Imagine, a fish that can live out of water for 72 hours. Creates more slime than the Ghostbusters ever had to endure. Has the skin and flexibility of a snake. Eyes so far forward on its head that it looks more reptilian then fishlike. Razor sharp teeth that blend in to the white 'cottonmouth' ready to grab and hold.
Not only that, but they are great parents! They protect their young at all costs enabling their species to grow at overpowering rates.
And lastly, they have invaded our nation's capital just minutes downriver from where the great George Washington used to live and harvest the spawning shad each year.
June 9th marked the date of the stingray and skate portion of the quest for the slam. Below is a short video (5 minutes) explaining the equipment used and some action shots of the hunt. This is just a little low budget vid of what the actual dvd segments will cover. Enjoy!
Had a couple of packages come in over the past few days.
First, Cajun Archery sent in a small arsenal of arrows consisting of Yellow Jackets tipped with the Garpoon tip and the Piranha tip. Also had 3 of the Hornet Lite bowfishing arrows tipped with the Piranha included. A hat, shirt, and hoodie to wear while on the quest. 4 rolls of bowfishing line (2 x 200# and 2 x 400#). Some bowfishing arrow nocks and a Zebco 808 big game bowfishing reel. Nice!
Then, not to be outdone, PSE Archery ponied up with the PSE Wave bowfishing bow. And I had never noticed before, but the blue 'camo' is actually fish skeletons. Now to get it set up in time for Snakeheads on the Potomac!
I first started bowfishing a couple of years after I picked up a bow for the first time.I wanted to extend my time with the bow, and the eight months without a hunting season was just too long.Granted, I did pursue small game such as groundhogs, beaver, and nutria during the summer, but they did not offer the opportunity or rewards of whitetail season.Bowfishing filled that need.It offered me the chance to get in the water, reminisce about my younger days, and keep a bow in my hand.
My first fish taken by archery equipment.
I did not possess a boat suitable for bowfishing.My trips consisted of either wading in the shallows or stalking from the shoreline.It took several trips before I hit my first fish.It took several more before I was able to land my first fish.The longnose gar is plentiful in my area of the country.It does however make for a difficult shot.Long and slender, and scaly armor that can deflect an arrow easily, the gar helped perfect my instincts.I still have a picture of my first gar on my office wall.It was small, only about one pound. In truth, I deserved an award for hitting such a small target when you look at the fact it was about as big around as the handle of a baseball bat.
Since that time I have taken many fish with the bow, as well as many small and big game.To tackle a Bowfishing Slam, as we will call it here in this book, came about for a different reason other than just a love of bowfishing.So let’s run off in a tangent for a moment to lay the basis for the writing of this story of adventures.
My grandfather with his rhino.
My grandfather was a big game hunter back in the 70’s and 80’s.His tales of the trips to Alaska, Canada, and the Midwest in pursuit of the North American Super Slam as well as his expeditions to Africa for its Dangerous 6 could draw interest from anyone.The different species on the walls of his trophy room were a catalog of beasts that zoos would be envious of.When Papa filmed one of his trips to Alaska on 8mm film, it became a movie event in the Howard household.Seeing the glaciers, mountains and crystal clear streams brought about a passion to want more.I wanted to experience all that the world had to offer.
Fast forward to the year 2005.My oldest son was nine years old and became interested in hunting.I taught him the appreciation of wing shooting with a 20 gauge Ithaca side by side shotgun that I used when I was his age.He had been on several dove hunts where the action was steady and exciting.We also drew tags for tundra swan and we were both successful.As deer season approached, I figured I had better learn what I could about the whitetail.
When I was young, whitetail deer were nearly non-existent in the area where I lived.I just did not get to go deer hunting.Once while in high school, a deer was struck by a vehicle about seven miles outside of the city limits.Deer were so uncommon, the incident made the front page headline in the local paper. Now I was in a situation where deer were everywhere, and my son would surely want to go.I was not going to be the one to hold him back from his interest in the outdoors and nature!
In the process of becoming educated on deer, I came across an article titled “North Carolina Master Bowhunter” by Randy Mabe.He discussed how he traversed the state in a quest to take North Carolina’s big four: Eastern wild turkey, black bear, wild boar, and whitetail deer.Not only did it light the familiar fire I felt when Papa would tell his stories, it enticed me to try the bow for the first time.It also started me on my own journey to learn about and hunt different game throughout the state and the country.
I have since hunted game such as bison by spot and stalk, mountain lion by horseback, black bear from a tree stand, and alligator by boat.All were with nothing but my bow.I wrote down a bucket list of game I would like to pursue.I then set an order to all the creatures in a logical order I felt I could follow both financially and physically.While I listed such animals as elk, caribou and moose, I also had alligator gar and Asian carp.
That brings us to this book's purpose.Searching the internet and the library, I could not find a true series of fish to bowfish.There were plenty of articles on chasing one species or the other, but not a pursuit of a greater goal.So, I started researching different areas of the country and the types of fish available for bowfishing.I wanted to make a list which would allow me to use different bowfishing techniques, offer a hint of danger at times, and above all, make the adventure exciting.
First, I needed the pinnacle of bowfishing in my opinion.When one thinks of THE big game for bowfishing, alligator gar will usually come to mind.They grow to an enormous size and are basically a relic of the dinosaur era.This has to be number one on the list.
While researching videos on bowfishing, one fish always pops up on the most viewed list.My requirement of exciting was built around it.The invasive Asian carp allows shot after shot, but not in the typical bowfishing style.The fish hurl themselves several feet out of the water and you have to target them while they are flying!You may even have to dodge one or two.Professional bowfishers such as Chris Brackett have made them famous, drawing in hunting personalities to share the experiences on national television.
Likely the most common target of bowfishers, the common carp also must be included on the list.Not because they are unique, but because they are not.They would have to be considered the whitetail deer of the bowfishing universe.
If labeling the carp as the whitetail, then the next one on the list would have to be considered more exotic like a muskox or bison.The paddlefish is easily one of the more unique fish species in North America fresh water systems.It is one of the largest fresh water fish in North America.It has a large paddle like snout that is uses to detect small electrical impulses from zooplankton as well as steer and stabilize the fish while swimming.
One fish that really creates intrigue and wonder is the snakehead.Not only does its common name create a vision, so does its adopted nickname; frankenfish.Few fish can accomplish what the snakehead can.They have such an impact on the habitat, state wildlife agencies will shut down and drain water systems to eradicate them before they spread to other systems.They can breathe in air nearly as well as in water, so a toss onto the shore after the catch does not guarantee the kill.Most states even have laws against ‘catch and release’ practices with them.If you catch, you must kill it.
The quest does not just include fresh water fish however.One of the greatest sports fish to tackle would have to be the shortfin mako shark.They go airborne regularly when caught, leaping as high as 30 feet out of the water.Checking videos posted online of a mako hooked and throwing its 300 to 500 pound body is quite the sight.Now imagine this with a bow and arrow.Because of its tendency to leap, this also makes it one of the most dangerous fish to attempt to shoot.Numerous deaths and injuries have been accounted for by the shark actually landing in the boat with the fishermen.
Closely connected with the mako, the hammerhead is one of my favorites in the shark family.Ever since my grandfather caught a huge 12 foot long hammerhead off the coast of North Carolina while shore fishing, I have been intrigued by its look and prowess.
Amongst the most popular bowfishing targets for salt water, the stingray provides an easy target.The hard part is not shooting the ray.The hard part is bringing it back to the boat.The large wings resist the pull through the water and are quite muscular as well.
Kin to the stingray, the skate is another popular target.The skate can be seen in large schools during the spring.I was told once they resembled stepping stones across the canal there were so many swimming.
That brings us to the only non-fish species on the list of slam contenders.The American alligator is a true conservation success story.It also is dangerous, strong, and large.Especially with bowfishing tackle. Techniques vary on how to take the alligator, but for my slam, bow and arrow only are the requirements I went by.
Each of the species will bring their own challenges and exploits.Each will also provide their own rewards.And each will surely make the bowfishing slam that much more memorable.