Bowfishing Becoming Popular With Women

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By Nick Hausen

FRANKLIN COUNTY -- Bowfishing has become a popular sport on southern Illinois lakes and rivers over the last decade. In that time, the sport has been dominated by men, but that's starting to change.

"It's an adventure. It's stress relief, it's fun," said bowfisher Amy Pease.

On any given day, the water flowing below the Rend Lake spillway is filled with gar, carp, and buffalo. On many of those days, you can find two women, Gretchen Steele and Amy Pease, drawing back their bows and enjoying a "girls day out."

"I never thought I'd be interested in it," explained Pease. "He's my husband (now), my fiance at the time, I had just started getting into photography. I went out on a boat with him, was taking pictures. He's like, 'Hey, you've got to try this.'"

That was four years ago, and she immediately became hooked. She says time hasn't changed the way she feels about sticking fish.

"Adrenaline rush, big time. It's like, 'I got it, I got it,'" said Pease. "Honestly, for me, my 500th is no different than my first. It's still as exciting."

Pease's fishing partner Gretchen Steele started bowfishing when a health problem left her struggling to draw back her bow for deer hunting.

"I could use a bow to bowfish with a lower poundage, and I was able to still harvest stuff for the table and still stay active in archery," explained Steele. "I just didn't have to pull the required 40 pounds for hunting with it."

More and more women are bowfishing because the draw weight can be as low as 15 pounds, allowing anyone to do it. Another reason the sport is gaining popularity is the price.

"You can start with a pawn shop recurve, and honestly, duck tape a Gatorade bottle to it to wind your string on," Steele said.

Bowfishing is one of a few ways to successfully take invasive species like Asian Carp. So while it's affordable and fun, it's also a conservation effort. One that Steele and Pease hope more and more women continue to get involved in.

Pease is in the process of forming Tri-State Bowfishers, a sanctioned club for southern Illinois, southern Indiana, and western Kentucky. The club will be sanctioned through the Bowfishing Association of America.

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