Deer hunters who like to go after their venison with stick and string had to put their bows and arrows away after season ended with January. The long wait until early October when bow hunters can do it again can seem like an eternity. However, folks who can't seem to get enough of shooting their bows have a fun activity right here at their finger tips. They can enjoy the exciting sport of bowfishing.
Downsville's Brad Doughty is bow hunter who doesn't get down in the dumps once archery season for deer ends. He switches from the bow he uses for deer hunting to one he uses to go after alligator gar.
"I fish mostly on the Ouachita River and in D'Arbonne Bayou and it's just about as much fun to bow fish as it is to bow hunt deer," said Doughty.
"We're just now coming into prime time to get a crack at a big alligator gar; July and August are the months they're more active and the hotter the weather gets, the better the bowfishing."
Doughty says that in order to connect with a really big gar, the fish have to be patterned much like big bucks.
"When I go to a spot looking for a big fish, I ease into an area I suspect a big gar is hanging out. When I see one roll on the surface, I watch to see if it surfaces in the same area again. He'll usually stay in the same area unless a commercial fisherman captures him in a net. Another advantage in bowfishing in hot weather is the fish come to the surface slower and more often, giving me an advantage.
"I know my shot has to be true because if you miss a big one, you're not likely to get another crack at him the rest of summer," Doughty noted.
While alligator gar is the prime target for Doughty during hot summer days, he also hunts some at night for other species.
"Asian carp, buffalo and catfish are mostly hunted at night but my preference is to go out on a hot summer day and try for a big alligator gar."
Doughty has had impressive success with shooting real heavyweight gar, having taken one weighing 187 pounds on the Ouachita River with his all-time best, a 200 pounder, he got on a lake in Texas.
"The big one I shot on the Ouachita was a gar I got three years ago, a fish I'd been hunting for two years. He'd roll here and there and I was waiting in an area where I'd last seen him roll. Fortunately, he surfaced 10 feet from me and I was ready and got off a good shot," he added.
Doughty said that the monster fish pulled him up and down the river for 20-25 minutes before offering an opportunity to release another arrow. He was finally able to work the big fish onto a sandbar where he got a noose around his head and was able to roll him into his boat.
Obviously, heavy-duty equipment is necessary to handle a fish this size. However, just about any bow will work for bowfishing.
"The bow is not as important as the reel, arrow and line. I use a Muzzy spinner reel, 200 pound test bowfishing line and a fiberglass bowfishing arrow onto which is mounted a Muzzy fish point. The arrow is heavy to allow for good penetration and it has no fletching.
"This is a sport a youngster or your spouse can enjoy," said Doughty, "and it gives me something exciting to do while waiting for the next deer season."
What does he do with a gar he shoots?
"I grind up the meat mixed with ground up shrimp, making into patties or balls and fry 'em; they're delicious."
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