Changing lives one arrow at a time

NATIONAL ARCHERY IN THE SCHOOLS PROGRAMS are a big hit with the kids. And a big hit with teachers. And a big hit with parents for a host of reasons. This is just one portion of a physical education class mix of options. In this case, every student is a participant. There are no first or second teams or benchwarmers hoping for the coach to call them to the floor to play. NASP has no barriers for the student. Examples include every able bodied kid and every kid with a disability. There is a way to overcome obstacles in almost every way. Proof of the ability to overcome obstacles was one Deer Classic seminar speaker Matt Stutzmsan, the armless archer from Iowa, who represented the USA in the Olympics and is training for the 2016 Olympics now. More on that later in this story.

Teachers can cite example after example of kids that may have been prone to drop out of school remain in school due entirely to the incentive of being able to participate and represent their school in a positive public way. Archery is a very worthwhile addition to a school’s PE offering. Administrators also tell of significant reductions in discipline referrals due to NASP’s positive influence.

NASP began in the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002 in the State of Kentucky with 22 pilot schools that included 2,366 students. Across Kentucky today there are over 300,000 students signing up in PE classes for archery. Spread similar numbers across a growing number of other states and one can start to see how this sport is growing by leaps and bounds.

Shooting a bow and arrow correctly involves discipline, physical training, concentration and goal setting. Using archery starter kits for each school that cost about $3,000 to $3,600, the gym floor can be easily transformed into an archery range. Teachers of PE get special training during an 8 hour course. NASP is more than a way to educate about conservation issues, and it is more than the competition aspects of the bow and arrow. NASP likes to use this motto … “Changing lives one arrow at a time.”

The Deer Classic is a big show for Iowa. Hundreds of exhibitors from Iowa and many other states come to this exciting event to see people, sell products, sell vacation services and talk about wildlife and deer hunting in particular. The entire Hy-Vee Hall is filled with display booths. The entire basement of the Vets Auditorium is filled with more exhibits plus big buck contest entries and the Iowa Whitetail Hall of Fame invitees. The entire upstairs ballroom area of Vets Auditorium was dedicated to schools archery tournament. This is a huge open span room that had a set of bleachers set along its center line with seats facing the outer walls. The entire outer south and north walls was nothing but archery targets. Hundreds of seats were available for parents, friends and school team supporters. It was great to see the excitement and well organized event take place. Iowa DNR Recreational Safety Officers and a host of other volunteers kept the event on track and safely monitored. Good work guys and gals. A salute to all of you.

The Hall of Fame this year hosted 66 of the best of the best whitetails taken in Iowa over the last several decades. Hunters brought deer to the show to get scored and ranked for a variety of categories in shotgun, muzzle loader, crossbow, and archery in men, women and youth divisions. There were literally hundreds of deer mounts set on display boards for public observation. Official scores had been affixed for each deer entered by certified scorers for Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young Clubs. At 3 p.m. last Sunday, awards and trophies were presented to the leaders in each of the above categories. Those special deer trophies (and the memories of the hunt) will live on forever.

One special seminar speaker was the armless archer Matt Stutzman. He lives near Fairfield with his wife and kids. He spoke to a packed room audience about how he grew up, his special needs and how he found archery as a way to represent and do service for his country. Matt was born without arms. And he was one of several babies in the nursery 30 years ago that were available for adoption. His parents chose him. In all other respects he is normal. In spite of his lack of arms his parents asked him to try and do just about everything a “normal” kid could do or want to do. His parents knew that someday he would have to live life on his own. His feet are his “hands” and the training he has developed for his toes allows him to conduct life as a normal man, father and respected member of his community. He can drive a car, truck or ATV. His truck is a floor stick shift. He can and does go through the drive-up window at McDonald’s to buy a burger and fries, all by himself.

Stutzman has been active in archery for only four years. He trains at least five to six hours every day. He does have intact shoulders and very short arm buds. He can manipulate a special strap and bow string release over his head and around his neck and back. Using one foot to nock an arrow, he sits on a chair, one foot on the ground and the other on the bow handle. Attaching the string release to the bow, he pushes his foot out to draw the bow. He settles his eye on the bow sights and uses increasing back pressure to release the arrow. He is accurate with every shot. He holds a world distance record for accuracy of 293 yards to hit an Olympic sized standard target. He hunts deer with his bow. His ATV is how he gets a deer back home after a hunt.

He also attends programs, archery shoots and gives inspirational speeches. He is sponsored by BP to help make a living for his family. He attended the London Olympics this past year and came in second for his category against a man from Finland. Matt likes to make jokes about life and his life, all in a positive way. Matt has his head on straight, a term this scribe calls having an excellent positive mental attitude. He gets the job done. During the Olympic competition at London, targets are set at 77 yards. The ten ring is the yellow bulls eye. He tied with the man from Finland. The shoot off to determine the winner had to be held. Both shot tens with every arrow. But the last arrow was the tie breaker. Both shot tens, only this time the Finland representative’s arrow was closer to the center than Matts. Matt got a silver medal. As far as Iowans are concerned, and the entire USA, he is Iowa GOLD. We can all root for success for Matt at the 2016 Olympics. Matt Stutzman has changed his life for the betterment of himself and his family, one arrow at a time.

I recommend a good read. In the last issue of the official journal of the National Rifle Association’s AMERICAN HUNTER magazine, a story by Steve Carpenteri starting on page 34 is right on. It is informative and offers a no holds barred treatise in regard to successes and failures over time with regard to state land wildlife management areas. In some cases he cites “misuse” of federal cost share dollars. Time and manpower issues and straying from the appropriate use of those dollars has resulted in a wide mix of public wildlife land management plans not being implemented. Managing habitat for the greater good of wildlife requires a lot of planning and on-the-land manipulation of plant growth so that a wide variety of wildlife can prosper.

Old growth forests need periodic cuttings to allow sunlight to enter at ground level. Aldo Leopold, the grandfather of modern conservation subscribed to the idea of 30 10- 20-30 10. A parcel of wildlife land should be manipulated by biologists and/or contractors to create 30 percent mixed species saplings, 10 percent slash, 20 percent brushy saplings, 30 percent mature forest and 10 percent open meadow. Few state wildlife areas are close to these numbers due to many factors. Some include an erosion of original intent for wildlife paid for by hunters to include too many other issues that cause an overload of administrative (office) work rather than on the ground in the field vegetation control, management, planting, cutting, burning or other measures.

To the average member of the public who does not understand these concepts, their first knee-jerk reaction to observed good wildlife management practices is to complain or call their legislators. Make a fuss first and let facts take a back seat. Catering to public non-paying users results in mismanagement. Carpenteri goes on to say …. “A properly managed wildlife management area may look terrible to non-hunters with its brushy cover, saplings, clear cuts and briars, but that is precisely the type of habitat where big and small game plus a multitude of songbirds and other non-game species thrive. That is what hunters pay for and want to see on wildlife areas, not endless miles of mature same age forests filled with roads and trails where little wildlife of any kind may be found.”

The system can be fixed and returned to it original intent. Hunters need to demand proper use of federal and state dollars on wildlife areas. The best interests of sportsmen is top on this list.

DUCKS UNLIMITED meets tonight at the Impala Ballroom in Marshalltown. Tickets are available at the door for members, prospective new members, spouses and youth. It will be worth your time to attend and help raise funds for wetland wildlife. Come join everyone and bring a guest or two or three. DU committee members want to make it a success. The Impala Ballroom has plenty of room for a large crowd. Games, silent auction, live auction, door prizes, and just plain fun await. At least fourteen sporting firearms will be on the list of prizes. DU started in 1937 during the dust bowl era when drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged. Waterfowl are not the only beneficiaries of DU habitat work. Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems providing critical habitat for over 900 wildlife species.

American sportsmen spent more than 282 million days hunting in 2011, according to the latest survey by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The money they spent equates to $8 million a day that assists wildlife agencies and conservation goals. Hunters support more than 680,000 jobs each year in the United States.

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.