Saturday, September 9, 2017

Farming Life - Through the Windshield of a Tractor: The Hayfield September 2017 Corridor Article

People often ask me “what do you do,” in reference to what I do for a living. I usually
laugh and tell them I’m retired, when in all actuality I wear many different hats. I even get paid
to wear some of those hats! In 2014 I “retired” from working a 9 to 5 job. Well, okay, I owned a
restaurant so it was more like 6am to 9pm but you get the point, and since then I have been
able to do things that I enjoy. One of those things is farming, and although I don’t technically
get paid to farm, I am thankful that Mr. Husted has a “real” job that pays the bills and I can
continue to be “retired.”
Now, about three years ago my buddy Gary, who we lease land for cattle from, asked
me to move some hay bales off a field for him. I think this was a test on how well I adapted to
life in a tractor. I guess I passed his test, because the next year I was promoted to “hay raker”
and this year he’s trusted me with a big fancy hay cutter! I’ve learned some valuable lessons
and skills behind the windshield of a tractor and I have loved *almost* every bit of it. . .but it
does help when I get to use nice equipment and cabbed tractors with good air conditioners!
The point of this article is to give you a glimpse into my world in the hay field, to honor a
couple farmers I know, and talk about a few things I’ve learned through the windshield of the
tractor in the hay fields the last few years. Some of those things you may relate with, some are
serious, some you may laugh at, and some you may roll your eyes at and wonder what I was
thinking and how in the world I survive.
Hay bales scattered after we finish raking and baling
Maybe I should first start by explaining the haying process for those who aren’t familiar
with that part of farming. This is how Gary and I do it, and some may have different techniques,
that’s alright, they can be wrong if they want to! Right off the bat, you need a field with good
grass that has been sprayed for weeds or the weeds are minimal. Then you need optimal
weather. Rain on hay once it is cut and laying on the ground can causes mold and you have
the possibility of losing nutritional value, and if you bale it while wet you take a chance of the
hay overheating and catching on fire. Yes, odd as it sounds, wet hay is more susceptible to
spontaneous combustion. After a field is picked and you have a good window of weather you
will start by mowing the field using disc mowers, in our case. Mine folds up to the side of my
tractor when not in use and Gary’s is pulled right behind his tractor and when in use it is moved
over to the side. After mowing, depending on the type of grass, we wait a day or two or three
and then I go in with a rake attached to the tractor and start making rows to be baled, then Gary
follows with the baler and bales it, and then someone comes along sometime and hauls it from
the field.
Mowing a hay meadow
We’ll dive right in and start with a bit of a laughing matter to some. To avoid dehydration
I try to drink water, a lot of water, which is great and everyone should do this, unless you are a
female, spending hours in a bouncy tractor, in the middle of nowhere, and your sidekick in this
hay business is a male. What do you do? First you strategize. Yes that sounds funny but you
do what you gotta do in intense situations. So, you get to the field after driving the tractor a few
miles down a bumpy dirt road and immediately start looking around for good places to stop and
take care of business. A few things have to be taken into consideration. Are there houses
around? Is the road close? How far away is the other tractor? Probably most importantly,
does that look like poison ivy on that tree you’re about to squat behind? If you are raking and
the baler is behind you, you can get a lap on him and angle your tractor so that the giant wheel
and the hay bale give you a bit of privacy. The first time out to the hay field, you probably didn’t
think of all those little details before drinking a lot of water. . .but you will think about them from
now on!

One of my favorite things is to see God’s beautiful creation. A couple weeks ago we
went to a prairie meadow that was hidden deep in the trees in the middle of a section of land. It
was beautiful, almost breath taking, a pretty field surrounded by dense woods with smatters of
wild flowers, clumps of hardwood trees, and a few giant cedar. Yes most farmers hate cedars
but I think they are pretty. It was a place that you could sit and be surrounded by God’s beauty
and be at peace. I did spot a tree stand on the edge of the woods and I’m a little jealous of the
hunter that gets to sit and view the beautiful place while hunting. I love that these hidden gems
exist and that sometimes God brings me to one of these places so I can be in awe of His
creation and worship Him.
One of the prettiest fields I got to rake and mow.
To get to this pretty field you had to go up on the side of the steep terrace so the mower wouldn't hit the trees
Thankfully the rakes can roll through the light tree branches but you do have to watch for the heavy stuff!
The down side of finding one of these beautiful places is sometimes they are hard to get
to and that brings me to my next topic. Terrible-ditch ridden-creek crossing-steep- narrow paths
to the fields. Wow, when you are driving a tractor with a mower attached that sticks up above
the cab of the tractor or pulling a rake that is long and a bit wide you really have to be cautious
about your surroundings! I broke the tail light off the top corner of the tractor cab going from the
road into a field the other day and I felt terrible, especially since it isn’t my equipment. I really
hate to tear up something that isn’t mine. I was on the edge of the road going about a tenth of a
mile an hour and went to up a small ditch and my mower, that is folded up the side of my tractor,
bounced funny and busted the tail light out. You also have to watch all sides of you and make
sure that your mower isn’t too tall to go under big tree limbs. The rake isn’t as bad because it is
on the back and pulls straight like a trailer but you do have to watch corners and mail boxes.
Then think about steep hills/ditches, again with a mower hanging on the side it is a bit scary.
You have a lot of unbalanced weight sticking out that you have to pay attention to. Then while
you’re in the field mowing or raking you have to watch fences and obstructions in the field. I
actually prefer to work in a field with a little bit of an obstacle course, it keeps things interesting
and keeps me awake, but I have gotten my rake tines in a fence or tree a couple times.
Thankfully it was all easily fixable. . .and I know I’m not the first to make those mistakes.
Something else you don’t think about is that mowing a field disturbs a lot of wildlife. 
There is the baby fawn or cotton tail rabbit that is buried in the tall grass, the field mice that feast
in the fields, and the heebeegeebee giving snakes that eat the mice and other things. 
Somehow the coyotes and hawks know that you are churning up some dinner for them when
they hear the mower on the tractor and come running.  I try to remember to carry a rifle in the
cab with me to take out those rotten coyotes but a few weeks ago I forgot to grab my rifle.  I
really didn’t give it a lot of thought until a young coyote came out of the woods.  It taunted me for
what seemed like hours chasing mice and such.  It would catch something and trot off to the
woods to dine in privacy then come back for something else.  I shot it with my finger a couple
times and yelled at it in the cab of my tractor but neither of those things did any good.  Of course
the next day when we went back to the field to rake and bale and I *had* my rifle the coyote
never came back.  For the record, coyotes build dens in the fields and make them rough to drive
across and if you have a big watermelon patch, like I do, they come in the field and carry your
watermelon off right as they are ripe and ready for picking.  That’s one of the many reasons
farmers don’t like coyotes….
I keep my rifle behind the seat to dispatch unwanted critters!
As any farmer can tell you, farming (or haying, in my case) involves hours of driving
circles, which makes comfort pretty important. “My” tractor is, of course, not as nice as Gary’s
and not even mine! He owns them both, so I use the smaller one and he uses the “Cadillac.”
I’ve only used the Cadillac once to move hay, and he was sure to mention that I shouldn’t get
used to it, because I wouldn’t be using it very often! Mine has a radio but it doesn’t work so I
often serenade myself. I’m pretty sure y’all would get a kick out of me talking and singing to
myself if there was a hidden camera. I also download books or sermons on my phone to listen
to or I sit in the peace and quiet (except for the comforting noise of the tractor engine), pray or
praise or listen for the still small voice of God. The seat of a tractor is a great place to reflect on
life and the beauty around me, to plan and dream about the future, and to learn to enjoy being
by myself.

I am super thankful for the experience I’ve gotten the last few years behind the
windshield of a tractor and have become more aware of how even the small farmers feed the
world. So, in closing, something staggering to think about: according to Clemson University, in
1940 a farmer could feed 19 people, and in 2011 that increased to 155. Technology and
advances in equipment have helped increase those numbers in a good way. By 2050 the food
production will need to increase seventy percent to feed 9.1 billion people. With less and less
farms, farmers, and farmland there has to be other ways to increase production from the
available land. That is where technology comes in. Just something to think about………

*Because of space limitations these did not get included in the article but I want to make sure they are recognized anyway!

Honoring Farmers: I am so thankful for all farmers big and small.  You can't begin to imagine how much these families sacrifice to provide food for the world.  So take time and thank a farmer!
Snyder Farms in Prague, Oklahoma has been a Strong Family Tradition since 1891. Seven generations deep with four generations currently helping on the family farm together. The Jesse Snyder family raise Angus Cattle, Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, Hay, Sweet Corn, Pumpkins and various Garden Produce.
You can follow their farming journey at

Tyler and Karen Stefansen are relatively new to farming.  Tyler was raised on a homestead where he learned about gardens and deer plots.  He has a degree from OSU in Wildlife/Fisheries Ecology and Rangeland Management and worked in college for the Oklahoma Wildlife Department as a field biologist and Soil Conservation Service.  They currently raise soybeans and wheat.  I asked Tyler how he’s learned what he knows and been successful without having the experience of working for a row crop farmer.  He says “by immersing myself in the trade; book knowledge from OSU, hours and hours of research, visiting with local farmers, and most importantly tons of prayer.” He and Karen are raising two children and hope to ingrain in them their love of the land.

Sherman Terrell is a 3rd generation farmer.  With the help and support of his wife Mary Jo he started farming full time in the late 1950’s, and has continued since.  Over the years they have produced peanuts, alfalfa, wheat, and has grown produce such as watermelons, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.  At one time, Sherman and Mary Jo grew and supplied produce crops to around fifteen local grocery stores.  They have also raise beef cattle.  They have two sons that are involved in the farm operation, and a daughter whose husband was involved for many years.

Just some fun pictures I've taken the last year from the seat of a tractor. 
We had to cross this little creek to get into the hay field. 

Gopher mounds can make a very dusty mowing experience.  Thankful for a cabbed tractor.  

I often get bugs that ride along.  This ones name is Fred and he rode with me about 2 hours!

Sometimes we have to refuel!

Okay, we have to refuel a lot.  My tractor uses more fuel mowing than raking because it's having to work harder. 

Sometimes you can sit on a hill and find hidden treasures.  This house looks amazing, I may have to see if I can see it from the road sometime.

I over heated, YIKES!  The radiator got covered with crud and the tractor was having to work extra hard in thick grass....

Sometimes things get clogged up and you have to get down and dirty to get it going again.

Kind of like this mess with my mower.  Finally got enough pulled out that I could put it in 4 wheel drive and back over the mess.  Wet grass is sometimes tough to mow.

Workers gotta eat and sometimes there isn't shade so you have to make due with a bucket for seating and the tractor for shade.  
This field was full of terraces.  It looks like it'd be an easy job but it isn't you have to cut and rake between the terraces instead of going back and forth over them. 
Sometimes farmers have to "road" tractors.  Please Please Please be patient with them.  They are doing the best they can and will get out of the way when they can.  Keep a decent distance, pass them when it's safe, and pray for their safety.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Tribute to Military

For the July 2017 Corridor Article I asked people to pay tribute to their military hero.... This is what I got.  I love that we can celebrate freedom and appreciate all who chose to serve.  

Taylor Williams says “my favorite veteran is my father in law, Brian Williams. He has been serving in the Air Force for 35 years now. He has served in Iraq twice, Turkey five times, Qatar, and Afghanistan. He has received countless metals but is so humble I'm sure I don't even know all of them. Chief Williams has a special place in my heart and I'm so thankful he is home safe. He has put his life on the line for many years and he is so proud to have been able to serve his country. He is a proud American and our family would be lost without him!”

Bo Kociuba wanted to share few details about her father, Janusz Bratek, who was just a 10yr old boy when the war started in Poland Oct.1, 1939.  “He is my hero and there are no adequate words to express my gratitude and recognize his sacrifice.”  Her father was a child who lost his mother at the age of ten and his father at the age of thirteen.  He was a survivor of Majdanek concentration camp and a member of the Polish Underground Army.  Janusz fought in the bloody and heroic Warsaw Uprising, the major World War II 63 day battle, where Polish resistance, most of them young teenagers, fought to liberate Warsaw from German occupation  For his actions he was awarded a Cross of Valor. He was a survivor of German Stalags of Lamsdorf, Muhlberg and Oschatz where prisoners, because of starvation, were forced to hunt for cats and rats. He was one of a youngest POWs in WWII. He served under Gen. Anders in Italy with a rank of Petty Officer. In 1945 ended up in Manchester, England then came back to Poland in 1947.  *While we recognize that Janusz Bratek was not a United States Soldier, we still want to recognize the heroic role he played in the freedom of people like his daughter Bo Kociuba, who is now a US citizen.

Pilar Dykes wanted to recognize her husband Zack Dykes.  Zack was active Army from 2010 to 2014 in Ft. Lewis, Tacoma, WA, and served in Afghanistan 2012 as a gunner on a Striker armored truck.  He is currently serving in the Army Reserves.  Like many other service men and women, Zack has received awards and medals but he is very humble about it and does not share those stories with many folks.

C’Anne Smally wants to recognize her husband, Jason Smalley.  He served 6 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps. His job was communication, navigation and electronics countermeasure systems. He left the Marine Corps as a Staff Sergeant. He deployed to the South Pacific, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Jason was an expert marksman. Jason received two Navy Achievement Marine Corps Medals (NAM), a Presidential Unit Citation and two Marine Good Conduct Medals along with other medals and ribbons.

Stacy Burns, wife SSG Tyler W. Burns Army National Guard, B Co 1-179 Deployed 2007-2008 & 2011-2012 says “after our second date, I told Tyler I would not date him because I would not fall in love with him because I would not marry him and I would not be an Army Wife. God had other plans. Before the year was over we were married. Three months later I watched him load a bus that would take eventually take him to Afghanistan. That was a scary year for us both. Thankfully God watched over him and brought him back safely. We now have two beautiful boys who look and act just like their Daddy. I am so proud of my soldier! He is a strong man and someone our boys can look up to every day.” 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Father's Day Tribute, The Corridor June 2017

Father’s Day
As I sit here and think about the topic of this article, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or someone special, it is making me take a deeper look into the men who have impacted my life.

First, how do you put into words what father means? It is going to be a different answer for everyone you ask. For me, for my earthly father, it is dad or daddy. Thankfully my dad has always been a part of my life. If you look back at my article writing history you will see the many times that my dad is included in them. Dad did not make every ball game or school event while I was growing up. He often worked swing shift and was not able to make it, and sometimes he would rather go hunting than to a ball game, but that was okay with me. Sometimes I would have rather have gone hunting, too! So many of my childhood stories start with “my dad took me”.

Dad started taking me hunting with him when I was pretty young. I remember him tying me to a tree with some sort of pink string. That was way back before safety harnesses were popular, but I was pretty small and he was doing his job of protecting me. That was also before I was old enough to have a bow or gun and hunt myself, so I sat with him while he hunted. He took me fishing and golfing and taught me how to play dominoes. He still likes to take me hunting and fishing and I think it means more to me now than it did when I was younger. Getting to spend a few hours with my dad is something I will always cherish. He taught me what it means to work hard and to give a helping hand to others. He still is often doing for others instead of for himself or his wife.

My dad, Wendell Davenport, and Me. Shooting at the Annual Christmas Eve Skeet Shoot

“Daddy”, however, is a name I reserve those times that I need something. You’d think that at 29 years old and holding I wouldn’t need to use that term. . .but occasionally I still do and thankfully my daddy has always been there for me. He made several phone calls for me not to long ago looking for trees. Over the winter he drove the 45 miles to my house to help me haul hay. He has picked me up on the side of the road when a vehicle has broken down. Those are my “daddy” moments.

If you ask me if I have a perfect dad I will always answer no, absolutely not but he is just what I needed and that makes him perfect for me and I will always love and appreciate him.

When I got married, part of the deal was a new “Dad”. I have an amazing father-in-law. I think if you ask his kids if he is perfect they would say yes, as perfect as an earthly father can be. They will tell you he is the wisest, most Godly man they know. He is a man I am comfortable asking for help and doing things with. For more than eighteen years he has treated me as a daughter and I greatly appreciate that.

This is my Father-In-Law, Ben Husted. He is great! In this pic we had just finished working several hours pruning fruit trees! (Sorry Ben, this is not the best photo of us but it's the only one I could find. We'll have to make sure and take one on family vacation)
I have had two very different grandpas. One still living, who used to take me hunting and fishing, and camping. I have let life get too busy and don’t spend as much time with him as I should. The other passed away when I was in my early 20s who I have fond memories of taking me to junk auctions and to the cafĂ© for breakfast at the ungodly hour of 6am. Both would let me put barrettes in their hair and make them look silly.

I have a host of uncles, male cousins, and male friends who have been a great influence on my life. Watching these men has showed me what I wanted in a husband, showed me how I needed to treat a husband, and how as a wife, I should expect to be treated.

The big question of Father’s Day is what do you get that special man in your life? Dad is expected to tell you what he wants, and there is an expectation that it will have a monetary value to it and it will be easy for you to click online order it and have it mailed to him without you ever having to personally interact with your dad. Skip that this year or if you feel obligated to buy something add to it!

I asked a friend Tyler, who has a six month old daughter and a 3 year old son what he wanted for Father’s Day, and he did not hesitate in his answer: time. He wants more time with his kids and he wants to create more memories with them. I think you will find that many dads do not want “stuff” for father’s day but will simply want time and memories.

Tyler and his son Adam and Daughter Sarah

Dads now days are not necessarily the sole provider in the family but a lot of times they are still the majority bread winner. When a dad spends forty plus hours a week working, sometimes swing shifts, sometimes out of town for days or weeks at a time he misses a lot, and when he is home he is tired. So, my suggestion for your Father’s Day gift this year is to plan something where you get to spend time with your dad. It doesn’t matter if you are a young child or a (roughly) 29 year old child like me. Cook his favorite meal and maybe play yard games or dominoes. The Corridor is also full of places to take dad and spend some time. Look at one of the many golf courses, lakes, bbq restaurants, parks, museums. What you do on Father’s Day is less important than who you do it with. Most dads want just a few hours of your time and it will be worth it to both of you.

For those of you with family too far away, make the phone call and tell your dad how special he is. I think you will ask just about anyone who has lost a father to death or otherwise and they will tell you all they want is time back with their dad so don’t put off those special times. Create lasting memories for you, your children, and your grandchildren. It will be worth it. In years to come you can sit and reflect on the time that you put barrettes in your grandpa or dad’s hair or painted his toe nails while you were playing beauty salon. It’s the memories that count.

*The next four pictures and tributes were all that made the magazine

Dad Randy Seaton and daughter Jennafer Seaton: He's an absolutely amazing man who has bent over backwards for my mom and us kids. He works his tail off to make sure we have what we need and want and he is always there when we need him. I can't tell you how many times I've gone through things I didn't think I would make it through that he was right there with me every step of the way helping me in any way he could and crying right there with me.

Dad Randy Brown and daughter Kamber Brown: My daddy, who has helpmed me get to the place I am today, has always supported our family even when it came to quiting his job and starting his own business to give us a better life. He is someone who would willingly give his shirt off his back if need be. I'm so proud to call him my dad and not just becauseof what he has done for me but also for our country as a USA Marine Veteran who spent time in the Gulf protecting our country.

Grandpa Jack Fick Sr and granddaughter Brandi Williams: My grandpa was the most honest, hardworking man I knew. He also loved to joke around! He would give someone his last $10 bill if they needed it. He was special to me. This picture, from my wedding, was one of his last outings before he passed away. Jack's daughter Marsha Laxton and Teresa Allen also commented this about their father. He taught us how to be a hard worker. I, Marsha, started out driving at 5 years old driving in a hay field. I loved my daddy so much I always wanted to be with him in the hay fields. He taught me how to work hard for what I wanted, but most of all he taught me how to love people. I still hear today stories about my dad. How good and hard worker he was. There was many young men that would try to out work my daddy but they didn't stand a chance. He enjoyed watching me play basketball as I grow up I can still hear his voice in the stands cheering me on. He was a great man that the town of Agra loved very much. I miss him still today. Love you daddy. Teresa says Jack was a special man, all his kids felt like we were his favorite! Never seen anyone be a better example of being a cheerful giver! Miss him everyday!

Dad Allen Jeffries and daughter Taylor Williams: I have the most loving, supportive, and fun dad out there! He has always had my back and made sure I chased my dreams growing up! I already thought the world of him and once my little girl was born, I saw a whole new side. He is such a great papa and I love seeing them both play, interact, and talk over FaceTime. He is such a hard worker and I'm so lucky to have him as my dad!

*The next pics and tributes I got after the deadline or there was not enough space, so they did not make the magazine but I wanted to share them here....

Kamber and Papa Larry Seaton: Then there is my Papa, someone who placed the love of music into my heart. He bought me my first guitar and sat in the floor with me teaching me cords all night, I remember dancing in the living room of their home or us just singing in the truck with him. My Papa was at every ball game or event he could make it too. What can I say I was extremely blessed with two amazing men, to watch and help me grow.
From Kelly Joe about Dad Larry Seaton: A lil girls first love is her daddy. It's who protects her and holds her and rocks her when she is sick. (My mom told me I never wanted her just my daddy). He chases away the monsters from beneath her bed. Most of all he loves her Mama. He is the Disney Prince come to life. He's the leg she hides behind when little and the hand she holds as she grows up and the last mans she will hold before she becomes a wife. He is her superman and hero. He is the man that sets the standard on how she as a woman, wife, mother and even a lover should be treated, respected, honored, spoiled and loved. He is what she searches for in every eye of a man that she meets. Those qualities, that heart, that love of his fellow man and God combined. and that soul. All that is good in the one man she has entrusted with her life. No matter 5 or 50 you will always be Daddy's lil girl.
My greatest example...storm
Season. Daddy was always on call and my birthday always meant storms. He had been gone numerous days restoring power. It was my 5th birthday and he took time to call and tell me happy birthday. I still remember sitting in the kitchen in pajamas on an old yellow rotary phone twirling the cord telling him I wanted a Holly Hobby Stove from Otasco in Prague and a pony. Later that night during the middle of my party he drove up in a CVEC service truck. In the front seat was a fully assembled stove(that I still have) and tied to the bumper was my very first horse, Tony. Yes this kind of man is rare. These standards are what I want for myself, my daughters and my niece.

From Carrie Delk: This man is tough, he is stern, he is gruff, strong and he has a heart of gold. I think that is what a dad should be. He has taught me about the kind of person I want to be. He has led by example in teaching me lessons of both, what to do and what not to do. He always has and continues to break his back everyday in order to provide for his family, always putting us before himself. My brother and I are very lucky to call him Dad!

From Billi Wright: So this is a picture of my Dad, my Father in law and my Husband. My Daddy is the best gift God ever gave me. He stepped into our lives and took on 4 children that weren't his as his own. He worked 100 hours a week most of the year to support us. Growing up I had never met a man that worked the way he did. He taught us what love really meant not to mention how to work for what you want out of life. I'm so thankful for that. By the grace of God I married a man that is just like him. He has been a great Daddy to me and the best Papa to my children. I owe him everything. My father in law was a mess. He was also a hard working man. I'm so thankful for the man he raised that became my husband.

Bobby and Kandice Taylor: My dad was my biggest encourager, supporter, listener, sounding board, rock, and first love. He was "my person." He made me feel like the most important person in the world. Although I only got 27 years with him, I probably felt more love than some people feel in a lifetime. I still feel as if he's looking out for me and I can't wait to see him again. His wings were ready, but my heart was not. Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bowfishing (May 2017 Corridor Article)

Bowfishing is an old sport that, because of the World Wide Web, social media, YouTube, and hunting shows, is gaining popularity.  It is a sport that can be inexpensive, it is loads of fun, it gets you outdoors, and anyone, men or women, young or old can participate.  I say inexpensive but, like many outdoor sports, you can spend as much money as you want to. . .and many want to spend a lot!  Kind of like a rifle hunter that only needs a two hundred dollar rifle to harvest a deer but “needs” a high end rifle, hunting blind, camo attire, 4-wheeler, private hunting land and so on.  A bowfisher could easily get by with a hundred and fifty dollar setup but will often spend thousands after they get a taste of the fun: new bow set up, new boat, trolling motor, generator, batteries, lights, pickup to pull the boat, you get the picture. 

Matt Willis, Dwayne Carter, Lance Carter

I asked a couple bowfishermen why they liked bowfishing and they both stated it was exciting.  It is a hunt where you do not have to sit quietly waiting on the game.  You get to be loud, you get to cheer your friends on that make a good shot on a fish and give a good harassing when someone misses.  You get to shoot over and over and are not finished with the hunt after the first kill.
I remember bowfishing at Lake Texhoma with my dad when I was younger, a lot younger, but it’s been several years since I’ve enjoyed the sport.  After seeing an interest by many on social media I thought I’d see what the big deal was and why it is again gaining popularity.  When dad and I bowfished we just used our fishing boat and dad took the sight off my hunting bow, attached a reel in its place, attached a bowfishing arrow to it, and we started shooting.  Today, setups can get pretty elaborate.  Some build special boats with a raised platform, which help you see deeper into the water with less reflection.  Some buy special bows and retrieval systems.  
I visited with Dwayne Carter of Dwayne Carter Hunting and Oklahoma record holder for the shortnose gar (nine pounds eleven and a half ounces and forty three and a quarter inches long, he was quick to mention) about bowfishing.  First we talked about equipment.  What do you have to have what can you get by without and this is what Dwayne said.  “All you absolutely have to have to get started is a bow with some type of retrieval system; my first was a Folgers coffee can with twine wrapped around it, and an arrow with a barbed point.  A fiberglass arrow is the most popular and very reasonably priced, running around $10 an arrow.  You can pick up a heavy duty carbon arrow but it will set you back more than two times the cost of a fiberglass arrow.  It doesn’t matter if you have a recurve or a compound bow, there are benefits to both.  When it comes to retrieval systems there are a few ways you can go.  Of course you can go the extremely cheap way and use a coffee can or you can spend around seventy dollars and get a spincast reel or a retriever reel in the one hundred dollar range.   A barbed point, which penetrates through the fish and uses the barbs to hold the fish on your arrow for retrieval, will run you about eight dollars.  There are a ton of accessories you can add but my advice on this is find a friend who is into bowfishing and look at their set up or go to a good archery shop and the staff bowfishing expert to get you set up.” 
Dwayne Carter

Dwayne Carter

I spoke with Brian, the staff bowfishing expert at Davenport’s Archery about equipment and technique.  I asked him what his best advice was.  He replied simply: “aim low”.  Because of the refraction of the water the fish are usually deeper than they appear.  That one looked a foot deep and was really three feet deep.  Add night shooting and it gets even harder.  If you think you’re aimed low enough then aim even lower.   As one bowfisherman, Britches Ryerson, interjected during our conversation, the point of bowfishing is to have fun and do not get frustrated with misses. 
Davenport's Archery Staff Bowfishing Expert Brian Seaton with an alligator gar

So, now that you have your setup, what do you bowfish for?  “Trash fish” also known as nongame fish is what you are looking for: gar, carp, or paddlefish.  To shoot these nongame fish you do need an Oklahoma fishing license and a paddlefish license, which you can get for free when you buy a fishing license.  Paddlefish and alligator gar are the only two nongame fish that have special requirements.  You can only harvest one paddlefish a day with a limit of two per year and you cannot shoot paddlefish on Monday or Fridays.  Hey, I’m just telling you the rules, I’m not telling you they make sense!  Alligator gar are restricted to one a day but no yearly limit or limit on days you can harvest.  You are required to check these fish in with the Oklahoma Wildlife Department using the E-check system or calling a phone number available in the Oklahoma Fishing Regulations.  Other species of carp and gar have no limits and no restrictions.  Just make sure you properly dispose of them.
Where do you find these nongame fish for shooting in Oklahoma?  Just about any decent size creek, pond, river, or lake will have plenty of fish for shooting.  The best place to look is in grassy water and during the heat of the day look in water with trees for shade.  Speaking of time of day, you can shoot fish day or night.  At night bowfishers will outfit their boats with lights.  You can use LED or halogen but you have to look at electric supply.  LED draw less amps and can be ran off good batteries for a few hours, halogen generally require a small generator. 
If spending money on a boat setup isn’t what you want to do you can do what many do and wade the banks of the waterways or shoot off the banks.  You will still get plenty of action and save a *boatload* of money.  To do this you only need your bow, retrieval system, and arrow. 
Why do people shoot nongame fish?  Well, many of these nongame fish are not native to Oklahoma waters and most people say they are not good for eating.  Like any such wild game, if they are not controlled through legal harvest they will become more invasive.  The gar species will eat game fish, destroying the population of good fish in a waterway quickly and the carp move into the areas where game fish spawn and destroy their beds.
            Dwayne also told me about the Oklahoma Bowfishing Association.  They host several tournaments throughout the year to get people out and hooked on bowfishing.  Dwayne and his team took 3rd place a while back in the Big Five Red River Tournament.  These tournaments all have different setups.  Some go by most weighted in fish, some by size of individual fish, some by specific breed of fish.  I asked Dwayne what his best advice was for bowfishing, whether it’s a newbie or someone who’s bowfished a lot and he told me “be safe, have fun, and keep shooting.  The more you shoot the more fish you’ll reel in.  You might not hit every one you shoot at but that’s okay, you’re there for a good time.”  So ladies and gentlemen, get out and enjoy a fun sport where there are no heavy expectations, just heavy fish.
Brian Seaton, Randy Mayfield, Dwayne Carter, Dustin Statton, and Derek Mayfield
AnnDee Lee
Colby Seaton
Christine Carter - Stingray kill while bowfishing the Gulf of Mexico

Related Links