Walking through blooming spring woods with a bow in hand searching for wild morel mushrooms brings a sense of closure to winter. And this past winter, having been as long and hard as any in recent memory, is one I'm particularly glad to see go.
The old longbow has been pulled off the elk-feet rack where it spent the last several months collecting dust and is strung. My mesh mushroom bag is riding shotgun in the truck. Let the stump shooting mushroom hunts begin.
Stump shooting is nothing more than walking through the woods and firing arrows at anything that catches your fancy. Stumps, rotten logs, clumps of grass and lone leaves tangled in the grasp of multiflora rose are all prime targets.
Not only is it just plain fun to shoot arrows, it is a skill- building exercise. The hand-eye coordination that comes from repetitive shooting year-round becomes quite valuable when a buck walks into range during bow season.
Morel mushrooms remain a mystery to me. You hear to look around ash and elm trees, in apple orchards, on northeast facing slopes and all kinds of other supposed to be hot spots. I seem to just stumble upon them in the unlikeliest of places. Last spring, I found morels growing in my backyard near the edge of our pond. If I hadn't looked down, I'd have run them over with the lawn tractor. The point is, to be successful at finding mushrooms laying down boot leather is the best thing you can do. And if you're walking for miles outdoors, why not fling a few arrows?
You can stump shoot with any bow, including a high-tech compound, but I prefer using a traditional bow with a reduced draw weight. I don't use arrows I'd mind losing or breaking. Stump shooting is a great excuse to break out those old aluminum sticks from the 90s and give them new life. I'll occasionally find old arrows at garage sales or bunches for sale on Craigslist, and pick them up for next to nothing.
With such minimal financial investment you can let loose shots into some wild places, without worry of finding the arrow. I use blunt tips on my arrows, which keep them from sticking into whatever you shoot, but field tips will work fine, as well.
Stump shooting while mushroom hunting has other advantages, too.
Any time you can get out and walk your hunting property in the spring, you're going to learn something new to apply to your plan for the coming deer season. You'll find trails you didn't know existed, old rubs, scrapes and bedding areas. You can learn where deer are crossing creeks and fences. And there are still plenty of shed antlers to be picked up. There's a good chance a rodent or two will have gotten to them first, but the sheds will still offer clues as to which bucks you may be able to hang a tag on come fall.
Stump shooting and mushroom hunting go hand in hand with turkey season. If you have the privilege of being in a turkey camp with other archers, breaking out the bows and flinging arrows at natural objects is always a great time. So dust off your bow, load up a quiver with old arrows and shoot.
See you down the trail...
Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.