By RALPH BARTHOLDT
Mike Jones is a bow hunter.
He prefers mostly traditional gear such as recurve and longbows, the ones without the wheels or strings going in different directions.
When he does shoot a modern, compound bow, it is without the accoutrements of sights or a trigger-style release.
“It’s all finger shooting,” Jones, of Hayden, said.
And he doesn’t shoot directly at the target. He shoots below where it appears to be.
That’s how he tags his quarry, sometimes more than 100 animals in a single outing.
He does it standing on a platform, in the front of a boat looking at the water.
Last weekend, Jones and his son, Kyle, 21, were so proficient at shooting carp in the shallows of Brownlee Reservoir near Weiser they were given an award. The state of Idaho bowfishing championship trophy they won was the second state championship cup they earned for hunting carp. Before that, a few weeks earlier, the father and son team won the state of Washington championship.
And it all started with a guy carrying his bow and a quiver of arrows into the Idaho hills chasing deer and elk.
“When you hunt deer and elk sometimes you’re out there for a couple weeks and only get one shot, two if you’re lucky,” Jones said.
It’s hit or miss.
He wanted to combine the skills of finding and stalking prey, with the excitement of taking aim, and releasing an arrow.
A lot of the latter.
“You have to figure out the patterns these fish have, and then you have to get close enough to shoot them,” Jones said.
Lakes are big, and shooting carp — introduced into Idaho in the 1880s and considered an invasive species — is not akin to plinking ducks in a barrel.
There is the matter of refraction. When a hunter looks into the water and sees a fish, it is not where it appears to be because the water bends light.
“Because the fish looks higher (in the water table) than it is,” Jones said. “You have to aim under the fish.”
That’s not always easy to do without sights, and more difficult because water also reflects sunlight, and a chop on the surface can further screw up a shot.
“We wear polarized glasses,” he said.
In the Washington tournament, the men shot 91 fish to earn the state championship. In Weiser, they shot around 135 fish that weighed in at 1,323 pounds, for the win.
When he first started shooting fish with a bow almost 20 years ago, he had a 14-foot boat with a small platform, but his earnings — this summer’s two championships earned him and his son $3,000 — and passion prompted Jones to upgrade his equipment to bigger boats and better shooting platforms.
Some of the tournaments he attends are nighttime hunts using big lights. Daytime tournaments can last 24 hours taking hunters into the dark. The duo uses close-face fishing reels attached to their bows with 150-pound test line hooked to barb-tipped arrows.
The fish usually aren’t eaten, Jones said. Although, he has heard carp can be tasty if properly prepared, having hundreds of pounds of dead fish stewing in a boat for many hours in high summer temperatures isn’t the best way to marinate the meat for flavor.
Fertilizer, bait, and rendering companies are event sponsors and use the fare in their products.
Winning a tournament is part of the draw, but other considerations keep the Joneses in the sport.
“You get multiple chances at shooting at targets,” Jones said.
That makes it exciting.
“It’s all natural instinct shooting,” he said.
So, skill comes into play.
“I do a lot of fishing,” he said.
Bowfishing is another facet of a sport he already enjoys.
He and Kyle plan to attend the world bowfishing championships in Oregon later this summer.