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Stop, Drop, and Turtle
Author: Derrick Schmidt

4 straight 10-hour days dabbing a dot of glue onto thousands of 32-inch fiberglass arrows. Dab the glue, press on the nock, wipe off the excess glue and repeat. At this point, I could do it with my eyes closed. To most, this sounds like a tedious job that would get boring quick, but in my younger years, I was absolutely thrilled to be doing absolutely ANYTHING for an outdoor company. Outdoor media and television consumed my soul from the time I was old enough to comprehend it. I had been working at AMS Bowfishing for a little under a year at this point, currently a junior in high school. With every waking minute working at AMS, I was learning. Whether I was gluing arrows, barbing points, or packaging safety slides, I was familiarizing myself with the process, and more importantly, the product. Needless to say, I had been bitten by the bowfishing bug and little did I know how important that would end up being in my future.

With the sudden wonderment of a new hobby, I was looking to learn everything there was to learn about bowfishing. Like the typical young, green, cocky kid I was, I figured I would learn everything I needed to within a couple bowfishing outings – LOL! Up until this point, hunting and fishing were my favorite things to do, (and still are) so naturally, bowfishing was a perfect combination. Within that first year working at AMS, I had started to make some friends within the bowfishing community.  A couple of my new buddies, Kaleb Meyer and Reese Bakken from K&R Outdoors were big into bowfishing. They were similar to me in age, but they had a much broader knowledge base of the sport. They shot tournaments, traveled to different states, and would often find themselves shooting a lot of fish, and a lot of big fish. In my eyes, they were some heavy hitters. I would see their social media postings throughout the year and think to myself, “Wow, these guys know how to get on fish!”. Over time, we became friends, and soon came the day that they invited me to go bowfishing with them.

May 8th, 2016, was the date.  I met Reese and Kaleb at Reese’s house. Parked in his yard, a beautiful fan boat, wrapped with a custom, green “K&R Outdoors” wrap. I remember pulling in his driveway and thinking “Oof, welcome to the big leagues, Derrick”. That first night, we shot the Mississippi River. It was my first time on the “Mighty Miss”, and that experience in and of itself was enough to make the trip. We were maneuvering through flooded forests in fast current, slinging fiberglass at common carp and gar. The shooting that night was ok, I would give it a 6/10. We arrived at sunset and shot the river until the sun came up. At around 6:00 am the next morning, we decided to pack it up. We all got some shut eye in the truck, before making the 2–3-hour trip back home. After about 45 minutes of driving, Reese made the statement, “Let’s check a different lake on the way home.” It was the time of the year when the buffalo were starting to think about spawning, something I had never had the privilege of participating in. I had only heard legendary tales about the “Buff Spawn”. We pulled into the boat landing, and there wasn’t a soul there. “Shoot, they must not be spawning yet.”, Kaleb disappointingly stated. When the buffs are on, the boat landings on this lake will be full.  Bowfishermen flock with hopes of filling their boats with 40-50 lb. spawning crazed buffalo. We drove down closer to the water, I looked out my window, and I saw something that left me…speechless.

It looked as though dynamite was going off in the water, as far as we could see. A constant, deafening chorus of splashing water filled the air. The buffs were spawning in full force, and we weren’t only the first, but also the ONLY ones who were there. We spent the first 30 minutes running around on foot and shooting fish by the boat landing! These fish were solid, too. Many of these fish were tipping the scale at 30-40 lbs. We eventually launched the boat and went back to some shallow, warm, secluded sloughs to shoot even more fish. We shot fish for hours. To this day, it is by far my BEST day of bowfishing hands down. After a while, we all decided it would be easier to get out of the boat and wade in the water barefoot to access these fish that were in shallow, hard to reach areas. After about 30 minutes of doing so, I had found myself a beautiful transition area. It was a bottleneck leading back into a big shallow bay. Fish from the main lake had to swim through this bottleneck to get to their preferred spawning ground. I found myself two rocks to stand on so I could get a better vantage point, one under my left foot, one under my right. As I was standing there waiting for more fish to make their way through, the rock under my right foot started to slide out from under me. I readjusted myself, and just figured the weight of my body was pushing the rock out from under me. Then the “rock” started sliding again, and I realized something was very, very wrong. I looked down, and the rock had sprouted four scaly legs, a tail, and a head with jaws that could take off a couple of toes without thinking twice. I was standing on the shell of a HUGE snapping turtle. The shell had to be at least 20 inches in diameter. I STOPPED, DROPPED my bow in shock, and yelled “TURTLE”!

May 9th will always hold a special place in my bowfishing soul. The number of fish, and overall size of fish I experienced that day may very well be the best bowfishing outing of my life. Although no toes were chomped, and the snapper ended up slowly crawling away allowing me to shoot some more fish, when people ask me about that day, it’s not the mighty Mississippi or the buffalo spawn I remember. When I think back on that day, the thing I remember most is “STOP, DROP, TURTLE”.