Fangtooth Chonicles: The birth of a huntress

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BOWFISHING COUPLE – The author and his wife pose with their catch during a recent bowfishing trip. Tim’s wife has been his angling partner for nearly thirty years and is now showing interest in hunting. TIM E. HOVEY PHOTO.
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BY TIM E. HOVEY

I met my wife Cheryl on the back of a research vessel in the early 1990s. We had both been hired to assist with summer contract fisheries work and at the end of the workday we were allowed to enjoy our free time, obviously within the confines of the ship. Whether it was diving, fishing or just relaxing, those week-long research voyages were some of my best college memories.

Cheryl was fishing off the back deck and I had decided to join her. Some thirty years later, angling is still one of our shared passions. We’ve fished from Canada all the way down through Mexico together, and I honestly wouldn’t want anyone else at my side when it comes to tossing a line.

After we graduated, we settled in the San Diego area. During that time, I decided to get back into hunting. I had shelved the interest during my college days, but with ample land in the eastern county, I dusted off my shotguns and rifles and started exploring. During those early years, I had taken Cheryl out target shooting, but I could tell hunting wasn’t her thing. Occasionally, I’d ask her if she’d want to go, but she’d most often wrinkle her nose and pass.

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So that was the pattern. If I was going hunting, I’d either go solo or take my daughters when they started showing interest. If I was going fishing, it was a family affair and we all went. Our family had reached a great outdoor balance and all were happy. Then I started bowfishing.

This last year, I was approached by two landowners that had been having issues with carp. Both ranchers have watering canals that crisscross their property and during the summer carp migrate through these waterways to breed. Their presence and breeding activity muddy up the water, heavily degrading the water quality for the cattle.

I told both ranchers that I knew people use bowfishing gear to harvest carp in the shallows during the summer. I then told them that I had never done it but had access to the gear. They both agreed to grant me access to the overloaded canals to help with the issue.

ALL SMILES – Cheryl Hovey, the author’s wife, shows off her first carp she shot while bowfishing for the first time. She has already started shopping for a second bow for her husband, since the pink bow now apparently belongs to her. TIM E. HOVEY PHOTO.

Using an old compound bow I had here at the house, I started adding the specialized components needed to convert a regular hunting bow into a bowfishing bow. I picked up a couple of fishing arrows and started practicing. Having had almost no experience behind a bow, I found it relatively easy to shoot and after an afternoon of practice, I began zeroing in.

A few weeks later, I had returned home after another successful bowfishing trip and was telling Cheryl about it, when she chimed in. “I want to go try this!” I was shocked. Cheryl has always been an angler, and a good one. She still holds the record for the largest yellowfin tuna caught between the two of us at a little over 100 pounds. Now, out of the blue, she wants to try this specialized type of hunting.

The following day we headed to one of the properties. With only one bow, I decided that she would shoot the entire time, or at least until she got tired. The bow was set at about 40 pounds draw weight, but with Cheryl’s decade-long dedication to CrossFit, she did not have any trouble drawing back the bow.

The first few shots were awkward for her but with a few pointers she started getting surprisingly close. Before every shot, I’d tell her to aim low for the refraction of the water. Within a dozen shots, I started realizing that she was probably going to stick a carp soon.

After a couple of hours, the carp got wise and started keeping their distance. Cheryl had taken close to thirty shots and was a little tired as well. We packed things up and headed home. Before we hit the main road, she made it clear that she wanted to get into this type of hunting.

“We’re going to have to get you a bow now!”

Still excited about the activity, she jumped online and started pricing gear. We had noticed that the arrow tips had taken a beating that day when they’d slam into the gravel canal bottom. Inspecting the arrow tips herself, she ordered a dozen replacement tips off Amazon.

The following day I had been scheduled to visit the other property and Cheryl instantly invited herself along. This place is a bit different in that the canals spill into shallow ponds and the landowner stated that he’s seen carp spawning in the ponds as well.

Knowing a little bit about spawning behavior, we knew that the carp would be moving into the shallows when the water got warmer, usually in the early afternoon. Sure enough, we found one pond with large fish in it.

This is where I noticed that Cheryl had very little knowledge on approaching anything in the wild. We got out and started examining the pond. She grabbed the bow and walked right to the waters edge, scaring a few large carp. I motioned her back and told her that she is hunting now, and stealth is the name of the game here.

PERFECT SETUP – This lighter bow turned out to be the perfect set up for the author and his wife. The draw weight set at 40-pounds provided enough power for the shot. TIM E. HOVEY PHOTO.

We’d stay well back of the shoreline and watch fish as they approached the shallows with polarized sunglasses. We noticed that once they got into their breeding mode, they’d stir up the water, making it tough for them to see us approach. After several missed shots by Cheryl, once again the fish began to keep their distance.

I spotted one carp kind of angling towards us. He swam beneath some lily pads and was totally obscured. I hurried Cheryl to the shore and told her to watch the gap next to the vegetation. Sure enough, he popped out only 15 feet from shore. Cheryl had already drawn the bow and followed the fish’s movement. As soon as he gave her a broadside shot, she let the arrow fly, hitting the fish dead center.

We quickly reeled the large carp in and took some photos. She was beyond excited and gladly posed for lots of pictures.

I dropped the fish in a tub in the back of the truck and knew what I had to do. It was great to have a few great photos of my wife’s first hunted carp, but I really wanted to get a photo of both of us with a fish.

I grabbed the bow and started carefully circling the pond. I could hear Cheryl talking to our daughter Alyssa on the phone about the fish she had just speared. Making my way back towards the truck, I noticed some commotion at the shore. Three large carp were busting through the shallows, stirring up the sediment. I drew the bow and let one fly. The arrow started cutting through the water, dragging the tow line indicating a hit. I pulled the carp to shore.

We drove the remainder of the property, essentially looking for a good place to take photos. Satisfied with the location, we took some great together photos, both of us holding up our carp. With a bit of a drive home, we stowed the gear and headed out.

It had been a great day in the outdoors with my wife, and thankfully the carp had cooperated. Cheryl talked about all the shots and how cool it was to see the big fish in the shallows. As we settled into the drive, she took out her phone and started scrolling. Cheryl doesn’t normally do this, and essentially finds it rude to do in front of other people.

After about 15 minutes, I finally asked her what she was doing. She studied the small screen a bit and then said, “Yep!” She looked my way and said, “’I’m buying you your own bow!”

 

 

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