LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – If Tommy Norton couldn’t bow hunt, he says he’d probably go crazy. It’s his solace, his sanctuary, his therapy. Making sure he’d be able to enjoy the upcoming deer season had him more than an hour from rural Hot Springs home on a Saturday afternoon at Archer’s Advantage.
The largest shop of its kind in five states, Jerrell Dodson’s store is a bow hunters dream, with every accessory and walls of crossbows, compounds to recurves. Dodson estimates 10 percent of his business is traditional bows, and his answer to why some still choose to pursue deer with stick and string sums up all bow hunters.
“A guy came in and said, ‘What in the blank would somebody want one of these for?’ ” Dodson said of recurves. “I pointed to a compound and said, ‘What in the world would somebody want in a compound when they can have a gun? ‘Oh.’ It’s just a harder way to do it, just to make it more challenging.
“After you’ve cleaned so many deer, and you can kill so many nowadays with a gun, the season is so long, that you begin to want to work harder for them. So you get into archery. It’s also an excuse to be out in the woods longer.”
That’s part of Norton’s philosophy. So he was in Archer’s Advantage picking the brain of bow expert Jody Morphew. The public school principal has a history with Morphew, growing up next door to him and his father’s archery shop.
“I come in here to see him … the closest thing I’ve got to a brother,” said Norton, who’s taken around 20 deer with a bow and 50 to 60 with a gun. ”His dad got me into bow hunting. It’s just something I’ve done my whole life. It lets me hunt longer.”
That time in the woods is precious, just like his constant scouting and hanging tree stands. Norton is making certain he will be able hunt at every opportunity he has. Although he’s already got a good set that he’s been practicing with every day, shooting different distances and angles at 3D targets, Norton was wanting a second in case of some unforeseen tragedy.
“I’m not buying today,” he said, “but I’m probably making my decision today. I’ve got to think about it a little bit, but I’m going to come back and buy one -- with Jody’s recommendation.”
Morphew said fitting Norton, a long draw shooter, and his huge wingspan takes special consideration, and he’ll probably decide between the Matthews Monster and the Bowtech Experience.
“I’m pretty limited in what I can shoot,” Norton said. “My arms are so long, most bows are too short for me when they’re maxed out. There’s a limited number of bows they make that are long enough.”
The big man needs a draw of at least 31 inches, and most top out at 30. He wasn’t blinking at the $850 pricetag, knowing he’ll be getting state of the art.
“The technology is like a computer. The materials in the limbs have changed tremendously,” Morphew said. “This one is extruded carbon. A 2-year-old bow is outdated just like a 2-year-old computer.”
Norton said today’s bows are a far cry from what he started with. A state-of-the-art bow he shot 20 years probably wouldn’t be good enough for today’s bargain basement sales, he said.
Accessories were next on the list.
“If he buys a bare bow, he will need some type of a sight, a new arrow rest, whether it be a full-captured rest or a fallaway type arrow rest,” Morphew said. “He’ll need a peep sight, an arrow, a quiver to hold the arrows, and a new mechanical type release.”
He likes the release he has, but Norton was looking to spend almost half as much as the bow for top-notch accessories. He plans to put at least $350, $400 into quality components.
“You get what you pay for,” Norton said.
He admits it makes deer meat a lot more expensive than beef, but that’s not the prime reason he bow hunts. Or why his 16-year-old boy and 10-year-old daughter are following his footsteps.
“It’s the whole experience,” Norton said. “Some people ask me, “You hunt to kill?’ No, I kill to hunt. Killing justifies me getting to go out and hunt. That’s it. That’s my therapy. If I didn’t’ get to do that, I’d go crazy. I’m a public school principal, if I didn’t get to be out in the woods, I’d go crazy.”
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