STICKS AND STRINGS: For the Backwoods Bowhunters, hunting with traditional bows and arrows is the ultimate challenge

Johnny Pappan prefers things old school, including his way of hunting.

“If I have to go out and put meat in the freezer, I have been known to take a rifle,” said Pappan, who turned 65 just last week. “But most of the time, I take a bow.”

And not just any bow. Pappan shoots a longbow. Just a stick and string. It’s something he’s done for almost 60 years.

“I’ve been shooting since I was a kid,” Pappan said. “I’m Kaw Indian and my grandfather built me one (longbow) when I was probably 6 or 7 years old. I have had one ever since.”

Pappan is not alone in his love of traditional archery. The large majority of members of the local Backwoods Bowhunters club are traditional enthusiasts as well.

“We have everybody in our club, but the majority in our club are traditional hunters,” said Backwoods Bowhunters’ member Chuck Witte of Yukon. “We are probably 90 percent traditional.”

On Saturday and Sunday, the club will be hosting the annual Southern Plains Traditional Archery Championship at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.

It’s an event that draws anywhere from 500 to 600 archers each year, including shooters from neighboring states Arkansas, Texas and Kansas.

The Southern Plains Traditional Archery Championships began in 1988, when it was first organized by the Oklahoma Longbowmen. Backwoods Bowhunters, which has its own archery range in Canadian County, took over the event in 2001 when it appeared it might end.

“We all value traditional archery and wanted to make sure the biggest shoot in the state remained alive,” Witte said. “We just wanted to make sure it kept going.”

Hundreds of traditional archers will convene on the grounds of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant next weekend to compete on a 25-target course that simulates hunting scenarios.

“We put them out there in the woods, in the brush, normal habitat for them to be in when hunting,” Witte said.

The contestants will attempt to hit…

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