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Take ‘Em Bowfishing!

Taking someone new out fishing in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s new fishing challenge doesn’t just apply to hook-and-line angling.


Not by a long shot.

Not when there is the action-packed thrills of shooting nongame fish like Asian carp with a bow and arrow to be had in Nebraska waters!

Current, avid bowfishers in Nebraska are being encouraged to get others involved in the new and exciting Nebraska fishing challenge called Take ‘Em Fishing, whereby someone new is introduced or reintroduced to fishing and can win some neat prizes for doing so. Learn more about and enter the challenge by clicking this link.

The bottom line: Fishing is not just limited to casting or trolling, it also includes shooting fish with a bow!

Bowfishing is a highly popular event for kids and adults alike at the Fort Kearny Outdoor Expo held at the Fort Kearney State Recreation Area. Come join the fun and many more exciting events at the outdoor expo on Saturday, May 11, 2019 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Photo courtesy of Julie Geiser/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission).

Just last summer I was reintroduced to this great lifestyle, this great life sport of fishing with archery equipment.

The offer to bowfish the backwaters of the Missouri River came from Zac Hickle of Elkhorn, NE, a hardcore, very accomplished tournament bowfisherman.

Zac Hickle of Elkhorn, NE displays a nice-sized grass carp he shot with a bow in the backwaters of the Missouri River. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Zac had all of the necessary gear for me to use aboard his custom-made boat he built for bowfishing.

With his life jacket-clad son, Gavin, on-board, Zac Hickle, wearing his U.S. Coast Guard-approved fanny pack life jacket, operates his customized Jon boat for bowfishing on the Missouri River. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

I had Zac on my Saturday morning outdoor talk radio show to promote bowfishing and bowfishing education late last spring, and following my program, the offer to join him was put forth.

I enthusiastically accepted.

After all, I had not bowfished since my high school days some 40 or more years ago.

On that hot, steamy summer morning last year, I reembarked on bowfishing in the backwaters of the Mighty Mo (Missouri River), and it now ranks among the most memorable of my outdoor experiences!

Your blogger intently watches the backwaters of the Missouri River on the deck of Zac Hickle’s Jon boat for nongame fish to bow shoot. Photo by Zac Hickle of Elkhorn, NE.

Though my bow shooting prowess was a little rusty (a lot rusty, actually, HA), I quickly recalled how bowfishing was this fun-filled,  highly addicting, unique outdoor activity. I must say that I can hardly wait to get on that big river (Missouri River) and its backwaters to bowfish again this summer with Zac and his now seven year-old son, Gavin.

I had such a good time watching and interacting with Gavin. He is an incredible bowfisherman! I would just be ready to release an arrow at a fish and he would have already fired his string-attached arrow into a fish in the water!

Gavin Hickle, then age six,  is fully outfitted and ready to go for bowfishing in Missouri River backwaters on the deck of his dad’s customized Jon boat. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Here is Gavin, a fast bow shooter, drawing on a shortnose gar. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Gavin proudly shows off a grass carp fresh out of the water with a little vegetation on it. He teamed up and double-tapped the fish with his dad. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

It is certainly the time of year when folks of various ages are gearing up for their bowfishing experiences on rivers, creeks, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. Why not join them? Fishing with archery equipment also appears to be growing increasingly popular among regular anglers and bowhunters. This is evidenced by the popularity of the Bowfishers of Nebraska Facebook public group page. Watch for the logo below and consider joining this group on Facebook.

Bowfishers of Nebraska logo courtesy of Bowfishers of Nebraska.

What makes bowfishing so darned enjoyable?

Let me tell you that it provides nonstop, fast-paced action and requires no prerequisites.

Zac Hickle aims low and prepares to shoot an Asian carp in Missouri River backwaters. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

It also is an excellent way for bowhunters to stay sharp with their skills and keep shooting throughout the spring and summer months at considerable numbers of nongame fish, most notably invasive Asian carp species, assisting with reduction of their numbers for conservation purposes.

Off-duty Nebraska Conservation Officer, Rich Berggren of Waterloo, shot this bighead carp in Missouri River backwaters. Bighead carp, especially larger specimens, are known for their excellent table fare. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Your blogger with a silver carp taken by bow from a backwater wetland in the Missouri River. Photo by Zac Hickle of Elkhorn, NE

Bowfishing also gives a person an opportunity to explore the wilds of backwater and wetland habitats, which contain a variety of interesting wildlife species to see.

Beautiful natural backwater habitat area of the Missouri River. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Unlike hook-and-line fishing and archery hunting for big game, bowfishing does not mandate that you sit still and remain quiet, either. It is an incredibly social sport, often taking place on a moving boat with much conversation and vocal strategy. Some moments are slow, but they quickly can give way to moments of mayhem and thrill when a large school of silver carp are swimming and jumping everywhere and arrows are being flung. Archers can even work together to shoot species of nongame fish.

An Asian carp is double-tapped (shot by two different bowfishers) in the backwaters of the ‘Mighty Mo’ (Missouri River). Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

So, how does a youngster learn about bowfishing if a family member or friend doesn’t bowfish?

It’s easy.

Enter the Nebraska Bow Fishing Mentor Program.

This was established by volunteer organizer Nick Tramp of Allen, NE.

The mentorship program has entered its sixth consecutive year.

Tramp, Zac Hickle, Rich Porter and other Bowfishers of Nebraska volunteers serve as instructors and take youngsters of varying ages, along with a parent or guardian, to pre-selected public locations to shoot nongame fish with archery equipment following a classroom session. These free programs, hosted by the Bow Fishers of Nebraska, allow youth to explore the challenge and excitement of harvesting fish with archery gear. They will learn about equipment, safety, regulations, ethics and care for harvested fish, and will shoot from both the shore and a boat. Youth must be at least 10 years old to attend. No experience is needed, and nearly all of the equipment is provided. Space is limited, and registration online is required to save a spot.

Here are the details of the their upcoming spring event.

If you’d like more information on bowfishing, including tons of useful tips, an innovative Asian carp cooking method plus regulation reminders, see my initial blog on shooting fish with archery equipment, go here.

Zac Hickle puts taking youth bowfishing in perspective when he says: “We need to remember that most people don’t discover fishing, it’s a gift that’s given to them. Do your part, take a kid fishing.”

Zac Hickle poses with his young son, Gavin, whom he takes bowfishing every chance he gets. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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