Legal Wildlife Abuse: The Victims Of “Archery”

By Laurie Crawford Stone

Meaningless proficiency testing, lax rules and hunt secrecy mean suffering for deer and those who love them. Bow hunters have to pass a proficiency test to participate in urban bow hunting programs. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, test is easier than most, with unlimited attempts permitted. Most cities permit one or two attempts per year. Many cities use a life-size 3D deer target and require 5-10 shots at both 15 and 20 yards. Generally, placing 80% of shots in the “vital area” of the 3D target will “pass” a hunter. The vital area is a six-inch area including the heart and lungs of a deer. Vital area shots generally kill a deer within minutes. Since most shots are taken at 20-25 yards, testing at those distances would be more meaningful. Additionally, in actual hunt conditions, the hunter is required to shoot from an elevated stand. Live deer are usually walking and react to hunter smell and sounds. There is a phenomenon called “jumping the string”. A deer, upon hearing the bow string as the arrow is released, jumps in response. All of these factors, plus the downward curved trajectory of an airborne arrow, affect accuracy. Proficiency tests take none of these factors into consideration.

Laurie holding antlers from faceshot buck. There is a photo of Buddy behind her, the buck who gave her the gift of his shed antlers after he was wounded. See the C.A.S.H. Courier for Buddy’s story

Cedar Rapids uses a six-inch pie target. A hunter placing 5 arrows within the 6 inch pie can hunt. Where s/he will shoot an actual deer is indeterminable. The deer’s head can be a 6” target for a careless or non-proficient hunter. Countless deer are maimed each year. Many are never found by the hunter. Deer with superficial wounds may survive but most wounded deer eventually bleed to death, suffocate or die a slow agonizing death, suffering for weeks or months (one buck suffered for almost a year) from infection caused by the unsterilized arrows used by all hunters. Using unsterilized arrows is evidence of hunters’ complete disregard and disrespect for deer.

Hunt secrecy and lax hunt rules mean there are no consequences for bad shots or not tracking a wounded deer. Hunt rules require that the hunter report wounded, un-retrieved deer in 12 hours. In six years, only two hunters have complied. The purpose is to dispatch trackers to find the wounded deer to minimize citizen encounters with wounded deer. I assume trackers would euthanize a deer who is still suffering. I have found many deer – dead and alive- whom hunters have wounded and not tracked. Perhaps they are embarrassed to take a body in that condition to the hunter check-in. One hunter shot a deer six times before she finally fell.

Since no one but the hunter and property owner know where a particular hunter is hunting, there is no ability to investigate complaints and no hunter accountability for bad shots, un-retrieved deer and other violations. Secrecy benefits only the hunter and rewards disrespect and disregard for deer.

A face shot is nowhere near the vital area, lungs and heart. I found 2 dead does shot in the face this year. Another doe, face shot after the season ended, is still walking and a buck, in terrible condition, is still alive. In fact, the photo of him was taken just a few minutes ago and he is still in my yard. He was shot in the spine and face. His face is becoming more swollen. Pus is pouring from his facial wound and eye. He walks slowly and has trouble chewing. I first saw his wounds on December 26th I have never seen a deer with swelling from an arrow wound survive. He has suffered for four months because of this horrible shot. Without an urban bow hunt, this buck would be enjoying spring instead of suffering every minute of every day.

Constantly seeing wounded and dead deer is taking a personal toll. The cumulative grief and loss are becoming unbearable. I have been unable to recover this year from the losses. The ongoing suffering of this face-shot buck and face-shot doe are contributing. The end of the hunt does not mean the end of suffering. My suffering is nothing compared to the needless suffering of the beloved deer who are dying because of unfounded, misdirected hatred and a profound, deep seated disrespect for their lives by the deer haters and hunters.

Like all maimed deer, a face-shot deer does not die immediately and experiences pain as s/he slowly dies over hours, weeks or months from bleeding or infection from the arrow. Razor sharp arrows remain embedded in the deer and cause infection and severe pain when the deer moves. A deer will usually break off the protruding shaft but the arrow remains inside. The wound may seep or you may see swelling. Occasionally an arrow will pass through a deer and cause only superficial damage. Most often, it will damage organs or tissue and lead to death.

The 2010 hunt ran from September 11th to September 23rd. I was shocked to see a dead doe with an arrow in her face. I was not emotionally prepared to see if she was a doe I knew (Sadie or Sweetie). I looked the next morning. I did not know her. She had been dead a week or more. There was a large amount of blood pooled in her face. I called the press. They ran a story. The DNR, typically, claimed the doe was shot in the county, rather than by an urban hunter. Later, the hunt manager investigated and found she had indeed been shot in the city by an urban hunter. The 18 year old hunter had not located her body even though she had crawled onto a brush pile to die, next door to the property where he shot her. Nor did he report her as un-retrieved within 12 hours as required by hunt rules. He was subsequently disqualified for another incident where he trespassed with a weapon and shot a doe and button buck.

October 17th, Sweetie, about whom I wrote in a past article, walked haltingly into my yard with an arrow wound near her vital area. Blood was dripping from her wound. I stopped breathing. I could barely move but knew I needed to take a photo. Photos are proof of hunt horrors and deer suffering. Sweetie was an orphan fawn years earlier. She returned in July 2009 with a metal ring stuck above her hoof which subsequently came off and now she was going to needlessly suffer and die. Still today this pain is unbearable as I write about her. I hoped against hope she could survive but knew in my soul she would not. As usual, no hunter had reported an un-retrieved doe in my area.

October 20th there was a dead doe, shot through her forehead, at the entrance to my private cul de sac. You can see the triangular shaped arrow wound in the photo. I looked to see if she was Sweetie or Sadie. She was not. I called the hunt manager. I wanted him to see her wounds before her body was removed and incorrectly reported as a deer/vehicle accident. He came out and together we found the arrow exit wound. No hunter reported this un-retrieved doe.

October 24th was the last time I saw my beloved Sweetie. She came to my yard at dusk with her two fawns. She turned her other side to me and I could see a second wound there. I went outside. She came closer and watched me with her gentle, loving eyes. I told her I was sorry someone hurt her and for her suffering. She stood and looked at me. I know she was telling me good bye and asking me to watch over her fawns in the same way I had watched over her and another orphaned fawn she befriended years before. I never saw her again.

All of these injuries were getting to be overwhelming. I was experiencing loss after loss, with no relief for the deer or me.

A rump-shot 8-point buck came here on 12/1/10. This was not a vital area wound. I have not seen him since December 3rd.

Christmas Eve, after a snowfall, I climbed my hill and saw a mound of snow. In shock, I realized the mound was a deer. I started shaking uncontrollably. Not another dead deer. I ran for the safety of my house. I stood at the window, looking outside, wondering who I could call to walk out with me and examine her body for wounds from an arrow or car. I hated to impose on anyone on Christmas Eve. Eventually, I gathered my strength and went back outside and uncovered the body of a yearling doe. I looked her over thoroughly, turning her over. I saw neither a vehicle nor arrow wound. What killed her?

December 26th was the first time I saw the face-shot buck. He is a familiar buck. Noted for his large build, he always walked with distinct, deliberate steps. He now falters at times. He came into my yard at dusk with a spine shot and pus oozing from a facial arrow wound and his eye. He had shed his antlers. Early shedding (before to mid January) is a sign of weakness. Bucks shed this non-essential body part to conserve strength. Early shedding also makes them more vulnerable. He drank from the heated bird bath. The next day I put out a heated water bowl to provide a larger volume of water for him. He came regularly to drink. His face continued to ooze pus. When a friend delivered straw for yet another wounded yearling on January 11th (1/11/11), I found the buck’s shed antlers together by a tree as I walked with her in my yard. I now have 2 sets of antlers. His and Buddy’s (Buddy’s story was published last summer). Until today, Easter, April 24th, the last time I had seen the face shot buck was March 7, 2011. The same day my beloved cat Frankie died. Until today, I was certain the buck had already died from the arrow wound.

On January 15th I went into my yard and was horrified to find 2 pools of blood and a blood trail. I followed the blood trail through six properties, ranging in size from 1-5 acres and could find no tree stand. The trail either started or ended in my yard. My fenced yard is near a nature trail. This would not be the first time a hunter shot a deer in my yard from the trail. Hunting is required to be from stands, but without any supervision or enforcement, rules are disregarded without recourse.

The hunt ended January 30th. The end of the hunt does not mean the end of shooting deer. A doe showed up in April with a new face wound.

The only face-shot deer I saw before this year’s hunt was a buck on 10/24/09. The arrow entered above his left eye and is embedded behind it, causing infection.

I have not seen him again.

Bow hunting horrors have continued for six years. The number of incidents, un-retrieved deer and non vital area wounds are increasing. Face shots are becoming more common. The meaningless proficiency test, lax rules and hunt secrecy continue to cause untold suffering and unconscionable acts of cruelty. I have seen more suffering in the past six years of urban bow hunting than in the prior 50+ years of my life. Suffering of deer does not end when the hunt ends. Hunting continues and deer wounded during and after the hunt continue to suffer and die. The hunt has stolen countless deer lives, caused immeasurable suffering and changed many lives forever. Killing is not an acceptable solution to deer/human conflict. Public education and accident prevention measures are effective and don’t cause suffering.


Laurie Crawford Stone is an attorney who lives in IA. She is a wildlife watcher, protector, photographer and writer.


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