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6 Tips Bowhunters Should Know

Archery shop owner gives skinny on staying in bow hunting game

6 Tips Bowhunters Should Know
Jerrell Dodson sits his office at Archer's Advantage in Little Rock after a full day helping outfit bow hunters from across the state. (Mike Suchan photo)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Dodson loves archery and bow hunting, he just wishes bow hunters weren’t such procrastinators.

As an owner of Archer’s Advantage, Jerrell Dodson’s been selling bows and archery equipment for more than 20 years and “using much longer.” He does two-thirds of his business from now until mid-October, when deer bow season begins in the state, and December and January.

“November is gun season; we don’t do much,” he said. “February, hunting is waning, or everybody has got everything. March, April, May, June, they don’t know who we are. We could burn, they wouldn’t care. They’d be over here crying in the fall because I’ve got some really good people who do a great job.”

Visit Archer's Advantage web site or take a virtual tour by clicking the image.

Archer’s Advantage, the largest full-service archery shop in a five-state area, is among the top 50 dealers in the country for Hoyt and Matthews. They offer full lines of recurves, walls of compound bows and a large selection of crossbows. They carry accessories, provide professional installation, personal service and an indoor range.

Like any smart businessman, Dodson said he strives to work in the best interest of the customer so they’ll come back, and he offers some things bow hunters should know.

#1 Start preparing earlier

“The biggest thing with archers is, they tend to be somewhat procrastinators,” Dodson said. “Thank God they’re coming, but it would have been great if they were coming sooner. I should be slammed in June, July and August, and it should wane in September. But we’ll be slammed in all of September and first two weeks of October.”

If a customer comes in now with a bow that needs a trip to the manufacturer to fix, it’s probably too late to get it back in time. Dodson’s to-do list adds about 10 bows a day, some of which come from folks who just found an issue, and that makes it hectic around the shop.

“If they would get their bows out early and start shooting earlier -- I know it’s hotter than heck but it’s hotter than heck now. It’s still better to get it out early and get it ready,” he said.

#2 Get the right fit

Taking a bow right off the rack might end up fine, but it’s more likely it won’t be the perfect fit. Get with a pro who can set you up right. Dodson takes a lot into consideration when outfitting an archer. First off is asking if the customer has a brand preference.

“Some people are like, ‘I want to see a Chevy, I want to see a Ford,’” he said. “Then I ask them what they’re wanting. You want a fast bow? A quiet bow? Of course my preference is smooth and quiet.”Smooth is not having a big peak on the draw force before the letoff. The pros can set up a bow to suit each hunter, and that includes Dodson sizing up his customers physically.

“I look them over, see if they look like they’re in good health or old – if they look like me, old and worn out, I want to go to a smoother cam,” he said. “I sell lots of crossbow and I have guys that shoot traditional, but they still hunt with crossbows because they don’t want to do the game an injustice. They don’t want to wound anything. You got to admire them for that.

“Usually, I try to push someone to a compound because it makes a good hobby. I like to say, crossbow is liken to having an old Willies jeep down in deer camp -- you can only just hunt out of it. I say a compound is like a King Cab four-wheel drive. You can go courtin’ in it, you can go shopping in it, you can go on vacations in it. It’s just more versatile.”

#3 Equipment keeps improving

Anyone who gave up bow hunting years ago would be blown away by the advances in bow technology. Dodson said he shot with a Jennings Model T years ago at the recommendation of his preacher.

“It sounded like a dadgum shotgun going off,” he said. “It rattled in your hand. But it had 25 percent letoff.”

Oh, how times have changed.

“Bows in the last 20 years, it’s unbelievable the difference in how quiet and low vibration,” Dodson said. “If you are getting a bow every 3 or 4 years, you don’t notice it. If you haven’t shot a bow in 20 years and you come in, my gosh, it’s a totally different game.”

#4 Every accessory is not a winner

Dodson said he does a lot of upgrades with accessories, but he doesn’t want to peddle anything the customer won’t appreciate.

“Some of it’s crap and goes to the wayside and some of it’s good. Some of it’s like the bait to catch the fishermen, and then some of it’s for real better,” he said. “We have to sort through it. We don’t want to sell our customer something they can’t use.”

He said he has a number of bow hunters update their rigs with new string, cables, better rests, sights or a nicer quiver, and they might just pick up some new arrows and broadheads. The advancement of sights and rests are two improvements Dodson finds worthy.

“At the age of 50, I couldn’t see pins anymore,” he said. “It was just a blur. Then they put plastic dots and that was an upgrade. Then fiber optics and now wrapped fiber optics. They feed so much light into the end they just look like they’re on fire. I need trifocals and shoot bifocals, and I can see the pin. It’s unbelievable to me. That’s one of the biggest improvements in equipment, the brightness of the pins. At 70, I can see pins.

“At one time, fallaway rests weren’t that great, now they’re good. Your afterform doesn’t have to be as good. If you do a little something with your hand, it doesn’t affect it.”

Dodson said rests have to installed correctly and are best left to the pros.

#5 Don’t expect a miracle

While he’s been asked to perform some amazing feats, Dodson said he can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

“The worst one is, we have a ton of people come in, their neighbors have given them an old bow, and they want us to miraculously heal it and make it fit them,” he said. “You want to do everything you can, but there are time constraints. You ability to do that is not easily achievable.”

Some left-handers have come in with right-handed bows asking for help, and then others bring in an “old, old antique that wasn’t much when it was the thing. Old men show up with crossbows at the last minute who need some help. Then a cracked limb shows up. We have to send it off to the factory for that.”

Others come in asking Dodson to check out an odd noise while some just want to make sure everything is still in proper working order. Those are doable, if brought in early enough to turn it back around.

“Sometimes people come in at the last minute and they’re frustrated and all in a dither,” he said. “We can only do what we can do and we do our best.”

#6 Distance depends on skill

There’s no set distance that Dodson recommends for the maximum length shot. That relies on the confidence and the accuracy of the archer, but when asked:“I tell guys whatever distance you can put 10 out of 10 in a saucer,” he said, before going into calculations of the speed of sound being 3 to 4 times faster than arrows. “The animal can still move a little. The quieter the bow, the better. Speed, not so much. If they’re on full alert, they react quickly. They can do a lot of reacting in a second.”

In all, Dodson finds archery a tremendous hobby and enjoys helping customers achieve their dreams.“If I could never hunt again, I wouldn’t give up shooting a bow,” he said. “At my age, I actually have nightmares dreaming that I can’t shoot one.”

The other thing affecting his sleep is the procrastinators, the guys he wished wouldn’t come in at the last second.

“You don’t see them the rest of the year and then they show up,” he said. “It’s kind of like your uncles you only see at family reunions.”

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