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The Making of a Traditional Bowhunter - By Dusty Steele


Rob DiStefano:
The Making of a Traditional Bowhunter
By Dusty Steele

Jim Suttinger and the author, Dusty Steele

The time is 5:00 PM on a cool, windy Ohio afternoon, sitting in a stand enjoying another day afield bow hunting for deer. As the shadows start elongating with the setting sun, I hear a grunt coming from the end of the corn field that I am overlooking. As I wait for the deer to come into view, a whole host of things are running through my mind. Will I get a shot at this deer? Will I be able to make a perfect shot with the arrow finding the mark? Will I be able to judge the distance properly to deliver a killing shot? All of the things that were mentioned above had become second nature to me since 1993, the year I started hunting with a compound bow. However, now 16 years later, I find myself questioning my ability to pull off this seemingly simple chip shot. As the buck comes into view, I see that he is going to come right past me and offer me a good quartering away shot that should result in a good clean kill! The wind is in my face and I have good cover between the deer and me. The set up is perfect and yet I wonder as the distance is closing if I have what it takes to make the shot. Should I shoot or let him pass? As the buck enters the area that I have identified as the shot window, I draw my bow and find my anchor point. As he steps into the opening I release my arrow. Now, all of the hours that I have spent prepping for this moment in time have come flooding back to me.

It all started one year ago almost to the day in another hunting environment in Ohio. I had attended a hunt sponsored by a group called "Lord of The Harvest Archery Club" in Tar Hollow State Park. The hunt runs for nine days and is a great time of fellowship and some great hunting. It was here that the stage was set for the moment above as I was introduced to traditional archery. I remember thinking, it's just a stick with a string basically; what a joke. They surely could not compete with us wheel bow boys as their equipment just did not have the power or the range; much less the speed to do the damage that is needed to make a clean, humane kill. I mean, just look at how cool a good, rigged-out compound bow looks. You have a fiber optic (sometimes lighted) sight on it, you have an arrow rest that could be some kind of drop away, or maybe something a little more simple as a shoot through rest that may or may not have a built in overdraw that allows you to shoot shorter arrows, which will give you a little more speed. It will have a stabilizer of some kind on it to help take some of the shock and lessen the noise that the bow will create when releasing an arrow. It will have a wrist sling on it to keep you from dropping the bow. It will have all manner of things on the limbs and string to help make it quiet when shot. I mean you are just in awe of this thing called a modern hunting bow that will deliver an arrow down range at speeds that are almost unheard of. But none the less, I started shooting some of the fellows' traditional bows and found out that while it wasn't as cool as my compound, it did add a different twist to the sport. As I continued to shoot this plain Jane bow, it became clear that there were some advantages to this simple set up. I mean you didn't have to worry about shooting the wrong pin; you can just let it drop to the ground without worrying about what you are going to damage. It weighed a whole lot less to carry, not as many moving parts. The list could go on for quite some time. But keep in mind that it is a stick bow. Come on, they just don't look cool enough to be seen in public with.


In addition, the fact of the matter is that shooting this simple bow had stirred something inside me. I still can't quite put my finger on it, but I had to have one, you know, just to play with. Jimmy Suttinger won the bidding on a longbow that was being auctioned off at this hunt. I shot it a good bit and when I left to go home, he offered to sell it to me. After I got home, I just couldn't forget the feel of that longbow in my hand. So when I got home I bought a Bob Lee recurve from a friend who owns a sporting goods store, you know, just to play with. But I couldn't forget how good that longbow felt in my hand and how sweet it shot. I called Jimmy and told him I wanted to buy that bow and he sent it to me. I bought arrows and started flinging them trying to figure this thing out. I called Jimmy almost every day to ask questions and get guidance with everything from hand positions to arrow selections. I took it to a 3-D tournament along with my compound, and when I took it out of the truck, I could hear some comments like, "What a waste of time," "Why would someone want to shoot something so slow?" and so on. I can remember wondering why I even bought it. So, I went to the truck and put my compound back in the case and slid it back into the truck. I wanted to show those wheel bow boys that I was not going to be shamed into leaving my stick in the truck. I finished first that day in the Traditional Class. Where were all of those nonbelievers now? They were waiting to shoot my little stick bow. As I continued, I shot all the tournaments that summer with my stick bow and placed at all but two of them. But even after all of this, I still didn't think I could be effective enough to kill a deer with this stick bow. I even bought a new compound bow to take to Ohio with me. How was I ever going to kill a deer with this bow if I didn't hunt with it? Now almost a year to the day, here I am with that bow, you know, the one I bought to just "play with", watching my arrow strike its mark in what looks like a perfect shot. As the buck reacts to the impact, I continue to follow through with the shot holding my form as I have practiced and trained myself to do. It all looks great and appears that the trail to recovery will be short. I relax into the seat of my tree stand and the emotions start flooding my mind. There was joy at a well placed shot, a sense of accomplishment for taking my skills to another level, but most of all thankfulness to God for allowing me this opportunity to harvest this deer and for the strength and health to make this shot. And finally, I am grateful to be able to share this with two buddies who were there to answer all my questions this past summer, Jimmy Suttinger and Jerry Gowins.

Left to right: Jerry Gowins, Dusty Steele, Jim Suttinger

Well, the recovery was not as short as I was thinking it was going to be. However, at the end there were high fives all around and pride in watching a fellow traditional hunter come full circle. It was like reliving my first deer kill all over again when I saw that deer down for the count. I was moved almost to tears when we walked up to this magnificent animal and I was able to put my hands on him for the first time. It was a nine-point with a very unusual rack, but had a big body. Once again, I was reminded that God provides us with everything we have and everything we accomplish. He is our source and strength who makes all things possible. We would do well in remembering this little fact as we walk through life. If we have been born again spiritually, there is nothing that happens to us by chance. We are living a life that is being directed by a living God who only wants what's best for us. Hunting is something we should enjoy doing; not just for the killing, but as a time to really come face to face with what God has created for us. Every time I'm in the woods hunting, I spend time talking to my Lord about things from hunting to where He is leading me in my life. I thank Him for my family and my health to be able to enjoy hunting. I thank Him for people like Jimmy "heydeerman" Suttinger who would take the time to coach me from 1000 miles away on the fine art of shooting a longbow and who also makes my strings for me. I thank Him for Tracy Trickett owner of "Tree's Custom Bows" who uses his skills as a master bowyer to build a longbow so well crafted and who would donate it to a worthy cause. I thank Him for Jerry Gowins who also has coached me from time to time, who was there to see me recover this deer and who has coached me with this article and took most of the pictures I used here. I thank Him for "The Lord of The Harvest Archery Club" for hosting the hunt where I bought my bow and for their witness to bowhunters who might never hear the word any other way. I thank Him for Dr. Scherrine Davenport who took the time to proof read and edit this article for me. Furthermore, I thank Him most of all for His Son, Jesus Christ, who died to give me a chance to be born again and receive His free gift of salvation that comes with eternal life.

I can say by record book standards my deer was not a trophy class deer. But I'm here to tell you that from my point of view, he is more of a trophy than anyone could ever know. As you have read above, it took a great bunch of people to bring all of this together with God putting on the finishing touches to complete the picture. Thank you all for your part and may my God bless each and every one of you.


Equipment: 66" Shadowcast Longbow 58# @ 28" Built by Tree's Custom Bows, Master Bowyer: Tracy Trickett; 5575 Gold Tip @29" long with a 100 grain brass inserts and 125 grain Muzzy broadheads; bow string by Jimmy "heydeerman" Suttinger. Pictures provided by Jerry Gowins of "Carpe Lumen! (Seize the Light!) Photography"
Dusty Steele is an Oilfield Toolpusher in the Gulf of Mexico who lives in Columbia Louisiana and has only started hunting with his longbow this 2009 deer season.
"Lord of The Harvest Archery Club" is a chapter of the "Christian Bowhunters of America" that host their annual "Trophies of Grace" hunt from the last Friday in October till the first Saturday in November. They have hosted this nine-day hunt every year from 1993 until this present day. It is an outreach for bowhunters to come and hunt some of the best deer hunting in the state of Ohio and hear some good preaching from just regular guys who love the Lord. It is a low cost fellowship hunt that your whole family will enjoy. You can see all the details on their web site,  Mike Peters, president.


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