Bowhunter writes from experience

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

BOSIE, Idaho (AP) -- Dwight Schuh may be Idaho's most famous bowhunter, but he would be the last person to admit it.

''I don't see myself as a celebrity and I never will. I'm just one of the guys out there hunting,'' Schuh said.

But evidence points to the contrary. Schuh, 57, is a nationally known and widely respected bow-hunter, author, columnist and lecturer. He is also senior editor of Bowhunter magazine, a job he has held since 1996.

Longtime hunting partner Larry D. Jones of Springfield, Ore., ranks Schuh as ''right up there at the top'' of the outdoor writers working today.

''He is a celebrity, but maybe not in his mind,'' Jones said. ''He doesn't even think he's one of the better hunters, but he really is.''

Schuh's first bowhunting trip was an eastern Oregon deer hunt that felt more like a snipe hunt.

''I thought this had to be a joke,'' Schuh wrote in ''Hunting Open Country Mule Deer.''

''Sagebrush stretched as endless as waves on the ocean,'' he wrote. ''I doubted in my heart that deer could survive here, and even if they could, a bowhunter obviously couldn't get within range.''

By the end of his first morning hunting, he had seen 17 big bucks.

''With my primitive equipment and even more primitive knowledge of using it, I was no threat to any of those deer, but in my first three hours of bowhunting, I'd seen more big bucks than I'd seen in 15 years of rifle hunting.''

The bowhunting bug had bit Schuh hard.

''Since the first time I shot a bow and bowhunted, that is all I've wanted to do. Period,'' he said.

He has hunted throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Africa and taken dozens of animals with a bow and arrow, including 20 record-book, big-game animals.

In the last year, he hunted deer in Idaho, Oregon, Mississippi, Iowa and Alberta, Canada.

He also did two bear hunts in Alaska and another in Canada, and an Idaho elk hunt and a few turkey hunts.

Schuh's favorite way to hunt is going off by himself and learning how to hunt an animal in its native terrain.

''I like the accomplishment of being out there, figuring things out and doing it myself,'' he said.

The wall of his office looks like a waterfall of antlers. He long ago ran out of room to hang them all, so they rest in rows on the floor.

Schuh said he likes to harvest large animals, but he thrives on the challenge of hunting them, not the ego-gratification of bagging one.

''I never looked at the animal as the object of the hunt,'' he said. ''The process is more important than the end product.''

He tries to emphasize the total hunting experience in his writing. The place, the partners and the process are what drive his stories.

''I'm trying to capture the universal appeal of hunting,'' he said.

Schuh was born and raised in Klamath Falls, Ore., where he was a typical huntin' and fishin' kid in the country.

After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the University of Idaho, but his stay there was interrupted by a three-year stint in the Army. He returned to Idaho and earned an English degree in 1971.

He launched his writing career with a weekly outdoors column in the Klamath Falls daily newspaper, which earned him $15 a week.

''That was my income,'' he said.

But he had bigger things in mind.

''My dream was to write for Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and the big magazines,'' he said. ''I was too naive to think that wasn't a reasonable thing.''

Outdoor Life accepted Schuh's first attempt to crack the major market when it published ''Confessions of a Bullhead Buff'' in 1973.

He followed it with an article about winter backpacking to lakes for ice fishing, which was also published by Outdoor Life.

Within four years, he sold articles to the three largest outdoor magazines: Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and Sports Afield.

''It took me weeks upon weeks to write those stories because I wanted them to succeed,'' he said. ''I would probably retype those stories 10 times.''

Schuh returned to school, this time at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he earned a journalism degree in 1977.

He continued to sell stories to magazines and became Outdoor Life's Western editor in 1979.

''I thought that would last forever,'' he said.

Unfortunately, forever turned out to be two years. The magazine reorganized, and he lost his job.

But about that same time, the bowhunting market was starting to flourish. It neatly coincided with Schuh's passion for bowhunting.

''I think that shaped my career,'' Schuh said. ''It's pretty much all I do and all I write about, and to tell you the truth, it's all I think about.''

After writing his first book in 1978 titled ''Modern Outdoor Survival,'' he turned his attention to hunting books with a focus on archery.

Schuh's ''Bugling for Elk'' was published in 1983 just as that sport was taking off. It was the first book devoted solely to elk hunting, and it explained the art of calling at the same time the first commercially made elk calls were coming on the market.

''If there was a stroke of genius with that book, it wasn't the book, it was the timing of it,'' Schuh said.

It became a classic book on elk hunting and remains in print nearly 20 years after its original publication, a rarity for books of its kind.

Schuh wrote the book based largely on his own hunting experiences, which became a template for his future books.

Jones, Schuh's hunting partner who is also a renowned hunter, writer and video producer, said Schuh's hunting knowledge and his ability to communicate that knowledge to others is what separates him from other writers.

''He doesn't have to conjure up information. He has experienced it,'' Jones said.

Schuh moved to Nampa in 1986 and has remained there ever since.

He follows in the footsteps of Jack O'Connor and Elmer Keith, two other famous outdoor writers who moved to Idaho, and also Ted Trueblood, who was born in Boise and lived most of his life in Nampa.

''I moved here primarily because so much of it is wilderness, and there are so many animals available to hunt,'' Schuh said. ''I would think that's why some of those guys lived here too.''

He particularly admired the writings of Trueblood and O'Connor.

''I was a pretty big O'Connor fan,'' he said. ''I was also a Ted Trueblood fan. I read him religiously in Field & Stream. He was an old desert rat, and I was kind of the same way.''

But Schuh shies away from putting himself in their ranks.

''There is sort of a mystique about those guys,'' he said.

Schuh may not be a Trueblood, O'Connor or Keith, but they lived and wrote in a different era.

In their day, a few magazines dominated the market, and they were star writers of those publications.

Today's outdoor magazines are more numerous and specialized. Several are devoted solely to archery and bowhunting.

People have been reading Schuh's books and magazine articles about bowhunting for 30 years, and it's inevitable that future bowhunting writers will be compared to him.

''If I have a claim to fame, it's probably my longevity because I've been too bullheaded to give up,'' Schuh said.

But he is not content with resting on his reputation. He has a full schedule of hunts lined up, he is midway through another book and he has six or eight others burning in his brain and he continues to write articles for Bowhunter.

''I want people who read my stuff to respect me for what I do, not what I used to do,'' Schuh said.

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