Archery hunters find common ground on Facebook page
When the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation first introduced “e-checking” of deer 2009-10, it became immediately popular with hunters.
More than 17,000 hunters experienced the ease of going to the Wildlife Department’s website and checking in their deer. It beat driving the animals to a physical check station several miles away.
That next hunting season, the number of people using electronic checking almost doubled, and by 2013-14 it became mandatory for deer hunters. But as it seems with every technological advancement, something gets lost.
Some people miss the good ol’ days where you would kill a deer and take it to the local convenience store or gas station that served as the hunter check station, get a cup of coffee and swap hunting stories with the other hunters there for the same reason.
And if anyone killed a big buck, they would have a Polaroid photo taken and it would be posted on the bragging board at the check station for all the world to see. Or at least everyone in the county.
On the Facebook page of Oklahoma Bowhunter you can’t get a cup of coffee, but you can share hunting stories and see photos of big bucks killed by bowhunters in the state.
The page is the creation of bowhunter Kreg Griffith, who was lamenting one day along with his cousins and brother how they missed seeing photographs of the deer harvested by fellow hunters. So Griffith created a page on Facebook just for bowhunters to share their deer photos.
“Any time I would see a bow kill from Oklahoma, I would tag it on there and it just kind of caught on,” Griffith said.
Now, Griffith’s Facebook page has 21,000 followers, and some of the photos he shares and watermarks with the "Oklahoma Bowhunter" logo will have more than 100,000 page views. His fellow bowhunters liked the Oklahoma Bowhunter logo so much they started asking to wear it and display it, so now Griffith sells shirts, caps and decals.
“It really kind of gave a brand to what I was doing,” Griffith said of the Oklahoma Bowhunter logo, which can often be seen in the rear windows of pickups traveling down the road. “That wasn’t my intention to sell T-shirts and caps. My goal was to try to educate as many hunters as to what deer are killed in Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma’s archery hunting seasons open Tuesday, so the Oklahoma Bowhunter web page will be getting a lot of traffic over the next three months.
The majority of deer hunting in the state is still done in Oklahoma’s gun season in November, but more deer hunters are turning to archery than ever before.
There are now almost 100,000 bowhunters in Oklahoma, compared to an estimated 75,000 in 2007, according to the Wildlife Department’s Big Game Report.
The number of deer taken by Oklahoma archers last year was almost 27 percent of the total statewide harvest. Just 10 years earlier, archery represented just 11 percent of the total harvest.
There are several reasons for the rise in archery hunting. First and foremost is the long season. In Oklahoma, the archery season runs through Jan. 15.
Some hunters also find bowhunting more challenging, more rewarding and more sporting. Often it is easier to obtain a hunting lease or permission to hunt from a landowner for bowhunting only. Also, crossbows are now legal for everyone to use in Oklahoma.
Griffith’s Oklahoma Bowhunter page has become a fraternity of sorts for bowhunters. He’s heard stories of bowhunters seeing the Oklahoma Bowhunter’s decal on another person’s vehicle, which leads to a conversation being started and then a friendship formed.
He has rules about what kind of deer hunting photos can be posted on the Oklahoma Bowhunter Facebook page, such as no bloody shots or deer heads in the back of a pickup shots, allowing the kind of photos his friend and the late outdoor writer Mike Lambeth of Edmond would use in magazine stories.
He also doesn’t allow any bad-mouthing on the page.
“This page is designed to connect bowhunters with other hunters,” Griffith said. “As a hunter, I truly believe you shouldn’t talk down on someone else’s kill as long as it was ethical and legal… We should all kind of support each other. That’s how the hunting world should work.”
Griffith mans a booth at the Backwoods Show each spring with some of the best bucks of the previous season that were featured on the Oklahoma Bowhunter Facebook page. He sells some apparel to pay for the booth and goes to the show primarily to meet other bowhunters.
“It’s been a great way to network,” he said. “I probably give away more hats than I sell. It’s the only way to really meet a lot of hunters. You are talking about 10,000 bowhunters coming through a show. You can meet a lot of bowhunters being out there for three days."
Guthrie DU banquet set Friday
The Guthrie chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its fund raising banquet Friday at the Hudson Springs Even Center in Coyle.
Doors open at 6 p.m. For ticket information, call Paul Fincher at 405-850-0275.
ARCHERY HUNTING SEASONS
* Deer: Oct. 1 through Jan. 15
* Elk: Oct. 1 through Jan. 15; Special Southwest Zones, Oct. 5-9
* Antelope: Oct. 1-14
* Bear: Oct. 1-20
* Turkey: Oct. 1 through Jan. 15