MERCER TWP — For Julie Powell the outdoors is her passion, especially archery hunting.
For the past three decades she has enjoyed the outdoors and the challenge of hunting.
This fall, she even took her largest buck ever with a crossbow and was able to harvest a large coyote from a tree stand on the family’s property just outside of Slippery Rock.
“Before I got married I had never hunted or fished. My husband Jim (Powell) taught me everything,” said Powell.
Like most deer hunters, she started hunting with a rifle. For the past 20 years, archery hunting has been her passion.
“I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.
“Typically, its warmer (during archery season), and the deer aren’t as spooked,” said Powell. “Any deer you take is not more than 25 yards. And you really get to interact and enjoy the outdoors.”
Powell believes expanding hunting opportunities over the past few years — including the use of crossbows and the addition of the new archery bear season — are positive for the sport.
“I think anything that encourages the young hunters to get into the woods is positive,” she said.
She added the Pennsylvania Game Commission has a fine line to walk with having to thin the deer herd, which she added is smaller than when she started 20 years ago, and yet maintain it at a level to keep the young hunters interested.
“They’re not going to sit out night after night and not see anything,” she said of young hunters.
Powell said one of the most satisfying aspects of hunting is being able to take out first time hunters and help them with the first deer harvest.
“We got to do that with our son, Josh, who’s now 23, and now we take out ‘adopted sons’ (from family and friends),” she said.
The use of crossbows over the past three seasons has been a great move, said Powell. She had used a compound bow until the crossbow’s legalization. She gave her compound bow to a friend who was just starting to hunt.
The crossbow is easier for her to use, she explained, because she doesn’t have the upper body strength necessary to draw back the compound and then hold it in position for long periods.
Now, Powell uses what she describes as a “bare bones” Barnett crossbow and even feels safer in the tree stand as she can remain seated while taking a shot.
Years earlier, Powell said her husband had hunted with a crossbow before they were legal for everyone because he had a special permit from the Game Commission due to elbow surgery that prevented him from drawing back a compound.
“The funny thing is that back then, we gave him a hard time about it,” she joked.
This year’s early archery season was one to remember for Powell, who was able to take a 40-pound male coyote on Oct. 12 and her largest buck ever less than a week later on Oct. 17.
There is no closed season on coyotes, which can be taken by any legal means, and one decided to come into Powell’s crossbow range.
“It was on an evening that I never a saw deer,” recalled Powell.
She said there was a large dead oak tree with a hole in it. As evening approached, two raccoons came out of the tree and started fighting with each other making all kinds of noise.
“Ten minutes later, I see something moving in the bushes. I realize it’s a coyote, and it is now about 20 yards away looking up at the raccoons,” said Powell.
She picked up her crossbow and readied herself. At the exact moment, the coyote looked up, but at that same time, the crossbow arrow hit its mark.
The coyote ran about 10 yards in the brush, but Powell waited until the next morning with her husband to retrieve the coyote. She plans to have the skin tanned and have a hat and gloves made from the fur.
“I’m a firm believer that you use what you take,” she said.
Her largest deer was also taken in early October in what she described as perfect timing.
“I’ve messed up so many bucks, but this one worked out perfectly,” she said.
On an evening when her husband had decided it was too warm to hunt, Powell went out on her own to just enjoy the fall evening.
She had done a little light rattling just before evening in an attempt to draw a buck into the area.
About 6 p.m., Powell barely heard a sound and then, a doe came out of the brush. She put her scope’s red dot on the doe, just for aiming practice.
Ten minutes later, she heard what she believed was a subtle grunt and what sounded like light rattling noises. Coming down the same path that the doe used was her large 8-point.
She steadied and made the shot. Instead of running into the brush, the big buck ran down the path and disappeared into the pending darkness.
The next morning, Powell and her husband went looking for her trophy buck.
Powell was initially worried. Although they had found the arrow and it was covered in blood, they could only find two spots of blood before the trail stopped.
But after a short search, they were able to locate the animal about 75 yards from where Powell shot it.
A friend is doing a European mount of both the coyote and her deer skull.