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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Archers practice as deer, turkey hunting season begin

    Kurt Manning pulls an arrow out of a 3-D target with his dog Ruger on the archery trail at the Niantic Sportsmen’s Club on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Kurt Manning and his dog Ruger walk back to the line after retrieving arrows from a target on the archery practice range at the Niantic Sportsmen’s Club on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Kurt Manning and dad Cliff get their bows ready on the archery practice range at the Niantic Sportsmen’s Club on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Kurt Manning talks to his dog Ruger as he prepares to take a shot on the archery practice range at the Niantic Sportsmen’s Club on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Kurt Manning takes a shot at a 3-D target with his dog Ruger on the archery trail at the Niantic Sportsmen’s Club on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Niantic ― Two days after deer and turkey hunting season opened to Connecticut archers, members of the Niantic Sportsmen’s Club took to the club’s archery course and discussed what they love about bow hunting.

    On the club’s archery trail, Deep River resident Kurt Manning, an archer since the age of 3, held his compound bow firmly in his hands and stared at the animal target about 30 yards in front of him.

    Manning racked an arrow, pulled the string back to his cheek and lined up his sights with the animal’s vital organs.

    Manning said if an archer misses the target, the arrow will be lost because “it’s a straight drop right on the other side of this target.”

    “It’s just like shooting a gun, Manning said. ”Take calm, deep breaths. Don’t hold your breath. When you go to release, you just kinda slowly exhale. It’s kind of hard to explain because I’ve been doing it for so long, it kind of becomes natural at a certain point.”

    The foam target, a rock sheep, had its four feet planted firmly on a rocky overhang. It had been positioned in the same type of terrain you would expect to see this breed of animal, Manning said, but they’re only found in the western United States.

    The course, which spans about 30 of the club’s 300 total acres, features 30 of these 3-D targets in all, meaning the highest score an archer can get is 360 points, Manning said. Some, people keep their own personal score, he said, but there is no leader board for the highest scorer.

    The targets feature three rings, ranging from eight to 12 points. Anywhere else on the target is worth five points, Manning said.

    Scores are more for bow competitions, Manning said, although the club does have some members who practice for those events.

    From 30 yards, Manning scored 10 points as the arrow plunged into the sheep’s lung area.

    In a wooded area, archers won’t shoot at an animal that’s more than 30 yards away, Manning said. For the sake of ethical hunting, he said, they wouldn’t want to. Because they might only wound it.

    “I know there’s some people out there that give hunters a really bad reputation,” Manning said.

    “We try to be as ethical as possible to harvest our deer,” he added. “You don’t want to shoot and wound a deer. We’re all about ethical shots only. Even if it’s a deer that you think you might have a good shot on, I won’t take it.”

    Manning typically harvests two or three deer for the year, he said. That yields around 200 pounds of venison. The sportsmen’s club has places on its property where people can bow hunt, Manning said, but he and his father do most of their own hunting in Deep River.

    “This club is a little bit exclusive because we set them up for realistic hunting scenarios yet at the same time we keep it fun here for families, kids, crossbow shooters, traditional shooters, your compound hunting shooter,” Manning said. “We try to keep it open for everyone.”

    But while a rock sheep might not be the most common game in the area, the practice these bow hunters can get at the sportsmen’s club is something that’s tangible and necessary as the hunters track down game like deer and turkeys.

    Deer and turkey hunting season opened for archers on Sept. 15, according to Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. For deer hunting, it will end Dec. 31 for private hunting grounds, and Dec. 30 for turkeys on state and private lands.

    “I think it’s going to be a very good season for deer hunting,” Manning said Sunday as he walked the trail with mom, dad and partner. “There’s a lot of acorns in the woods this year. A lot of food for them. In the years past, it’s been very scarce for food for deer. This year, there’s acorns all over the place.”

    As for archery, Manning and his father said it gives them a chance to escape the trials of every day life.

    “I enjoy it,” Manning said. “Everybody deals with the rat race of work. You come out here and it’s peace and quiet. You know, you don’t deal with people. You don’t deal with society. You’re like one with nature, if you will.”

    “There’s times I’ll sit in my tree stand and I’ll watch deer and I won’t even shoot. I’ll just watch the deer,” his father Cliff said. “Everything. Squirrels. Hawks. It’s amazing.”

    Yet in spite of the natural beauty of hunting, there’s been a big decline in people wanting to do it, Manning said.

    “That’s why I’m hoping the younger generation will take something new up besides video games or sitting on phones or tablets.The woods have so much to offer and people just don’t get out enough to experience it.”

    Besides archery, the club offers skeet, pistol and USPC shooting events, Manning said. Currently, the club’s membership is full, but it will have public shooting days beginning in March.

    d.drainville@theday.com

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