By Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18.
I got my first bow when I was about thirteen years old. I barely used it except for the occasional target shoot or a few fish. I decided to try for archery paddlefish again over summer, so I picked up my old bow and decided it was time to practice.
By this time my bow was really small for me, so I designated it to be my fish shooting bow. Before paddlefish season started, I decided I needed a lot of practice because I had maybe only ten to fifteen fish on my bow and arrow count. I had been out after paddlefish with a bow before, but it had been years. But this time I was also going to be going from shore instead of a boat, so I began chasing carp for practice.
The weekend before the paddlefish season I went out to my local lake and began looking for carp. There were a fair amount around, and I would pick them out by the dark lump in the water along the shallow edge of the muddy shores. It’s actually pretty easy to spook a carp, so I did my best to sneak through the tall grass and find a decent opening. Not even five minutes into my adventure, without having shot my bow in several months, I looked down the arrow and let it fly at a carp. I surprised myself; I got him. I had him on and reeled him on in to shore. I was excited as could be and ready to look for more.
I walked the shore for about two hundred yards, spooked a bunch, missed a few shots and a couple wiggled off the arrow, but all in all I had arrowed and retrieved twelve carp in under an hour. It certainly wasn’t a whole lot of practice, but for not having shot my bow in so long, I was feeling great. I packed up, and an hour later my dad and I headed out to Yankton to sit at Gavin’s Point Dam and try for a paddlefish.
Paddlefish are a much different situation, though. They don’t like to just hang out on top of the water and wait for you to shoot at them. Paddlefish jump out of the water for a brief second or just come up and roll over. They are there and gone in a split-second. I sat there on a rock for hours and hours, bow drawn at certain times waiting and other times hoping I could just draw and get a snap-shot.
To pass the time waiting for paddlefish when the hours were slow, I was launching arrows at nearly every bighead carp or gar that would pass by. The first gar that came by, I looked at my dad and said, “There’s no way I’m going to hit that thing.” But I’ll be darned, I knocked the arrow, let it fly, and got one of those super narrow gar on my first shot. I would go on to shoot about five more gar, and approximately fifteen bighead carp through the weekend.
I spent the entire weekend sitting on shore and shooting arrows, but I think I only really took two or three shots at paddlefish. Paddlefish were a major challenge for me to get a decent shot, but I was having the time of my life shooting at the other fish that came around. I may have left empty-handed for paddlefish, but it was extremely fun and I took the lesson that I should practice even more. A little later that summer I went back out and took out another thirty carp in about two hours. I had never felt more like Robin Hood in my life.
Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations.