The traditional archer still hunts with a bow he carved from a hedge tree chopped down on his family farm. He uses cedar shafts he fashions himself. The arrow he used for his November buck sported a broadhead he cut and fashioned from a section of old band-saw blade from a sawmill.
He killed his first deer with a self-made bow when he was 13 years old.
Tyler Fletcher of Stilwell has great accomplishments as a bowyer and hunter.
And he’s only 20.
Well over 6 feet tall with a boyish face that fits his age but uttering baritone words that come from someone at least 10 years his senior, Fletcher enjoys a woodsman’s life.
“I’ve always liked archery,” he said. “I’ve been flinging arrows, I guess since I was about 3 years old.”,
His grandfather, Blake Fletcher, has been like a father to him since his dad died when he was still very young. Blake Fletcher has been his influence in archery and woodworking.
“I’ve never been without a strong father-figure,” Tyler said.
Drawn to ancient skills but studying math at Connors College in Warner with an eye on a engineering degree from a four-year school, he also dabbles in blacksmithing and in flint-knapping.
“Flint-knapping takes a lot of patience, a lot of time,” he said, showing a pinkish arrowhead chipped from rock. “This is the only one I’ve made that’s even worth lookin’ at.”
His grandpa sent him to an expert to make his first bow at age 9, Dr. Jimmie Taylor in Stilwell.
“He’s probably built upwards of 10,000 bows,” Tyler said. “It took us just 10 hours, and that’s with him teaching a kid how to do it.”
The sassafras wood bow was carved from a stave “my grandpa cut years and years ago,” he said. He shot that bow for a couple years, until the wood finally split. Hand-carved bows sometimes do that.
“It was the lightest-weight bow I’ve ever felt,” Tyler said.
He took his first archery deer with a bois d’arc wood bow he carved at the Oklahoma Selfbow Jamboree, an annual event of the Oklahoma Selfbow Society that is held on the Ritter family farm near Stillwater. It broke too, awhile after he killed that first 9-point buck at age 13. The stout bow pulled at 55 pounds.
He has built several others, smooth shooting, long-limbed sticks that accommodate his 30-inch draw, including his most recent, carved from a bois d’arc tree cut down on the family property and backed with the skins of water snakes killed at the creek that flows past the house.
“Snake skins work well,” Tyler said. “They look good, but they’re not shiny. A deer sees that and they don’t know what they’re looking at.”
Fletcher shot competitively through high school but didn’t have much time for deer hunting because he showed pigs with FFA at fairs and had other school activities.
He competed in the state’s Archery in The Schools Program — something his grandmother and former Stilwell Schools Superintendent, Mary Fletcher, helped bring to the district. He made top-three in the state three years running and took first place at nationals in 3D archery at Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2014.
He shot trap and skeet with the Stilwell FFA program through school and continues shooting now on the Connors State team.
It was Nov. 11 that he and a school friend left Warner for Stilwell to have a quick deer hunt that Wednesday evening into Thursday.
“We had to get back Thursday for practice,” Tyler said. “I had to explain why we were late.”
They walked into the woods looking for deer.
“We’ve always done it that way,” he said. “I get bored sitting in a tree stand.”
He typically wears a G. Fred Asbell woolen archer’s pullover jacket of green and brown plaid, and old camouflage Army pants, he said.
“This was the first time I ever painted my face going in, but I guess maybe it worked,” he said.
The trick, he said, is just moving quietly, slowly, and using the wind to your advantage. His first buck in several years came quickly.
“I stalked him, probably five minutes or so,” he said. “Everything kind of played out right to where I got him (inside 20 yards) and he circled around and came right to me. I had good brush in front of me and had an open spot. He stopped right there and I shot him.”
That’s all there is to it. Carve a bow out of a tree; make an arrow from cedar shaft and an old saw blade; paint your face; and walk into the woods and shoot a 9-point 120-inch class buck.
Well, maybe it is for an old hand like Tyler Fletcher.