Northern Wilds Magazine
Kirbie’s first deer with a bow in 2014. In the Duluth city hunt, an archer must first take an anterless deer before they can shoot a deer with antlers. | ALI JUTEN
Along the Shore

Bow hunting: It’s about more than the hunt

DuluthWhether you’re a hunter or not, harvesting meat in general is a massive amount of work.

With a bow though, it is not just about the moment in which the arrow is released; it is the time put in before the hunt that matters. In Minnesota, to legally harvest big game during archery season, you must pull no less than 30 pounds at or before full draw. Even then, a true sportsmen’s goal is to humanely take big game, meaning that they should have full confidence that their shot will be deadly. That means that a hunter pulling back 30 pounds of draw weight needs to be in close enough range to the animal to make a clean shot. This is why practice and physical fitness are critical to be a successful bow hunter.

Before archery season, a hunter typically shoots countless practice shots from varying distances and vantage points to ensure that they can shoot consistently. Repetition is key. If the shooter changes how they hold the bow, grip it differently, are fatigued, etc., the shot will likely be off. Some bow hunters even use archery training aids, like an Accubow, to improve their draw strength on the off-season.

It is not all about the hunting, though. In fact, an estimated 12.4 million people 6 years old and older used archery equipment recreationally in 2015, according to the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

Matt and Kirbie Haas of Duluth also fit into that demographic. Though they are avid bow hunters, archery is also a year round past-time for them. In the winter and spring, they shoot target archery in local indoor leagues. In the summer, it’s outdoor, 3D targets and hours upon hours preparing for hunting season. And, of course, once archery season starts in September, their time is spent in the woods hunting as much as they can until December 31, when the season ends.

“To me there is so much more that goes into hunting with a bow, there is so much skill and preparation that goes into it,” said Kirbie. “Being at full draw with a bow is a crazy feeling. It’s almost like you black out.”

Kirbie, a nurse, grew up in southern Minnesota in a family that rifle hunts, but didn’t get into bow hunting until 2014 while she and Matt were dating. She was a natural and, with enough practice, she was confident enough to shoot a deer in her first year of bow hunting in the Duluth city hunt.

Matt rifle hunts about one weekend a year with Kirbie’s family but didn’t grow up in a hunting family himself. He discovered his passion for bow hunting in 2008 when he was an intern at an archery accessory manufacturer, then called Field Logic. To learn, he read books, watched videos, and joined archery leagues to teach himself the sport; it has been all about bows ever since. Today, he is an engineer at the same archery accessory manufacturer, now called FeraDyne Outdoors in Superior. His work day is spent improving and creating the latest and greatest archery accessories and technology.

“You just don’t get the same feeling hunting with a gun. You put in months and months of practicing, and there is a sense of pride you get when you actually seal the deal,” Matt said.

The newlyweds are even spending their honeymoon hunting elk in Oregon. It will be Kirbie’s first time elk hunting, but one of Matt’s favorite animals to hunt.

The work doesn’t stop at the hunt. The couple also processes their own meat. Spending hours meticulously separating the meat into different cuts to fill the freezer full of months worth of meals. Though the grocery store is the more convenient option to buy meat, the Haas’ find bow hunting much more rewarding.

“Just knowing you did something that not a lot of people can say that they have done. Filling your freezer and not having to go to the grocery store for meat, it is a great feeling.”

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