Hunters gear up for deer season

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By SEAN SHAPIRO

Deer hunting season started last week in Williamson County, but rifles are not coming out yet and gunshots will not be heard until Nov. 1.

Instead, hunters executing a more primitive and difficult task started hunting with bows and arrows on Sept. 27. The archery-only season runs until Oct. 31, and during that time bow hunters will enjoy some piece and quiet in the woods.

“It’s much more quiet, obviously,” said Shannon Hofmann of Liberty Hill, who has been bow hunting for almost a decade. “When you fire a rifle, everything scatters. When you fire a bow, it doesn’t disturb the wildlife and cause everything to stay away from the area.”

In addition to the muteness, bow hunting presents a challenge for hunters.

Unlike a rifle, which will allow for a shot to be taken from a far distance, an arrow’s range typically maxes it out at 35 yards. In fact, some bow hunters will not take a shot unless the target is 25-yards away – and once that shot is taken, a hunter has to take into account how the wind may affect the arrow.

Hunters also have to be physically fit to bow hunt. Holding your aim and taking the right shot requires patience, which gives the upper body an added workout.

“You definitely have to be ready before the season starts,” Hofmann said. “Controlling your breath and waiting for that shot, it can be tough. If you’re not in shape, you’re not going be very good with a bow.”

In addition to their traditional hunting license, bow hunters have to get an archery state stamp. The stamp costs $7 and is added onto a traditional license, or it is included in the $68 “super combo” license, which covers all types of hunting.

Judith Baker does not sell bow equipment at her Liberty Hill shop, A Texas Girl’s Guns, but she does sell the licenses. She said many hunters typically take up bow hunting for the challenge, and the early start to the season.

Bow hunting is also being used to help fight growing deer populations. Since 2010 in Sundance Ranch, the homeowners association has allowed property owners to obtain extra permits for deer in an attempt to curb the population growth.

Wade Burton, who is in charge of the Deer Management Program for Sundance Ranch POA, said it was one of the few solutions to a growing problem.

“Something had to be done,” Burton said. “The (deer) population is almost triple what it should be in the area.”

There are other HOAs across the state that allow bow hunting, which Burton said is the “most affordable, and practical” solution for the time being.

Burton said right now there are an estimated 425 deer within Sundance Ranch, a gated community located on CR 200 just north of Liberty Hill. That’s down slightly from 2013, when there was 450, but still much higher than the estimated 320 deer when the program was first put in place in 2010.

Burton said before bow hunting in Sundance Ranch, or anywhere for that matter, hunters should be educated and proficient with the equipment.

“We require hunters to go through a proficiency test to make sure they are safe and taking the right shots,” Burton said. “Bow hunting is a challenge, that’s why I started hunting with a bow. It takes a lot more skill, so learning as much as possible is crucial.”

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