Stab Magazine | With These Hands: The art of bowhunting, with Matt Meola
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With These Hands: The art of bowhunting, with Matt Meola

With These Hands: The art of bowhunting, with Matt Meola, 22, Haiku, Maui Patience. Is. Everything. If you’re gonna bow hunt, you have to have more patience than anything else in the world. Hunting with a bow is so different from hunting with a gun; Hunting with a gun, you don’t have to be as […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 7 minutes

With These Hands: The art of bowhunting, with Matt Meola, 22, Haiku, Maui

Patience. Is. Everything. If you’re gonna bow hunt, you have to have more patience than anything else in the world. Hunting with a bow is so different from hunting with a gun; Hunting with a gun, you don’t have to be as quiet – when you see the animal, basically the hunt is over. I’d been hunting with a gun for years, and the first thing I learned from the guy who taught me was, ok, it’s not like when you see the animal with a gun and the hunt is over. When you see the animal with the bow, the hunt has only just begun.

Don’t be upwind. Usually you have binoculars on and you’re looking everywhere for them. What you want to do is spot them when they’re far away, and make a plan on how you’re gonna get up on them. The number one thing with bow hunting is the wind. You want to be downwind of the animal, not upwind. Especially with the Axis deer that we have in Maui, they can smell you from so, so far away. They have the best noses out of anything I know of. We’re talking hundreds of yards away. There’s just no way you’re gonna get up on them if the wind is wrong. What you want is a real steady wind, so you can make your plan. If you have light winds or it’s swirling, it makes it nearly impossible to get close enough to take a shot.

Don’t force it. You can either edge up slowly until you have a shot, or do what I like to do, which is find a spot where you don’t see the animal, but you see trails and fresh shit, or a place that you know pretty well, and I’ll just go and sit somewhere, waiting and hoping that they’ll happen to walk by. I’ll sit where I know I’m downwind of their trail and hope that they walk by. A lot of times that’s what works best ‘cause when you sit and you don’t move, you’re not making any noise and if the wind’s right, there’s more chance they’ll walk by and then, you get your shot.

Death from above. I’ve spent hours and hours sitting, waiting. One day I went to my buddy’s house ‘cause he has this big tree in his yard. A lot of times you’ll hunt out of a tree stand. You can just nail a coupla pieces of wood into the tree and stand in it. Then the wind isn’t as big of a factor, either. So one time I was in my buddy’s tree, which didn’t have a stand so I stood on a limb. I think I stood in the tree for like four hours without moving.

Mr Meola is as terrestrial as he is aquatic! Squint through his binoculars! Photos: Jonathon Spenser

Mr Meola is as terrestrial as he is aquatic! Squint through his binoculars!

Photos: Jonathon Spenser

Expect a low strike rate. Most of the time, you have one shot. Every once in a while you get more than one, because you’re using a bow which isn’t as loud, so you might let an arrow fly and if you miss, the animal will run a coupla yards and then stop. They’ll be tripping out like, what was that? Because it’s not a gun shot, they don’t flip out and all go running. But most of the time it is one shot. And I’d say 90 percent of the time I go hunting, I don’t even shoot my bow. Not one arrow. Sometimes I’ll go 10 to 15 times without shooting.

Expect your adrenal gland to loosen. What keeps you coming back is the challenge. Then there’s the adrenaline. There’s ton of adrenaline. When you’re super close to a herd of deer, trying to sneak up on them and get a shot, your body literally starts shaking, sometimes uncontrollable. It’s like surfing huge waves, you get the shakes and you have to control your breathing and calm yourself down so you can make an accurate shot. The adrenaline’s so nuts.

Don’t miss. The best shot is right behind their front shoulder. That’s where all their vital organs are. There’s some guys who’ll take really far shots, and if you’re really experienced and good with your bow, then that’s fine, but I don’t think I’m that great at it, so I like to make sure that the animal’s close, and that I have a clean shot. ‘Cause, the last thing you want to do is shoot an animal and hit it in the wrong place, and then it doesn’t die, it runs off and it’s injured.

And then, wait some more. What I always do, and what you’re supposed to do is, if you shoot at the animal, and you know you hit it, 90 percent of the time they run, no matter how badly injured. Depending on the shot, it could be a couple of hundred yards. But usually it’s anywhere from 50 to 100 yards. They’ll run, and then sit down, and then they’ll die. So, you do not want to chase them after you shoot them. You wanna sit there for 30 minutes to an hour after you shoot it, and then go in and look for them. If you go in and chase them immediately, they’ll keep running and it’ll be super hard to find them, because the blood trail will get bad. You shoot, wait for an hour, then go in and follow the blood trail. But sometimes you do get up on them and have to cut their throat. If you’re not used to it, it’s pretty confronting the first time. Most times you don’t have to do that though, most times you walk up and the animal’s dead.

The deer will provide. If you’re just eating it by yourself, one deer will feed you for months and months. You know those big, white Igloo coolers? One good sized deer will fill a whole one of those up. What you do when you kill an animal is put the meat on ice for anywhere between two and five days, and you let it soak on the ice so all the blood drains out. But typically when I catch something, the meat goes super quick ‘cause it seems like almost every other night we’re barbecuing at one of my friend’s houses and we have tons of people eating it, plus I’m always giving it to friends. Most of the time I’m like, shit, I need more meat, so that’s why I’m always going.

The meat is good. Then also, I like the taste of the meat. For me, the coolest thing ever is to be able to kill an animal, and then feed my friends, my family and myself. You fill your freezer and have meat for so long, and it’s super healthy, not pumped with hormones, and the animals aren’t raised in cages and tortured for their whole lives.

Not everyone will be down with it. So many people don’t understand it. I’ll post a picture of a deer I’ve killed on Instagram and have people giving me death threats. I’ve literally had people say, “Where do you live so I can come kill you like you killed this poor animal.” Which is super funny ‘cause you’ll go to this person’s account and there’s a picture of them eating a burger. You’ll have chicks saying, “You killed Bambi! You’re evil!” and you click on their profile and they’re wearing leather boots and leather jackets. You know where that leather comes from?

Taj Burrow on Matt’s careless bounce to the flats: “It’s probably the gnarliest I’ve ever seen. I know the wave that it’s at and it isn’t very user-friendly, it’s really powerful and breaks right on dry reef and he just somehow hucks himself out into no-man’s land, into the flats, and just stomps it. It’s not even a position that should be possible to land in, but he just bounced out of it like a cat, it’s incredible. Everyone looks for height and rotation… but there’s no other way to put this than really gnarly.” Photo: Quinn Mathews

Taj Burrow on Matt’s careless bounce to the flats: “It’s probably the gnarliest I’ve ever seen. I know the wave that it’s at and it isn’t very user-friendly, it’s really powerful and breaks right on dry reef and he just somehow hucks himself out into no-man’s land, into the flats, and just stomps it. It’s not even a position that should be possible to land in, but he just bounced out of it like a cat, it’s incredible. Everyone looks for height and rotation… but there’s no other way to put this than really gnarly.” Photo: Quinn Mathews

Respect the animal. There’s a lot of respect for the animal. People don’t realise, but hunters actually save tons of animals. What you wanna do is, when you find a herd, you wanna manage the herd. If you see a deer that has messed up antlers or bad genes, you want to take that deer out of the herd so you keep a good breed going. A lot of times you see a deer that’s deformed or less healthy looking and those are the ones you want to take out. You do want to go for those big ones, but you also want to make sure that those strong ones keep producing and you’re keeping a healthy herd. Having said all that, if I had a huge trophy buck walk in front of me there’s no way I’m not going to take a shot.

Deer are overpopulated on Maui. People think of hunters as guys going out and torturing animals for the fun of it. They have no idea that the reasons we’re doing it are good. The deer on Maui are completely overpopulated, and they’re eating all the native plants. They’re a huge problem as far as car accidents too. There’s just too many of them. The hunting is actually encouraged in Maui for that reason. There’s no limit or season for the deer, it’s just pick off as many as you can eat. They’re trying to figure out a way to eradicate them, but I want the deer to stay. Hunters aren’t evil people, they’re probably less cruel than the people buying meet at the grocery store. That’s what most people don’t understand.

Waste nothing. I could go on for hours about hunting, but it’s worth saying that we dress the whole animal out ourselves and clean it, and we eat all the meat that you can eat, and all the junk meat humans can’t eat we give to our pets, so nothing gets wasted. It’s super healthy meat, and the deer we have in Maui are one of the best tasting deer there are.

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