Gene Wensel is no stranger to bowhunting. He's authored two books, starred in numerous videos, published countless magazine articles, and has been a featured speaker in nearly every US state. His latest endeavors are his broadhead - the Wensel Woodsman and his do-it-yourself deer hunts through Wensel Bros. Limited (WBL) - yet this hard-core bowhunter still finds time to do what he loves best - hunt big bucks. Take a peek at one of the country's top, and probably most humorous - bowhunting personalities in our latest Bowsite.com Interview.
Tell us about your first harvest.
My very first harvest was a pumpkin I stole out of Old Lady Duffys pumpkin patch when I was about eight years old.
Oh, you probably mean with a bow and arrow. I was pure hell on tweety birds for several summers right around 1950. I wrote a chapter concerning this pastime in my upcoming book Come November. My first big game was a big boar groundhog I shot in the eye with a field tip. I wasnt allowed to shoot Dads barbed Hill broadheads back then so I pulled the string back past my ear and tried for a head shot. The tiny arrow hit him square in the orbit of the left eye and dropped him in his tracks, graveyard dead. My first deer was a whitetail doe, shot from the ground with a new Bear Razorhead.
Tell us about one of your most memorable hunts.
I have a hard time singling out any one hunt. One of the best was a two week moose/goat hunt that turned into a Dall sheep hunt in Canadas Funeral Range of NWT with Paul Schafer. Paul killed his ram a couple days before I got there and he volunteered to guide me. I jumped at the chance, as he was an experienced sheep hunter and I was a fledgling fat guy on top of a mountain. As luck would have it, we spent all but three days of the entire hunt weathered in with fog and low clouds. But it was still a great hunt I will always remember. I had close encounters with mature rams all three days we got to hunt. I certainly could have legally taken one with a rifle but chose not to. Some of the best time was spent laying in our tent at the top of a sheep mountain, talking to Paul about the meaning of life and the millions of unlucky people at lesser elevations.
What type of bow and arrow (we already know the broadhead) are you shooting these days?
I know a lot of bowhunters who use only one or two bows. They find something they like and stick to it. Nothing wrong with that. I prefer to think of my bows as friends rather than a spouse. I have only one wife but a lot of friends.
I suppose Ive shot my old 58 Vision Falcon by Dick Robertson as
much as any single bow I own. It is 63# @ 28. Last season I mostly used
a Black Douglas made in Scotland by Border Archery. It too is 63# @ 28.
Bob Morrison is finishing up a new 58 takedown made to my specs from a
select highly grained piece of cocobolo. It will have bamboo limbs under snakeskin.
It should come out just over 60#.
For arrows, Im still mostly shooting 2018s swaged by RJ Archery. I fletch them with three 5 left wing feathers.
With all the broadheads out there now, what made you decide to come out with the Woodsman?
When I designed the Woodsman, there were very few three blade traditional heads available. Snuffers were very popular but they were no longer being manufactured. The market was pretty much wide open. I shot two blade broadheads for many years. I also shot Snuffers for many seasons. One of the biggest bucks I ever killed was hit right on the diaphragm with a Snuffer. I was sure glad I had a Snuffer on that day. I still consider them great broadheads. I shot four blade Magnus heads for several years as well. In summary, I played with numerous broadhead/arrow combinations over the years, dependent upon which bow I was using. It seems each design had advantages and drawbacks.
In my mind, the ideal broadhead would be a 3:1 ratio three blade design, built long enough and strong enough to penetrate well and sharpen easily, yet one that would cut a hole rather than a slot. My original idea was for a three bladed version of the old Hunters Head on a Jerry Simmons ferrule. With the help of Mike Sohm, Biggie Hoffman, Mike Lembke and my brother Barry, that concept evolved into what is now the Woodsman. I know many people think we re-invented the wheel, which I respectfully deny. A Woodsman isnt any closer to a Snuffer than a Magnus is to a Zwickey. For that matter, Roger Rothhaars original Snuffer started out as a three bladed version of the old Pearson Deadhead and evolved into what it is today. Now that Mike Sohm of Magnus has re-introduced Snuffers, bowhunters have a choice of at least two types of quality cut-on-impact three blade designs. Incidentally, Mike Sohm of Magnus also makes the Woodsman for me. He manufactures half a dozen other popular heads as well. People often ask why Magnus would make broadheads for their competition. Mike doesnt compete with anyone. In fact, all broadhead makers are in this together. Mike Sohm is a good businessman. In reality, it is a wise business move when you think about it. After all, if Mike didnt make them, someone else would be doing it and he wouldnt be getting a cut of each pie.
Do you have any new projects in the works?
We have recently brought out 100 grain all-steel screw-in adapters that can turn any glue-on broadhead into a heavyweight. The market for real heavy broadheads is not very big yet but it seems those who use them swear by them. Bob Morrison has been testing prototype 225 gr. Woodsman on his carbon shafts. He has to cut his arrows an inch and a half longer for spine but he tells me they fly perfect even with no feathers and they do things to his 3D targets that he has never seen arrows do! We are also working on a lighter version of the Woodsman design for use by the compound market. I do not want to remove metal to lighten a head or weaken its structural integrity, so the answer is in redesigning the head with different materials. It has always fascinated me how traditionalists gripe about paying $24 for half a dozen heads while high-tech guys gladly pay the same for a package of three that are only good for one shot each. I have one customer who killed 26 big game animals with his first six-pack of Woodsman at an investment of $24. Try the math on doing the same with broadheads that cost eight bucks each! Another honest reason I want to someday offer a lighter version of the Woodsman is to give compounders a choice other than some of the junk heads available today.
I am also putting the finishing touches on another whitetail book, due to be released late in 2001. It is entitled Come November and is essentially an updated version of my first two books with lots of new material added.. Its been twenty years since I wrote Hunting Rutting Whitetails.
If you could go on only one hunt a year, what would it be?
I hate to think of only getting to go on one hunt a year, but without doubt, it would be for my beloved whitetails in quality habitat from November 4-18.
In your book One Mans Whitetail you stated whitetail deer reigned supreme as Americas most difficult species to bowhunt. Has your attitude changed since then?
Not at all. Sure, taking a cougar without the use of dogs or blind luck would be pretty challenging, as would tracking a polar bear on foot. But realistic expectations for most American blue collar bowhunters indicate tagging a mature whitetail buck in fair chase is the ultimate test.
I feel I should mention nilgai antelope as well. It wouldnt be fair to the species to overlook them. Ive had the good fortune of being able to bowhunt all over the world. Nilgai antelope, native to India but now quite common in South Texas, have to be another ultimate challenge, especially with a stickbow. Gunners tag them regularly at hundred yard ranges and compounders who shoot at fifty yards are also successful, but getting inside the 25 yard line with a stickbow in hand is a supreme challenge. Nilgai have excellent eyes, excellent ears, excellent noses and excellent reflexes. They cant be called, cant be baited and have no curiosity whatsoever. Plus, they are downright tough. They are a real accomplishment.
You are considered one of the most successful whitetail bowhunters there is. What is your biggest secret?
There are no big secrets. Spend the first three weeks of November in quality habitat, sitting in strategically positioned treestands. Secrets? Pay attention to the wind, stay on stand longer (patience), quit shooting immature bucks (dont pick the fruit before it is ripe) and have confidence in your own ability when the shot presents itself.
What got you into bowhunting and how has the sport changed over the years?
Im one of those guys who started shooting a bow and arrow when I
was a little kid. I just never put my toys away!
The compound has dramatically increased numbers of participants. Ive never owned one. Im not one of the many thousands who have come full circle, not that there is anything wrong with that. I have no problem whatsoever with compounds in good hands. Many of my friends shoot them. I respect their choice and admire their bowhunting skills. But the compound as an invention has allowed a bunch of people to skip part of the apprenticeship involved in bowhunting. In a society where attaining goals quickly is often more important than how you get there, the high-tech bowhunter has thrived. Bowhunting is supposed to be challenging. Many of todays outdoorsmen seem to forget that fact.
You are known for adding humor and pranks to the bowhunting experience. Would you care to comment on this?
I feel far too many people take bowhunting too seriously. This is supposed to be fun. Pranks and stories liven up some people who need a good laugh.
I once put seven packages of Bromo-Seltzer in a buddy's empty treestand urine bottle when he wasn't there. Next time he peed on stand, he almost made an appointment with his doctor. You have to use Bromo though. Alka-Seltzer tablets rattle in the bottle.
Another time I bought one of those camo fishing hats with the extended extra-long 12" bills in front. They use them for salt water fishing. I cut a long slot right down the middle of the bilI and had my wife sew up the edges. When I drew a bow, the string would ride right down the slot. I wore the hat to a P&Y meeting one time. I could see dozens of guys staring at me. The best part was noting how many people took it as serious. I'm surprised someone didn't start selling them.
Barry and I were guiding a bowhunter from Virginia one time. The guy didn't know us too well at the time. I was on one side of a wooded draw with the hunter. Barry was across the draw about sixty yards from us. I don't know what made us do it, but Barry and I started whistling back and forth, doing bird calls for two or three minutes. The guy just listened and watched, fascinated. Finally I turned to the guy and with a straight face said, "Barry says the sign over there is mostly evening movement. We're going to have to go further up the draw to look for a better stand site." The guy stared back at me with a straight face, then finally stuttered, "Wwwwhen did he say that?" I simply said, "Just now. When we're in the woods, we speak bird talk language." I managed to hold a straight face and simply walked away. For a few seconds, he actually bought it!
You want a really good laugh? Consider this....when I was in high school, other than shooting bows and arrows, my second biggest passion was pole vaulting!
Do you ever get buck fever or target panic?
I dont get buck fever. Sure, I get very excited. When the excitement stops, Ill quit.
I do fight target panic regularly. It is strictly a mental thing. Fear of missing, or whatever you want to call it. Fortunately it isnt a problem when Im hunting as much as it is when I shoot in front of others. As a matter of fact, I avoid public shooting like the plague. Other than missing the fun part of shooting with friends, I also believe it often causes more harm than good. I have to practice regularly alone to be a consistently good shot. I have to work at it constantly but I still enjoy it 100%.
What is the scariest experience you ever had while bowhunting?
One time on the last day of a sixteen day Dall sheep hunt in Canada I got really scared I wasnt going to get a sheep.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the future of bowhunting?
Other than encouraging the desire and instinct of our youth, I think the biggest challenge is swaying the non-hunters to our way of thinking. Hunting instinct is being bred out of us. Hunting with our hearts and telling the non-hunters about the ones we let go is much more important than showing off the rewards of our efforts.
Youngsters and children will ultimately decide our fate. The future of hunting will be decided by the non-hunting women of the world. Since 50% of non-hunting, voting people are female, their view of our passion must be interpreted with acceptance and understanding.
What hunts do you have planned for 2001?
I am again planning on a summer trip to Africa. Ive grown to love it over there for the diversity in bowhunting opportunities that continent offers. For many years now, I have been organizing small groups of bowhunters who accompany me to the Dark Continent.. Other than Africa, I will be spending the remainder of my year bowhunting whitetails in Iowa and Kansas.
Where do you see bowhunting in 2025?
I expect to see the high-tech end of it leveling off in the near future. Yes, new, radical designs and Star Wars technology might excite some people, but I believe bows have come about as far as they need to come and still be accepted by most bowhunters. I expect to see labels similar to the Surgeon Generals tobacco warnings in the near future. You know, Warning...The Bowhunting General has announced that any critter shot with this bow will be ineligible for record book entry.
While were on this subject, Id like to comment on one other related topic. There is a very important and much needed push to pass on our bowhunting heritage to the youth of America. The one thought that no one seems to entertain is the fact that the next few decades will be seeing lots of bowhunters drop out or abandon their passion for no reason other than old age. Yes, some simply wont be able to make it happen. But I see very few active bowhunters over 75 years old. God willing, if I live long enough and can walk a little way, I cannot picture myself sitting around remembering. With a little luck and minimal physical symptoms, I can see myself bowhunting whitetails into my ninth decade. Yes, I will probably be shooting much lighter bows from a ground blind not too far back in off the edges and I will rely on youth to drag out my deer, but it bothers me to see old guys pull over to the side of the road when they still have enough gas to go all the way home. Some of these old timers have a lot of wisdom to share. And so, I am simply asking bowhunters to help an elder someday. Some of them still have the flame burning but no one to give them a lift.