Friday Food For Thought: Bow “Hunting” Carp – Sport or Slaughter?

| June 24, 2016

bow hunting carp on fly fishing for carp

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I started fly fishing for carp what now seems like a lifetime ago, especially since I have been blessed with another life – in so many real ways.

In all the time I have spent in concentrated areas of my local lake, fly fishing for carp, I have seen evidence of carp kills only a few times. I guess I should consider that lucky? I have seen a pile of dead carp, stinking, rotting and putrid, a pile that was ten feet in diameter and stacked like a pyramid four feet high. The pile was hidden away in the brush off a point, and I smelled it long before I saw it. I was so innocent then, I had no idea what was up.

The next time I “found” dead carp was in the parking lot at another spot I park to walk in and take paying clients to fly fish for carp. Maybe a dozen fish were strewn across the dirt lot, run over, half eaten by buzzards and stinking. Now, this location was nowhere near a boat ramp (a notorious dumping ground for carp), so someone either, a) walked in with a bow and killed carp, or, b) thought it would be poetic to dump dead carp on a parking lot known to be a parking spot for fly fishers who pursue carp. Either way, it is apparently not a legal offense to do such a thing.

Over all these years of carp pursuit, that’s not a lot of personal incidents where the world of carp caught-and-released on fly and the world of bow “hunters” crossed over each other. But over the years, in these same areas, there has been a noted and virtually unanimous observation by fly fishers that the size of carp has gotten smaller, and there are fewer larger size carp to be found. I can’t find anyone who would dispute that finding, but feel free to do so, and provide some way to back that up – if you choose to do so.

All along I have wondered; what is it these “hunters” get from killing one of God’s creatures with a bow and arrow, then leaving it to rot in a parking lot, on a shore or in the water. I don’t yet have that answer, but I will be looking for as many perspectives on that as possible, until this topic is, for me, resolved.

Meanwhile, let me tell the bow “hunters” reading what I get from fly fishing for a carp. First I get to be outside in nature, either walking in the mud and muck, or sliding along in a skiff … pursuing an intelligent fish that has a unique set of abilities that make it difficult to catch on a fly rod. Once I have hooked, and landed the common carp, I look it in the eye, I look at its entire body, and I enjoy the colors, the sounds and body movements it makes while in hand. If it’s a brightly colored carp, I will fan the tail and take in all the color, and the actual size of the tail. I take a mental measure; the carp’s tail is normally longer (tip-to-tip) than a typical bream. Sure, they’re slimy and they smell. They’re still a fish! Then, once we have had time to imprint on each-other, I release the carp to swim off and maybe fight another day, or maybe not …

So what do bow “hunters” do when they shoot a carp? Well first, I have to hope it’s dead instantly, not maimed (as I have seen on survivors), or suffering. Then what? I guess they pull the arrow out of the fish, now most likely dead for sure, and either dump it overboard into the water, or take it in to pile on the shore, in a dumpster, in a parking lot? What is the upside here? (NOTE TO BOW “HUNTERS” – Is there something else you do with dead carp?)

Now let us also ask ourselves what does an adult get from teaching a child / youth, their son or daughter perhaps, to fly fish VERSUS teaching their son or daughter to bow “hunt” for carp? Well, if you are a carp bow “hunter” reading this, I guess I should go into some detail. Your child would have to know something about tying flies, the habitat carp are found in, the leader, line, rod, presentation, reading water, entomology, biology, stalking carp, catch-and-release and caring for the habitat to maintain to help the population.

So what does a bow “hunter’s” youth learn? How to stand on the front of the bow, how to draw back the bow, aim, steady, and release the arrow. How did they find the carp in the habitat in the first place? Well, fly fishers probably lead them to the carp. (Hence, Pay-Per-Vew reading) Do they care about any of the factors fly fishers have to take into account for a successful fly fishing outing? And what are they teaching their children? The last thing their children learn is how to kill. They learn how to kill with no consideration of the consequences, the beauty lost or the weight of taking from nature.

Honestly, many of us who love the outdoors offerings of hunting and fishing, may have regrets in our pasts. Regrets about wasting nature, be it killing sparrows with a bb-gun, killing out of season, keeping hundreds of fish caught on a single night’s outing … fill in the blank with your regret because I am confident it comes to your mind’s eye when I say this. It’s why I am slow to venture back into the hunting of deer and it’s why I am slow to down a dove flying between the rows of fruit trees in the Valley. When they’re laying on the ground, and I look into their eye, I see myself mostly these days.

Sure! I ate lots of dove, lots of venison, javelina, rattlesnake, lots of fish, and I still eat fish to this day. However, I am unwilling and unable to kill anything I am unwilling to eat (with the exception of rats and mice). Would I, could I, kill and eat birds or venison today? You bet. I am a  hungry person (in more ways than one), and they don’t call outdoor writing, “bullets and bait” for no reason. Do I want to go back to my days of hunting? Not that much. I just want to tell the story.

So what do people who bow “hunt” for carp do with one of God’s creatures? Do they eat it? Do they even know the history of carp, and why they are here in the US? My guess is that not only do they not know, they don’t care.

Feel Free To Think. Bow “hunters” who kill carp are looking for living target practice. That’s all it is, and that’s all they are doing – hitting a moving paper target with zero cleaning and zero consequences. This is nothing less than a blood sport. And I hesitate to even use the word “sport,” more like blood play. By the way, how can their aim be that good if they can only hit a large target – large carp?

That is my angle, my opinion on “hunting” carp with a bow & arrow. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t objective … it’s just an opinion on something that gets little attention and registers about a zero on the importance scale of hunters. Heck, even fly fishers are, for the most part, passive and ambivalent about this unsavory topic. I actually have little concern when it comes to “taking heat” from the fringe as this topic has come-and-gone from radars several times over the years. I think it’s about time to fill in my knowledge blanks on this, and keep it on the radar awhile. It is also time to point out big box stores who support this blood sport, and at the same time have fly shops catering to those of us who care about the impact of one sport, bow “hunting” carp, on the sport of fly fishing for carp.

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Category: Culture on the Skids

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