Archery Season in Montana: Technology’s Role


Archery season has arrived and with it the outdoor catalogs and sporting goods stores are full of the latest gadgets, gizmos and geegaws.

How much is enough? How much is too much? If you are looking for help in deciding what is legal, the law may be of some value. If you’re looking for help with the ethics of it all, talk to a higher power.

Montana game laws state the legal length and weight of an arrow, and describe in detail what constitutes a broadhead.

But no law says to the archer, Thou shalt not shoot at an elk walking 75 yards away. Only the knowledge that such a shot will likely result in a wounded animal that may go off and die and not be found by the would-be marksman.


The problem as seen from this corner of space is the latest technology on the market would lead an archer to believe that 75-yard shots are the rule and result in easy meat in the freezer.

Seventy-five yards shots are not the rule, should not be taken and rarely result in easy meat in the freezer.

We have every technological advantage when it comes to hunting: GPS units, rangefinders, trail cameras and bowsights that glow in dim light. And that does not even touch the no-scent, lightweight, waterproof and windproof clothing for sale.

Let’s be clear. Advances in gear, archery equipment and clothing are wonderful. They are also not the culprit. The problem is not technology but what it does to us. It can lead us to believe that in our hurried lives, the modern convenience takes the place of practice.

Just a few arrows into the hay bale in the backyard and we’re good to go.

Perhaps an invisible line is crossed when we no longer use mechanical aids but are used by them.


More than 65 years ago, Aldo Leopold, the founder of the science of wildlife management, decried the gadgeteer: “He has draped the American outdoorsman with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them.”

Do you have so many gadgets that your next yard sale might compete with the local sporting goods store?

I’m no help, nor judge, as I have more factory-made trinkets than necessary. Yet there has to be a limit, as Leopold states, “beyond which money-bought aids to sport destroy the cultural value of sport.”

Perhaps the answer to right and wrong lies in our morning mirror. After all, hunting is the one activity which has no judge, jury, referee or umpire.

The archer who takes the 75-yard shot at an elk, wounds the animal then makes little attempt to find it, does so without a witness. The archer can walk away, legally, and do it all over again the next day. Legally he is a hunter, morally not so much.

Hunting is tough and should be. Somewhere lies the invisible line between too much stuff and not enough ethics. Try to find it without too much gadgetry.