You can’t become a crackerjack bow hunter overnight, but it’s possible to become handy enough with some modern archery gear to kill a whitetail deer in fairly short order.
Translation: Finding early success in bowhunting isn’t nearly as difficult as some might think, but it does take a little skill and a lot of practice.
Get outfitted with the right gear and spend some time on a target range and you’ll be shooting tight groups before you know it. Find a place to hunt and do some homework on scouting, stand placement, deer behavior, and hunting safety. You might even get lucky and put some meat in the freezer during your first season.
Last but not least, you can enjoy a quiet time in the woods while enjoying one of mankind’s oldest forms of hunting.
These are some of the key messages being promoted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Community Archery Team with an online archery program aptly named Bowhunter by Fall.
Think of it as an online crash course in bowhunting and other archery sports, designed to whet the appetite of aspiring archers and ultimately attract more newcomers to the field.
The program entered its third year this summer. It is based on an educational newsletter to which you can subscribe by providing an email address on the TPWD website at tpwd.texas.gov/education/archery. Anyone can join for free. You can unsubscribe at any time.
The newsletter – which is sent out monthly or bi-monthly – contains all sorts of valuable hints, videos and links to resources designed to help beginners get started and ultimately help them become safe, responsible and successful archers.
wealth of information
Those who sign up can expect to receive eight newsletters over five months through December.
The e-newsletter editions for 2022 were launched in June. Three issues have been published so far, including an introductory issue that explains what Bowhunter by Fall is all about.
New subscribers automatically receive all previous newsletters together with their first issue. That’s a good thing, because the bank has a wealth of valuable information that beginners don’t want to miss.
The newsletters cover topics such as hunting gear basics, archery training practice tips, finding a mentor, choosing your stand, locating hunting areas, understanding license requirements and hunter training certification. In addition, there are shot placement tips, field dressing venison, venison recipes, and useful accessibility and equipment advice for adaptable audiences with special needs.
Robert Owen from Austin fills the program for TPWD. Owen is the agency’s outreach and recruitment manager. He is responsible for rallying the troops for all manner of TPWD reconnaissance programs aimed at luring new recruits into the great outdoors and keeping them there.
According to Owen, TPWD launched the Bowhunter by Fall campaign in 2020 after the pandemic halted most in-person archery training and workshops traditionally held at local YMCAs and parks/recreation facilities.
“We saw an opportunity through our partners with the Archery Trade Association to use the demographic data they had compiled to prepare for the hunting season,” Owen said. “It was a great opportunity to brand it with TPWD input tailored specifically for the Texas audience.”
Get off the couch
The effort has been pretty well received so far, Owen said. Surveys of 2021 subscribers gave the program high marks.
Owen said 96 percent of respondents said the program provided valuable assistance and increased their enthusiasm to participate in bowhunting, while 82 percent said the program helped them better understand how to effectively gain access to public hunting grounds . He added that 100 percent of respondents said they plan to get involved in bowhunting in 2022.
“We know that archery sports such as bowhunting appear to have a greater barrier to entry than firearm hunting. So we wanted to help people realize that if you have a plan in front of you and see it through, you can be ready for the October 1 season opener to roll around,” said Owen. “It’s just a matter of getting started — getting off the couch. It takes some people many seasons before they shoot their first deer with bow gear. But there are many lessons learned during this time in the field. If there’s a better place than sitting in the beautiful woods and watching the sunrise from a blind deer, I don’t know where it is.”
Build on mentors
Experience has taught Owen that many prospective students of bowhunting and other archery sports get no further than showing interest because they don’t know what steps to take next.
“A guy might have a conversation with someone else and they’re excited to go hunting, but they walk away with no idea what to do next,” he said. Initiative is designed to help people take those next steps instead of shooting a few bows and forgetting about it until October 1st and wishing they hadn’t. It’s about continuing down the path.”
Part of the newsletter emphasizes the importance of mentoring when recruiting hunters. According to Owen, many would-be hunters may never get into the sport because they don’t have anyone to sow the seeds or spark a budding interest.
“Ask any hunter how they got started and 99 percent of them will say they had a mentor,” he said. “It could have been her father, her mother, her grandfather or a friend. As we become more urban as humans, these mentors are becoming fewer and fewer.”
Good places to look
Owen says that new hunters don’t have to look very far to find them without a guide. Archery Pro Shops are great places to meet others with similar interests, as are social networks dedicated to hunting. Joining an archery club or visiting a local shooting range are good options.
Archery360.com is a great resource for archery beginners. In addition to a huge library of informative articles and videos, the site maintains a searchable database of archery shops. Click the Where to Shoot link and enter your zip code to find stores near you that offer shooting ranges, instruction, coaching, equipment and club activities.
Another great avenue for first-time adult hunters is through supervised hunting workshops and hunts offered by TPWD, the Texas Wildlife Association, or the Texas Parks Wildlife Foundation’s Stewards of the Wild Program.
All hunts are low cost and require pre-registration to be eligible for draw selection for a limited number of hunts. in limited slots. Visit tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/mentored_hunting_workshops/#hunts to sign up to be notified when the 2022 Hunt List is available.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based out of Nacogdoches. He can be reached via email, mattwillwrite email@example.com.
Cutline for photo (girl and man on stage) Fallon Clepper (left) and Wyatt Ford, both from Montgomery, teamed up to win the 12th Annual Major League Fishing High School Bass Fishing National Championship, recently held at Lake Pickwick took place in Florence, Alabama. The senior anglers represented Lake Creek High School. (MLF Photo/Joe Sills)
Texas youth win national championships
Congratulations to Montgomery teenagers Fallon Clepper and Wyatt Ford.
Lake Creek High School Seniors teamed up to win the 12th Annual Major League Fishing High School Bass Fishing National Championship recently held at Lake Pickwick in Florence, Alabama. The mixed team led a field of 416 boats with a three-day ninefish weighing 39 pounds, 9 ounces, beating second place by almost 5 1/2 pounds.
Clepper/Ford scooped up prizes including $250,000 in college scholarship offers. Both anglers have also earned spots to compete as co-anglers at the 2022 Toyota Series Championship on November 3-5 at Lake Guntersville, Alabama.
17-year-old Clepper made a little bit of fishing history for her part in the win. She is the first female angler to compete in winning a national high school fishing championship. Their motto: Gender is not a barrier in competitive bass fishing.
“I want more girls out here to get involved,” she said. “Just because a boy says you can’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. Just follow them.”