Whale Tales Archery Archery Night Brings the Women of Lake La Belle Together
If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of bow fishing. I hadn’t either, until my editor dropped an assignment on my desk asking me to attend Whale-Tales Archery Women’s Stiletto Bowfishing Party on June 15th.
Naturally, I did some research to find out what I was getting into. The sport’s popularity is relatively new, emerging widely in the mid-1990s.
I also learned that the fish we were looking for are carp, and apparently these little bottom feeders can cause quite a bit of trouble in local rivers and lakes.
The way carp feed can negatively affect the eating habits of other fish. They are also adults at around 3 pounds, which means they have no natural predators. And they breed frequently, laying up to 2 million eggs a year, which means there are plenty of them swimming around.
Armed with my basic knowledge of what we were doing and why we were doing it, I headed out to Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc, and it was dark.
To give you a brief history of my fishing experience – there is no history of my fishing experience. The closest I’ve ever gotten to a fishing rod was when I sold them at K-mart a few summers ago. I’m not really an outdoors person; I’m a city dweller who doesn’t even walk barefoot in the grass.
After a brief archery lesson and a reminder to shoot low, we headed to our boats. Nine boats took around 40 women for the bow fishing challenge. Organizer Roxanne Vincent of Whale-Tales said the event filled up within 24 hours of registration opening. At the time we ventured out, there were even about 20 women on a waiting list, Vincent said.
It was clear that some women had done this before. In fact, they seemed like pros, with some bringing their own bows. Others – like me – were obvious beginners, but excited to try it out.
When I boarded my boat, five other women greeted me. Two were cousins who discovered the event on Instagram and decided they had to experience it. Three others go to the same Crossfit gym and wanted to try something new.
I was relieved that I was not the only one in the group who had never hunted carp before. As we left the dock we had small chats with our friendly boat captains, Chris and Danny. The two preferred not to use their surnames for this story.
We learned that Chris had been bow fishing for a long time – as he said, long before any of us were born. Danny had just started a few years ago when his son got involved in carp shooting tournaments.
The main event
Once the sun went down and we got out on the lake, the captains put bows in our hands, and that was the start of the main event. The six of us stood on the raised platform, bows loaded and eyes glued to the carp.
It wasn’t long before we started seeing fish and taking pictures, and although none of us were pros to begin with and we all missed a lot of the pictures we took, it seemed just make it more fun. We joked among ourselves about our misses, and the missed shots even inspired a kind of competition between us: we all wanted to catch a fish.
In the end, that didn’t happen for any of us. Two of the fish in the group fired but they escaped before we could shoot them on the boat so we returned to the dock empty handed but that certainly didn’t spoil the evening.
In the end, the fun to be had that night wasn’t just bow fishing; a big part of the evening was connecting with other women who were also experiencing something new and just trying something out of our comfort zone.
Although my hunt was not successful, I had fun and bonded with amazing women from all walks of life. That seems to be one of the goals of the event, according to Vincent.
Vincent said bow fishing is still a male-dominated sport, even though it is growing in popularity across the board. While working at Whale-Tales, she heard many women expressing interest in trying it out. The archery outlet has hosted the women’s event for the past three years, to introduce women to the sport and create an opportunity for women to have fun and bond while shooting carp , which Vincent says can be addictive.
She’s not wrong about that; that city girl would definitely get on a boat, bow in hand, and try my luck again.
And now I can always say, “Bowfishing? Please, I went, you did that, you bought the t-shirt.”