls are getting old enough to leave alone.

It is way different to me. There is so much more skill needed to bow hunt. One of my big learning curves has been the timeing of when to draw. I have a tendancy to wait too long or get to impatient and get busted about the time I get tension on the string.

Compared to Jan, I rough it in my 4x4 hut without the heater :) By the time we are able to rifle hunt, I'm ready to get meat in the freezer, so being able to shoot longer distances is a huge advantage.

No matter how I am hunting though, my heart gets to thumping everytime I catch that first glimps of the deer, no matter what it is.

I've had several close encounters with other wildlife in huts, ground blinds and trees stands. That never gets old.

Walt Smith

Maybe you could attach a little bird feeder on a tree where you could see it? good thinking eh!

Lou Alexander

Walt, with my luck, all I'd get with a feeder hung close is a bunch of crows or Jay's screeching constantly in a woodland smackdown!

Judy Black

I actually thought of putting a suet feeder in the tree next to my bow stand. But, like Lou said, with my luck the jays would take over the feeder.
I kid you not, I have had chickadees fly into my tree and just narrowly miss my head.
It doesn't matter where I sit or what I am hunting with, it still the best therapy in the world. I just plain love to hunt.
Have a great weekend and happy hunting. =)


For me the biggest difference is range,and this being my first time bow hunting, the tree stand was a new thing. I do hunt with rifle outside, behind a boulder, tree what not. This will be my third year hunting with rifle and I may use the tree stand I used for bow as it was a good spot. I did work very hard at learning both and I have to say the bow was the harder of the two. It took me the first few months sitting at my desk drawing my bow just to get that arm strength.
A funny story - I almost gave up on bow hunting before I started. I had ordered my bow and while I was waiting for it to come in my boss told me to use his for practice since he didn't use it anymore. After months of trying to draw it I finally had the strength and ventured out to the deck. I set up my block about 15 yards away, nocked the arrow, aimed, fired and dropped to the floor in pain. I frantically pulled the collar of my shirt out and looked - no blood. You see since my boss is so much taller than me, I had to lean in to the bow to see out of the peep, thus nearly slicing off my left boob. Once my bow came in my wonderful hunting buddy (the one that taught me to shoot my rifle) taught me how to use my bow and I'm am so glad I didn't give it up. I love the challenge and being in a tree stand with deer under me and they don't even know I am there (most of the time)


Judy, hopefully, you were in the Michigan north woods on the second day of the firearms opener. I changed my plans on the way to my stand that morning - huge snow flakes were coming down. Decided to check out a white pine forest that had just been selective cut. Lots of tree tops on the ground. Picked a sitting spot on a hill and pulled some tree limbs around me. Dawn came late. Fresh snow all around. So silent. So beautiful. Alabama's Christmas in Dixie kept going throough my head. Almost didn't want to brush the snow off and start my still hunt. Only went 100 yards before busting the prettiest doe I have ever seen. She daintily bounced around me, knowing that I only had a buck tag. A touch of heaven.

Judy Black

Mike...I was in the northwoods and the snow was absolutely beautiful!!! What a difference from the day before trying to pick out the sneaking deer in the all brown woods. The snow makes it so much easier to see them and gets your heart racing just that much sooner.
Actually, it snowed so hard that afternoon that I could not see the end of my field. Then it would clear up and the sun came out.
Some guy on the two way radio started singing Christmas carols....was that you? Funny thing is, I was doing the same thing before he started it.
OMG I love to hunt, I love to hunt, did I tell all of you how much I LOVE TO HUNT!!!!!


I think Judy loves to hunt.

No, wasn't me on the radio. If it was ... the deer, the hunters, and everything else would have hightailed it for the next county.

Ran across a kid still-hunting. He was wearing a hunter orange cap, but instead of camo, a red and black checked wool field coat. Someone's passing tradition down through that family.

Still the rest of firearms, then late bow and muzzleloader seasons. Gotta love Michigan.


I'm another Michigander who was out there for the firearm opener, I was in the central part of the state and loved that snow too.

Judy, it's interesting to read the differences in your bow and gun hunting experiences. I've never bow hunted, and probably never will for a few different reasons. Lack of confidence, lack of time to practice, and of course bow season running during duck season. ;)

I had a few cool experiences out this year deer hunting already. On the 16th, while sitting in my blind in the snow flurries I heard the strangest sound coming from the sky. It took a few minutes before I could make out the huge, graceful, white silouettes, of a flock of 80 swans flying low overhead. I'd never seen a flock so large. Then over the next hour and a half I watched and heard 18 seperate flocks flying over. It was the coolest thing.

This Saturday while I was sitting in the same blind, I watched a flock of 50 turkeys walk across the field, across the frozen swamp, and walk out right next to my blind! They were no more than 15 feet in front of it and soon surrounded it. I didn't dare move a muscle! Such a neat experience! I just keep wondering why in deer season I have the turkeys 15 feet away and in turkey season the deer are 15 feet away?

Laura Bell

I've been sick, otherwise I would have replied sooner, darn cold weather.
I think it all depends on how you hunt.
For me, gun season means I'm up and walking around. I hardly ever stay stationary. It's a great thrill to be up and around and seeing several different deer, all in different places. My main method is doing Drives, so when it comes to bow hunting, it's quite different. Having deer "pushed" your way is exciting, but then on the flip side, having them come in on their own is equally exciting.
Just last week Tuesday, I had a shooter buck come within 35 yards of my stand. I tried everything I could to get that deer a few yards closer, he almost did, but changed his mind and left. My heart pounded and I shook like no tomorrow after he left, my first Shooter buck within 50 yards! This probably would have been my exact feeling had I had my 20 gauge, but the only difference is that the buck would have been a goner at that range.
Turkey season is where I can really take notice to the things happening around me. Everything starts coming back to life in the springtime. Ah, I guess I’m just rambling now. ;)