Summit Treestands

Twenty Years of Bowsite.com

March 1st marks the Twentieth Anniversary of Bowsite.com and we bring you back to the beginning in this honest look at the site you visit every day.

Why we started Bowsite.com?

When people ask me “why did you created Bowsite.com?” my answer is complicated. I had two motivations for starting Bowsite; My first, and primary motivation was economic. My first child was born on February 5, 1996 and my wife and I were struggling to afford diapers.   I thought I could earn some extra money by building websites and targeted the bowhunting industry since that was my passion.  My second motivation was to help protect hunting. I have always been active in the struggle against anti-hunting forces and I believed I could leverage this new ‘Internet thing’ to help.

In March of 1996 I was the legislative director for the United Bowhunters of Connecticut. I was also a trained IT professional for a big Insurance company. My colleagues and I were on the internet before it was called "Internet" so I was well aware of the capabilities. I noticed that the antis built a hub and spoke model to connect various animal rights organizations around a portal called the ‘Animal Rights Alliance’ (ARA). There were only 3 hunting website on the web so I felt that we needed a similar approach. I contacted NSSF, SCI, WLFA, NRA and others - all of them blew me off. So I decided to build one myself. Bowsite was started as hunting’s answer to that hub.

Over the course of several weeks I copied their basic design almost down to the code. When they posted an anti-hunting alert I would rewrite it and call for the opposite action. My vision was to draw people into the site through discussion forums and then leverage that community with legislative alerts and calls to action.  When the site officially launched, we had 50 people the very first day. It took us 6 months to reach 1000 visitors and I was thrilled by that milestone. Today, we do 25-30,000 visitors every day. I never thought it would last more than a year or two. I knew that one of the big players in the industry would use their resource to build something better and my plan was to just fold up when that happened. I was fine with that.


The Early Years

As 1996 came to a close Bowsite was starting to get noticed more and more. The WLFA (now called the US Sportsman’s Alliance) was watching and soon asked to partner with us.  Around this same time, I made a speech about the future of the World Wide Web (WWW) to the Professional Bowhunter’s Society.  I told the group that this new technology would change communications forever.  Most people were yawning.  I was told later by Paul Brunner and Gene Wensel that everyone at their table was laughing about this crazy “Internet” thing – many of them thought I was a nerd.

But not everyone was laughing. A person who would become a dear friend approached me after the speech. It was Dave Canfield from Bowhunter Magazine.  He wanted to see if there was a partnership opportunity. The following week he asked me for a quote to do Bowhunter Magazine’s first website.  I quoted $2500 for a 15-page site – turnkey.  A day later I received a call from Dave. He told me there was a concern about my quote? “Was it too expensive?” I asked?  He said no, just the opposite. They had received 3 quotes and the other quotes ranged from $75,000 – 150,000. Our quote so ridiculously low that the corporate guys wouldn’t take it seriously.  Dave convinced them that if he was wrong, all they lost was $2500 so I won the bid. They later learned that those other quotes were part of a growing number of internet thieves preying on business.  That quote led to a business relationship that spanned the next 12 years. 

Besides Bowhunter Magazine, I became the “webmaster” for 3Rivers Archery, Traditional Bowhunter Magazine, WLFA, Kustom King Archery, Muzzy, NBEF, and 20 other hunting related sites. 

Bowsite was starting to grow. Part of my deal with the magazines involved a free print Ad. That gave us some national exposure  We were now up to 1000 people a day and becoming the go-to destination on the WWW for bowhunters. I still figured that the industry would eventually bury us. They had resources where I was only a one-man show with a full-time career. I couldn't imagine them letting us build market share which would eventually compete with them. So I waited patiently for a similar bowhunting site run by Bowhunter, Realtree, or some other big name in Archery.

During this period (1997-1998) only 5-10% of the population had Internet Connections. So while people heard of us, they would have to go to a library to visit.  Only CompuServe, AOL and a small handful of ISP’s were available.  The popular browser was Netscape Navigator and the top search engines were Alta-Vista, Webcrawler, AOL, and Ask Jeeves. Google would not become popular for another 2 years.   

We kept chugging along without competition, building up our community and making some pretty good spending money. The original pro-hunting Hub vision was working well and people seemed to like the simple, easy to use design that we custom-built better than the forums available by AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy.


Anti-hunting Fanatics threaten to murder my first child

The success of Bowsite did not go unnoticed. In 1998 a group called the Animal Liberation Front sent this note to my house:

We are watching you, we know where you live and we have an a warrior watching your home. In the next few weeks, when you go to work, we will be there to visit your wife.  What you do to animals will soon be experienced by your family.”

It was addressed to my home and since the published site address was in a different town it was obvious that someone had gone through the trouble of tracking me down.

My wife freaked out but I never took it seriously. Still, I contacted the authorities. I assumed it was a hollow threat but it was unnerving given the level of detail.  It’s times like that when you learn to appreciate the 2nd Amendment and my right to use lethal force to protect my family.  Thankfully I never needed it.


Big Traffic – Big Problems

In 1997 we created "The Campfire" it was our one and only Forum. It was an instant smash hit. This was our first move from Static to Dynamic content and nobody in the hunting world had anything like it. The same 500 people would actively post at least once every month. Of course, some people posted on every thread several times a day.



The "Campfire" was the first iteration of our most popular attraction - our Big Game Forums

By the time we reached 2000 people a day our forums were buzzing. That brought two problems. The first was that we were outgrowing our hosting service provider.  Some of my original visitors from 1998 may remember the dreaded “Mutex’ error.  You would basically open 3 pages and the fourth would error out.  I was getting hammered for slow performance and constant errors.  We solved that by building our own web servers and dropping the paid hosting firms. The second problem was harder to solve. We had one big forum for everyone – including modern and traditional bowhunters.  They would not stop bickering! It got so bad that I decided to spin off the traditional guys into a new website called Stickbow.com.  Stickbow was an overnight success and the bickering stopped. But many people claimed it was the “end of Bowsite” – a prophecy I have heard every year for the last twenty.

It was now 1998 and traffic across both sites kept growing. I decided to take a bold move and further divide my traffic. I created the State forums - where people could discuss local issues – and I also created the Community forum to peel off non-bowhunting related discussions.  The effect was dramatic. I had a place for visitors to discuss politics, pop culture, Ford vs. Chevy, etc. This move was necessary – and popular. Since that day the Community forum has always been “colorful” and has never seen a decrease in traffic.


Competition

From ’96 to ’98 the basic strategy for Bowsite remained unchanged. I earned money building websites, traffic to the site came from our forums, and I was able to leverage that traffic at a moment’s notice for legislative and anti-hunting alerts.  It was a great model, but suddenly we were facing competition.

Bowhunting.net popped up, followed by ArcheryTalk.com.  One was an e-zine with lots of articles and stories and the other was basically forums dedicated to Gear and Shooting. They had good marketing support and unlike me, both had ties to the archery industry. I thought long and hard about my business model – which was still largely based on the Animal Rights Alliance design - so it was time for a change.  I turned over the alerting model to WLFA and focused Bowsite entirely on Bowhunting.  While the industry appreciated the service I was providing, it would not sustain continuous growth.  After all, the WWW was only going to get bigger and I was determined to maintain Bowsite’s dominance.


Live Hunts – an Internet First!

In the late ‘90’s we borrowed a SAT phone and a “suitcase laptop” and took it on an Elk hunt in Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains. We didn’t know if it would work so we didn’t advertise it. It was painfully slow, but I was determined to broadcast a hunt directly from the field. Our visitors were riveted - and the hunt went viral, popping up on other forums and spreading through e-mail. I received inquiries from newspapers and hunting outlets asking me how I did it? I followed that hunt up with a Live Mt. Lion hunt from Idaho and my visitors begged me to do it again.  I knew it was a hit, but it was so disruptive to the enjoyment of my hunt that I decided we needed an alternative.



Live Elk Hunt - the first Live Hunt ever on the WWW

Our next hunt took place in the remote Alaskan wilderness with Johnnie Laird of Muskeg Excursions. I took spare camera batteries and kept notes from each day afield. It would be my first ‘Semi-Live’ hunt replay and that made things more enjoyable for me, as well as publishing far better quality content for our visitors.   

Near the end of that hunt I wounded a nice Billy. I had a dilemma. I desperately wanted to keep it real. Magazines and hunting videos typically portrayed the perfect story to every hunt – even if the reality was much different. I didn’t like that.  Showing only the politically correct view of bowhunting seemed dishonest.  But the industry demanded that the everything be antiseptic. The typical claim was that anything other than the perfectly sanitized hunt would fuel anti-hunting propaganda.   I made a decision on that mountain to always keep it real.  Besides, I have never wanted to be a bowhunting ‘celebrity’ or hero so I was unafraid of tarnishing some false image.  From that moment, every hunt brought to you was exactly as it happened – with the Good, Bad, and Ugly in full display.  And while I have received some intense criticism and a few bruises to my ego, I find most people value the honesty and find it refreshing when so much is in short supply across the hunting media.

Today, there are hundreds of sites and social media platforms doing live hunts.  I imagine that someone would have eventually thought of it –but it was Bowsite that blazed the Live Hunt trail back in 1998.


A reputation for Activism

With the Bowsite now fully Despite passing the torch as a legislative hub to the WLFA, their traffic was only 1/100th what ours was. So when things needed a rapid response, we were happy to call our community to action.  Here are a few events you may remember:



Here is what our Home Page would look like when we had a call to action

PA – Representative Godshall introduces a bill to gut the bowhunting season in PA. Working with the United Bowhunters of PA, we sent him a letter demanding a retraction of the bill. He told us to pound sand – so we asked our community to send him a message. Within an hour, his email, phone and fax was shut down and stayed that way for days. He pulled the bill the following week.

AZ – Proposition 200 was getting nowhere with the AZ legislature. The legislature would not hear the bill and that was necessary to place it on the ballot. The group, Arizonan’s for Wildlife Conservation, asked us to help. We built a simple form and asked everyone to click on it and we email-bombed every member of the Arizona Legislature. They asked me to stop in return for the speaker bringing the bill to the floor for a vote.  I agreed, the bill was approved and went to ballot.

Delta Airlines – When Delta announced a ban on checked antlers we were the first to alert the hunting public through an article that included a sportsmen boycott of Delta. It went Viral and within one-day Delta reversed the policy. The Wall Street Journal called us to discuss the ruling since a Delta representative (along with other sporting groups) cited Bowsite as the origin for the backlash.

Ontario Spring Bear Ban – When a sleazy, backroom deal emerged between the Minister and a group of Anti- Hunters, Bowsite became the catalyst to get the word out and generated 53,000 emails in two days to the Minister.  The Minister was upset with Bowsite and slandered us in the Ontario media. Although nothing changed during that period, it was just announced that the Spring Bear hunt would be reinstated.   


We make the National News – and almost get sued!

In 2000 a witty visitor came up with a story he posted on our forums:

It claimed PETA had developed a program to dart deer in Ohio and place blaze orange vests on tranquilized deer. According to the story, it backfired and it made the deer so easy to spot that hunters were killing them in droves. To make it funny as hell, the story claimed a gun shop owner was offering a $10 bounty on any orange vest with a bullet hole in it! Everyone got a kick out of that story and we thought it would be funny to move it to our News section.

Fast forward to 2002. The Fox News Channel's evening news with Brit Hume reported on the story and cited Bowsite.com and it was picked up by O'Reilly that same evening during his Ridiculous Stories segment. It immediately went viral and the very next day it was reported on ESPN, CNN, AP, and the Wall Street Journal. My phone was ringing off the hook. The following day Brit Hume announced the story’s retraction - citing Bowsite as the source of the misinformation.

I was served a Cease and Desist by AP and a threatened lawsuit by PETA for invoking their name.  We explained that it was nothing more than a silly prank started on our forums and that they should be embarrassed for their lack of journalistic due diligence. Nothing ever became of it but it was mind-blowing to see this silly story that originated on Bowsite being broadcast to millions two years later.


20 Years of Personalities

Like any active, and long running online community we’ve had our share of characters over the past 20 years. Some of these guys were outstanding humans, others were a pain in the ass, and a handful should have been writers at SNL.  But what makes Bowsite more special than any other site is that we are home to some of the most experienced bowhunters on the planet.  It’s always risky calling out individuals since I know I’m going to inadvertently leave someone out that should have been mentioned so my apologies ahead of time.


Jeff Coggins was a Bowsite regular and one of our most popular personalities

When it comes to large personalities in the early years, everyone will remember Jeff Coggins (TennBow). When he passed, we did a feature article on him. He was funny as hell, opinionated, and about as gritty as they come.  Another fellow from Kansas became a major personality as well – his name was Dal Lowrey and he used the handle Dal from KS.  He also passed.  For a short time, the site was besieged by a fellow named Duane Stormrider. He claimed to be half Indian and told stories about wrestling Elk and other tall tales. He had a gift for writing stories that were legendary.  As the new millennial started a newcomer showed up named SerbianShark. He was a pisser as well.  Like all humans, some have passed, some have moved on, and some transitioned to lurker status – that’s ok.  Eventually a new personality emerges that entertains and infuriates all at the same time.

We’ve had our share of problem children too. I won’t give them the satisfaction of naming any but I will tell you one story.  There was a guy who was nothing less than a flat-out internet bully.  He had an opinion on everything, and everyone, and it got so bad that we eventually had to ban him.  A year later I was attending the Eastern Traditional Shoot at Denton Hill and this mild-mannered person comes up to me and tells me that I am his hero. He was nervous and while he was only in this 40’s – seemed frail and awkward. As always, I was gracious and asked him his handle on the forums? When he told me who he was you could have knocked me over with a feather. It was my #1 problem poster in Bowsite history. On the site he was Clubber Lang, in person he was Adrian Balboa.  He wasn’t my first head case and won’t be the last but I’ll always remember that meeting.

When it comes to Bowhunting ‘Studs’ I think you will agree that Bowsite has more than all other sites combined. And I will apologize right off the bat for missing people that deserve to be on this list.  Despite all we’ve done for bowhunting in the last 20 years, knowing the best of the best call Bowsite home is my single greatest reward.  These guys are the celebrities – not the TV show wannabes with the tour buses and the “look at me” obsession. 

BigDan Moore
Considered by many the best elk hunter who ever lived; Danny "BigDan" Moore has been sharing his incredible Elk wisdom for years on Bowsite.

At the top of my list is the man I consider to be the best elk bowhunter that ever lived – BigDan Moore. He’s bow-killed over 50 elk – never hired a guide – and called all those elk himself. Tom Foss is to Sheep what BigDan is to elk. Just an amazing athlete and passionate sheep hunter from Canada. His son is giving him a run for his money now too!  If you ever wanted to meet the man that wrote the book on Blacktail bowhunting, then you needn’t go any further than Blacktail Bob Ameen who is a regular on the site.  There’s more…


Jake Ensign calling into Bowsite from the Frozen North while Polar Bear Hunting

It pains me to bring up this next guy only because we’ve shared so many camps together and we love to bust each other’s balls – but I must call out Jake Ensign (Medicinemann) for selflessly sharing every detail from his quest for the NA29 slam including an unforgettable Live Hunt from two polar bear hunts via sat phone.   Then there’s the man many, including me, consider a true Ambassador for Bowhunting and that’s Charlie Rehor.


Charlie and Matt Rehor with Matt's 2015 B&C DIY whitetail (his 3rd)

Along with his son Matt, they are both a class act and two of the most hard-core and successful whitetail bowhunters from the site.  I’ll end this section with just a gem of a human being - Bill Allard (BB) who amazes all of us with his incredible wildlife Photography and devotion to bowhunting. 

There are so many I’m probably missing but here’s a small sample of some of the people I am proud to know:  BigPizzaMan, BouBound, Jacquomo, Tradman and Huntress, Paul@theFort, Stekewood, Phil Magistro, Matt, Knife2Sharp, Fuzzy, Chip-T, MadTrapper, loesshillsarcher, Anony Mouse, Barry Wensel, Curt Wells, wyobullshooter , Ace, CityHunter, HeadHunter, Bowriter, Xman, Muskeg, MaBow, Pete in Fairbanks, elkmtngear, dm/wolfskin, Kota-Man, Writer, Mark Land, JayG, NvaGvUp, Kathi, Ike, Genesis, Rob Nye, t-roy, Bowfreak, HUNT MAN, IdyllwildArcher, WapitiBob, Clutch, otcWill and so many others that I just can’t list them all.


20 Years of Amazing Live Hunts

Over the last twenty years we’ve shared some incredible hunts. Some of them were our own, some of them were graciously brought to you by our visitors. The one common denominator of every hunt was they were Real. No staged BS, No sugar-coating, and no dishonesty. Here’s the top 10 favorites prioritized by the traffic generated:

Semi-Live Mountain Grizzly Bowhunt– this is the hunt where I was charged by a Grizzly Bear and shot the bear on the charge with my recurve.

Semi-Live Leopard Bowhunt from South Africa– The leopard hunt was incredible – but it was the Black Mamba visit that went viral across the net.

Colorado Elk Semi-Live Part 2 – the elk curse comes to an end with a once in a lifetime trophy bull!

Semi-Live Bowsite.com Caribou Bowhunt – A group of Bowsiters hit it BIG on Caribou with a true Giant taken.

Cape Buffalo Semi-Live from Mozambique – Pat’s 3rd attempt for a fair-chase duggaboy becomes the hunt of a lifetime.

Semi-Live Muskox/Caribou from Greenland – Four Bowsiters travel to the most remote location on earth.

Live Polar Bear Bowhunt 3 -Jake Ensign calls in from the top of the world!

Colorado Elk Hunt - LIVE – I finally got an arrow into an elk and lost him – before we hired a helicopter.

Live Stone Sheep Bowhunt – Jake Ensign’s last sheep hunt takes him right to the bitter end of his slam with Triumph.

NWT Moose and Caribou hunt replay – Filled with spectacular photography, an Aussie travel to the far north and brings us the adventure of a lifetime.


20 Years of Interviews

We have been fortunate to interview some amazing bowhunters over the last 20 years.  Some of them are well known, but others were not, yet their bowhunting contributions and life story was just as compelling as any bowhunter alive.

Donald Trump Jr – the son of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump talks with Bowsite for over 2 hours!

Glenn St. Charles – The Late Glenn St. Charles was the founder of the P&Y Club and an absolute treasure. We were honored to record this interview before he passed on.

Tred Barta – when Tred became paralyzed he granted one interview and that was to Bowsite.com. One of the most highly trafficked features we ever published.

Danny ‘BigDan’ Moore – We pick Danny’s brain on elk and he shares his secrets selflessly. Our top elk feature of all time.

Ted Nugent – the Motor City Madman was our first interview and he never disappoints.

Chuck Adams – he wanted us to ask candid questions and showed us a different side of the top bowhunter of our time.

John Rook – an amazing interview with the late John Rook – the only person who bowhunted while being completely blind!

MR James – The Founder of Bowhunter Magazine gives us a glimpse into his life.

Gene Wensel – one of our longtime Favorites – gives us tips and opinions on deer hunting and more.

Randy Ulmer – considered one of the best bowhunters and shots that ever lived sits down with Bowsite.

Dwight Schuh – a good friend and my favorite personality demonstrates why I feel that way.


Bowsite - an industry Disrupter?

There is no doubt that some outfitters and manufactures would love for us to go away.  When Bowsite appeared on the scene many people became nervous.  Think about it - Prior to Bowsite, people had two sources of information: Bowhunting Magazines and Bowhunting Videos.  A very small group of people controlled the conversation – and they had tremendous power over the bowhunting public.

A case in point was a particular bear outfitter who was considered #1 in the eighties.  He would give free hunts to writers and video producers who talked up the outfit nonstop for a decade. Yet, if you bumped into ‘Joe Bowhunter’ who had booked a hunt with them told the same story – the hunt sucked. The stands were overhunted and the success rates were nothing like they were portrayed by the media guys.  That outfit was exposed quickly on Bowsite.

The same thing happened with products.  Good solid products are treated fairly on Bowsite, but terrible products were identified quickly and battered.  Quality companies used the feedback to improve their products – but some companies tried to discredit us (along with other sites) by dismissing web communities as uninformed whiners.    


We saw features like this as a tool to provide instant market feedback from the bowhunting public. No other bowhunting media would dare publish this since these new companies were seen as potential advertising revenue sources first - regardless of their value to the bowhunting consumer.

The transfer of power from the industry’s establishment to the bowhunting public was a serious threat to many and that certainly affected our ability to attract sponsors. This despite the fact that Bowsite’s numbers were exponentially higher than all other venues for advertising.

Let’s take Bow and Arrow Hunting Magazine as an example. I would look at that fine magazine and see 8 bow companies, 5 arrow companies, 7 treestand companies, and a small army of accessory manufacturers advertising in that magazine. Their Ad costs were 8x more expensive than ours while their annual circulation was low six digits.  Our traffic was in the millions.   

Now, in all fairness the Archery industry is slow to change when they don’t understand something.  It took them a very long time to accept the digital revolution. Many of them are still not up to speed and several don’t trust it. 

We had an easy solution for this problem; censor our visitors and publish glowing reports of products. Obviously that would kill the very essence that made Bowsite popular – so we accepted this simple truth; what made us popular to the public inversely made us unpopular to many potential advertisers.

This strange dilemma was in full display a few years ago.  We had published reviews of a particular bowhunting accessory. As always, we were honest and objective in our assessments. One manufacturer, who made many awesome products for bowhunters, sent us a unit for the test.  The product was terrible. I contact the company and told them our results.  I asked him if they had a redesign planned? Instead of listening to the critique he became combative and accusatory.   Shortly after my communication I received threatening letters and a promise to ruin our reputation.  The review was published despite the threat.  To this day, that company bad-mouths us. But I can live with that. Our editorial integrity and the fact we allow our community to provide honest feedback is more important than lost revenue. 

Not every archery and bowhunting company ignores us. There are several that appreciate our honesty and value the community we've built. Companies like Mathews, Summit, Moultrie, LaCrosse, Carbon Express, 3RiversArchery, Black Gold, Ripcord, Lancaster Archery, and many others have enjoyed a partnership with us. Their products and services speak for themselves.  

While this site is driven by advertisng, and we love our sponsors, we won't stifle conversations or downgrade the user experience for revenue. Sites with giant, sliding ads make sponsors happy - at the expense of the user experience. I could triple my revenue tomorrow by displaying obtrusive ads that make you shut them off, minimize or skip through them. I just don't need the money that badly. I have turned down four significant offers by VC and established firms looking to buy this site. One day I will find the right partner, but until that happens I will continue to run it my way.


20 Years of Features

When we decided to transition from a communications hub for anti-hunting threats to a bowhunting portal I thought hard about feature articles.  Other sites had lots of them, but to me, it was nothing more than a digital version of the same stories found in magazines.  Bowsite was different.  We had an active community and they were tired of the same old rehashed content found in most print magazines.

The very first interactive feature we did was a shot-angle game using deer angles provided courtesy of the NBEF. We took their page, and overlayed an ancient-technology called an image map. People went wild and we knew we were onto something.


This was the very first interactive feature we built - 1996.

We knew early that the key to success was building interactivity into our features. While this added complexity it was what people wanted and we knew how to build them.   We would do an occasional static article but it had to be tied to a discussion, something entirely unique, or a topic that was edgy.  One fall day, I was sitting in a treestand in Pennsylvania and a doe came in. I shot her, but the hit was not perfect.  I had a digital camera and decided to document the bloodtrail for a feature.  That was Interactive Bloodtrail Challenge 1 and since then we have done nearly forty of them. They remain one of our most popular features to this day.


Our Bloodtrail Challenge became our most popular interactive game - here is the first one from 1997

Another feature we built was an interactive shot placement game. The first one was called Deer Geometry and to this day it is still popular. It allowed people to guess the impact location on a every imaginable angle.

Our most technologically advanced features were built starting after 2007 where we overlayed the shot placement on top of actual video footage.  It literally took us 100 hours to build just one game but they were worth it. 

One of the features we loved running was the Head-to-Head bow bow tests performed by Jon Silks. This was unique since no magazine or TV show with sponsors would ever touch this.  We would take a group of archers who were accomplished bowhunters, blindfold them, and have the shoot the flagship bows from that year.   Results would immediately go viral and the fanboys would go nuts. If their bows won, the test was applauded for its objectivity and integrity. If their bows lost, the test was pointless and stupid.  Overall, the bow companies respected the results since it was rare that a bow company that sponsored Bowsite won the top spot.  When Jon Silks was hired as a staff writer for a magazine he was required to stop facilitating the H2H competition on Bowsite.  I was very sorry to hear this but wasn’t surprised one bit.

In addition to our random features, we built several sections of Bowsite that have been tremendous for traffic and overall value to our visitors.  Here’s some of them:

Trophy Photos (Created 1997) – Our very first interactive section allowed our visitors to upload kill photos and reports. We have nearly 22,000 photos and reports submitted but we took it one step further. By collecting data on shot distance by game animal and recovery distance by shot placement we have the 2nd largest survey of game kills next to the PY Club. One of our most popular sections.

Outfitter Reports (Created 2007) – this was our most ambitious project to date. It involved building a massive database of hunt reviews populated by our visitors. Our visitors would provide detailed accounts (Good, Bad & Ugly) from their hunts. The outfitter was notified and was provided an opportunity to respond.  This required some consultation with our attorneys and we’ve had our fair share of pissed off outfitters threaten to sue us.  Today, those reports number in the thousands and it has tremendous Google search placement. For outfitters like Shiloh Ranch with a new perfect score with lots of reviews, that’s a good thing. For the outfitters that were rated poorly, they are not so thrilled. In the end, the service provided to the public is a valuable one. Many have tried to copy our workflow model but our remains the top across the internet to this day.

3D Shoot Database (Created 1998) – we launched this years ago and it’s still popular today. Anyone holding a 3D shoot at a club or business is welcome to add to the database.  In any given year we will have thousands of shoots listed entirely for free.

Bowhunting.TV Videos (Created 2008) – Prior to the explosion of YouTube we decided to build our own video hosting platform and secured the domain name Bowhunting.TV.  It was a technical challenge to build the uploading and conversion routine and frankly it wasn’t all that great. But when we found a way to showcase videos hosted on YouTube and Vimeo, the platform took off. 

Classified Ads (Created 1997) – If you were around from 1997-1999 you may remember our auction system called “Archery Auctions.” It was incredibly popular.  Unfortunately, it was also a massive headache for us with complaints about winners not paying and buyers not sending. I hated to remove it but it was necessary. We created a simple classified Ads system to replace it, but in 1999 EBay was all the rage and it failed to catch on – for Bowsite. At the same time, the Stickbow classifieds were red hot and have been every year since. It has picked up recently and we have schedule a series of investments to improve it.

Bowsite Mobile (Created 2009) – When mobile devices transitioned from flip phones to smart phones we needed a platform to support the small screens and limited bandwidth. At the same time, we thought about ways to potentially leverage that mobility into some additional functionality. We created the Mobile Live Hunts so our visitors could bring us hunts directly from the field.  Lots of people love them and lots of people hate them. But there is no question they draw eyeballs from both of those camps.  Soon, Bowsite Mobile will be completely replaced by a mobile-optimized version of Bowsite.com.


20 Years of - A heartfelt Thanks

People often ask me how I had the vision to start Bowsite.com? I laugh. I had no vision at all.  I was not connected to the archery or bowhunting industry, I had zero business experience and I literally started the site so my wife and I could afford diapers back in 1996. 

As the site grew in popularity I saw a community emerge – one that I really enjoyed learning from. I considered myself a decent bowhunter – a little better than average – but far from an expert. I really appreciated having a large community of bowhunters at my fingertips that would freely share their knowledge with other bowhunters.   This drastically reduced my learning curve. If I wanted to hunt blacktails in Alaska, there was Blacktail Bob available to help. If I wanted to call elk in the Rockies – Danny Moore was there to share a lifetime of elk knowledge. If I had a question on planting food plots, guys like John O’Brien (Nutritionist) would spend an hour answering my question.  To me, that is what makes Bowsite such an incredible resource.  The games, interviews and live hunts are just gravy. Our community is what makes this site so special.

I have always said that the best bowhunters in the world call Bowsite home. You guys are the ones that get it done consistently without cameras, without sponsors and without needing recognition.  You are the real bowhunting celebrities.  I am honored that you guys call Bowsite home. I will always be grateful.

Thank you for the last 20 years.  I hope we can continue to earn your trust and respect for the next 20 years.

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