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Recent entries


Through the Lens

Rough Fish Roundup Puts Bowfishers in the Spotlight

Wed, July 22, 2015

Winning Team FonkDonks. Photo by Amy Pease

Bowfishers from five states braved extreme heat and tough bowfishing conditions Saturday July 18 at the inaugural Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Round Up held in Baldwin, Illinois at the Kaskaskia State Fish and Wildlife Area.

The tournament was hosted by Illinois Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with Tri State Bowfishers and Bowfishing Association of America.

Despite heavy flooding in weeks and days preceding the tournament, and temperatures that hovered in the mid ‘90s with heat indexes over 105 degrees; 28 boat teams and 6 walking participants went forth in the elements to vie for prizes and cash.

Fishing conditions were difficult. After weeks of high flood waters, the rapidly falling water and high temperatures made finding fish a bit tricky. Participants who had traveled to the area in the days preceding the tournament to scout and prefish were somewhat baffled by the sudden overnight change in fishing conditions. But alas Mother Nature flipped the switch Saturday morning, and the old adage “Should have been here yesterday” echoed throughout the weigh in process.

Despite the difficult conditions, large numbers of Asian carp were removed from the lower Kaskaskia, and the weights for the biggest ten fish from each team were more than respectable for tough conditions.
The $2000 dollar first place prize money drew both experienced tournament teams and rookie first time tournament shooters. The winning team “Fonkdonks” comprised of Vince Hamer and Phil Wood from central Illinois, shared that this was their first tournament experience. Not only did the team of take the tournament with a total weight of 108.5 pounds of fish, team member Phil Wood walked away with the 750.00 prize for the largest fish taken at 16.85 pounds.

The tournament featured a Large and Small fish side contest that individual participants had the option of entering at registration. Small fish prize was awarded for an incredibly small .35 pound fish taken by Andy Schwalbert of team Buffalo Backstabbers from Arnold, MO.

Second place also went to a team new to tournament bowfishing, “Boilermakers Local 363”. The Boilermakers went home with 1200.00 dollars for their 96.45 pound total for ten fish. 

Third place winner in the boat division was Team Hogger with 93.5 pounds of fish. Team Hogger also won the biggest Asian Carp contest with a 21.6 pound Asian carp.

The walking division was no exception to the new to tournament rule with Chase Bauer taking first with a total of 23.8 pounds in the Big 3 division followed by Wesley Craig in second place with 17.85 pounds. This was also a first time tournament experience for Bauer and Craig. Cody Lampley placed third with 15.25 pounds.

Kenzie Marie Taylor, of Madisonville, Kentucky won the “Dancing Arrow Diva” award sponsored by Heartland Outdoors and Prois Hunting and Field Apparel, for the largest fish arrowed by a female participant. 

Area civic leaders and spectators at the tournament praised the efforts of IDNR, Local USACE employees, community volunteers and the bowfishing community for their contributions to the local economy and their efforts in removing invasive and injurious species from the water.

While bowfishers in many states face difficulties with public perception and acceptance and understanding by the regulatory agencies, this tournament allowed bowfishers to see firsthand that river communities and IDNR value and respect bowfishers not only for the economic impact they have on small river communities, but also for the huge amount of conservation done to remove invasive and injurious species and improve the waterways and ecosystems.

Unfortunately often times the perception of bowfishing is that of a redneck, kill them all sport with little regard for conservation, science, or regulations. The participants at this tournament wholly and completely dispelled those myths and demonstrated their commitment as conservationists, and skilled anglers. Researchers and biologists were on hand at the tournament from several agencies and institutions to collect samples and data for their use.

It’s a new day and age in the bowfishing community, an age where bowfishers are respected and valued as conservationists, contributors to local economies, and as interested in the science pieces of things as any other avid group of anglers or hunters.

The Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Round Up tournament, it’s hosts, and participants certainly played a vital role in changing the perception of bowfishing and those who enjoy and are passionate about the sport.  From tourism professionals to average Joe anglers to waterfowl hunters – all who visited the tournament site throughout the day walked away with an improved perception and understanding of the role bowfishing plays in today’s outdoor world.

Thanks to the great turn out and the strong and invaluable community support, plans for the 2016 Kaskaskia River Round Up have already begun.


Bowfishing is a Conservation Tool

Wed, June 10, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship and World’s Bowfishing Fair, held June 12-14, 2015, at the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, promises a fun weekend with lasting environmental benefits for Missouri lakes.

Species harvested by bowfishing include nongame and invasive fish species such as common carp, grass carp, buffalo and gar.  Many of these species degrade water quality by stirring up mud. They also directly compete with spawning gamefish by damaging their spawning beds. This is a huge problem in deep water lakes because they already lack spawning areas.

“Bowfishing continues to grow in Missouri and is another unique opportunity for our citizens to get out and enjoy the aquatic resources we manage.  Our nongame fish species play a vital role in our aquatic ecosystem and are important to many anglers in Missouri,” said Brian Canady, fisheries division chief for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Bowfishing is a way to control populations of nongame fish and invasive fish species such as Asian carp. Invasive species pose a serious threat because they damage gamefish habitat and can outcompete weaker, native species, putting them at risk. Keeping sustainable native game and nongame fish populations is a top priority for the Missouri Department of Conservation.”

Last year’s U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship featured the nation’s top teams from over 30 states who took more than 32,000 pounds of nongame and invasive fish in one night, and this year’s harvest is expected to exceed that amount. Where do all those fish go?

A bonus environmental benefit of the U.S. Open is all fish harvested are put to good use as environmentally friendly fertilizer. Advances in technology have made it possible to liquefy fish into a safe, healthy fertilizer for use by organic farmers and home and garden purposes. SF Organics, a Division of Schafer Fisheries, uses hydrolysis to break the product down while maintaining the vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and minerals that create high-quality natural plant food.

“We love being able to get the kind of tonnage this bowfishing tournament will produce,” said James Schafer of SF Organics, a Division of Schafer Fisheries. “We’re able to pick up the fish in our refrigerated trucks the same day they’re caught so we can convert them into organic fertilizer.”

These fish aren’t just for growing food, they can actually BE good food. Researchers at University of Missouri said one way to fight back against the havoc nonnative carp can wreak on Midwestern waterways is by putting them on the menu. Despite their image problem, carp are a heart-healthy, low-fat fish that actually score well in taste tests. Numerous recipes have been developed to take advantage of the firm, mild flavored fillets from chorizo-spiced carp cakes to carp chili. Those attending the U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship and World’s Fair can do their own taste test as the University of Missouri and Schafer Fisheries are teaming up to offer carp tacos and sloppy joes.

Missouri Department of Conservation also has lots of great nongame fish recipes and videos available at http://mdc.mo.gov/node/18566.

“With the increasing popularity of bow fishing and plentiful numbers of invasive species of fish, Missourians are now discovering this delicious secret,” Canaday said. “Putting tasty, healthy food on the dinner table is just another great benefit of bowfishing. “
Those who bowfish also contribute to conservation by paying for fisheries management work through their fishing license fees. In addition, the Sport Fish Restoration Program provides grant money for fishery conservation, boating access, and aquatic education via a federal excise tax paid by manufacturers on fishing gear and motorboat fuels.

While bowfishing provides better aquatic habitat for gamefish, delicious meals, a rich, organic fertilizer, and fisheries management funding, in the end people do it because it’s a lot of fun.

“Bowfishing is a great way to get new archers excited about the outdoors as well as engaging those people who already love to hunt and fish,” said Bob Ziehmer, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Plus, with participants coming from across the country, it’s a great way to showcase the beautiful lakes and rivers of the Missouri Ozarks.”


The Pink Debate Rages

Fri, May 29, 2015

image provided

I initially thought it was some type of satirical joke when a Wisconsin friend alerted me to what she suspected would become a hotly debated piece of legislation related to Wisconsin. After all, no self-respecting legislator would really come right out and essentially say we need to legalize blaze pink so that more women will take up hunting. This is 2015, and theoretically we hope that the outdoor world is learning that slapping pink on something does not automatically make it appealing to females or female friendly.

But what do you know – it wasn’t satire.

MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin lawmakers have formally introduced a bill that would legalize blaze pink for hunters.
Democratic state Rep. Nick Milroy and Republican Reps. Joel Kleefisch and David Steffen unveiled the bill during a news conference Tuesday. All three lawmakers wore fluorescent pink T-shirts emblazoned with the message “Hunt Pink.”
They said the bill is designed to attract more women to hunting and hope it will encourage apparel manufacturers to partner with nonprofit groups working to get more people, men and women, interested in hunting.

University of Wisconsin-Madison textiles expert Majid Sarmadi told reporters that blaze pink is just as visible in the woods as traditional blaze orange.

Milroy, Kleefisch and Steffan said they plan to spend the next two weeks soliciting co-sponsors for the measure.

Some of us are heretical enough to even think we need stop it with the gender lines in hunting all together and just look at nontraditional hunter recruitment in general – whatever their gender may be.

In the days that followed that heads up my e mail and social media feeds have been filled with lots of comments, lots of opinions about this piece of legislation.

Some have thought that because I truly feel this a ridiculous move that I am anti women hunters or have chosen to separate myself from others who don’t choose what I think is appropriate for hunting attire.  I have made my peace with pink and will - albeit grudgingly - at times concede that it can be used as a tool to help increase female participation, especially in the teen and preteen age groups.

Let me clarify why I think this is a bad piece of legislation.

Should this pass, if a hunter wants to wear blaze pink – I take no issue with it. I would not consider them less of a hunter.  If it is indeed equally as safe as blaze orange and you want to scamper about in head to toe pink, have at it.

What I do take umbrage with is this ridiculous and outdated notion that slapping pink on everything will bring hordes of women running that otherwise wouldn’t give it a second look. If Wisconsin was serious about nontraditional hunter recruitment and retention there are much better ways to work towards that goal than just legalizing blaze pink. I would suggest that putting time, effort and dollars into improving nontraditional hunter recruitment programs would be a good start. Further perhaps a bill to fund and staff more Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops and weekends. Additionally, Wisconsin DNR should consider forming or extending partnerships with established hunter recruitment programs such as Delta Waterfowl’s First Hunt program.

Simply saying “Okay honey – we’ll let you wear pink.” is not the answer.  It borders on degrading to many women in the outdoors.

Heartland readers am I way off base on this? What are your thoughts? How would you feel if this was happening in Illinois?

Again, if you are one of the women who enjoys pink, enjoys pink camo, gear etc. – more power to you. As long as you are safe and ethical in the outdoors, that’s what truly matters. BUT if you are still foolish enough to believe that pink will automatically bring previously uninterested women flocking to an outdoor product or activity, we need to talk!



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