December 07, 2021 3 Comments
Charles Howard has been a bowhunter since the 1960s and a loyal supporter since we opened. While he started bowhunting as a young man and has been fishing for as long as he can remember, there is no doubt that Mr. Charles is an able outdoorsman.
At 83 years old, he pulls back a bow at fifty pounds, conditions every day to stay fit, takes care of the woods he hunts, and truly cares about the creation he lives in.
Every week of the season you can find him hunting in one of his climbers or hand-built stands or practicing with his bow — either way, Howard puts out corn for the animals every day of the year. He is always outside and he takes care of it year-round, not just when it is time for a harvest.
That means, he has spent a lot of time fishing and hunting over the years… so he has plenty of outdoor wisdom and stories. Last week he recorded a conversation with us and told some great ones.
Mr. Charles’ bowhunting story started out in the 1950's and '60's when he and a group of 7 young men would go to Blackbeard Island and other surrounding areas with heavy whitetail populations — all hunting with their bows.
“That was before deer were real popular in Georgia,” Howard explained. “Back there at the beginning we hardly had any deer at all. Most whitetails didn’t start coming around until they brought them over from Texas in the ’70s.”
Though he had been a hunter and fisherman for years on the Georgia mainland, it wasn’t until hunting on Blackbeard Island that Mr. Charles shot his first whitetail — “an eight point buck in ‘67,” as he described it.
Several hunting trips followed until the mid-'70s when the Georgia population of whitetails started growing. By the 1980s the club of 8 bowhunters didn’t need to go to the islands to find whitetail deer anymore. Plenty of them had been brought over from more heavily populated places like Texas, getting into fields and gardens on the mainland.
The game was on.
Mr. Charles started putting up his own stands everywhere. To this day, some of them are still up in his back yard.
He has finally gotten the details down to a science. “A ‘sample- size' of carpet folded over and laid on the metal,” keeps his feet warm when he hunts on cold mornings. He has a system on every tree to pull up his bow, a safety vest in case of a fall, and a saddlebag of supplies - including a plastic bag of cookies in the saddlebag on the side of every stand.
Howard has even designed a way to hang his morning chocolate milk by his head to drink as the sun rises. A cord attached to a fishing hook, he’s found, is perfect for holding a Coke bottle full of cold chocolate milk. And yes, he puts the milk in a Coke bottle because he drinks almond chocolate milk — a healthy substitute for the plain version that he’s come to like over the years.
The stands he has built have been edited down to a near-perfect system — but that doesn’t mean once or twice a week he doesn’t go try somewhere new or go hunt on a friend's property using his climber.
That’s right, not only at 83 does he still build all of his stands, bike into the woods, and pull back a fifty-pound bow, he also hunts in climbers. That is pretty amazing.
What's his secret to staying in such good shape while most have to hang up a regular bow by the time they are in their 40's and 50's? We asked and he gave a lifestyle of an answer: "Constant. Conditioning." And we mean constant.
Mr. Charles has been active his whole life. He played sports, like basketball, for years and was always either building something or riding his bike out in the woods. Actually, he still does all of those, but the workouts he has added on makes this perhaps the most physically active season of his life.
A few years ago Howard converted a room in his house into an exercise room which he visits every day to do his workouts while watching the news. A run on the treadmill is normally the start, followed by crunches, scissor kicks, dumbbell exercises, and a push-up for at least every year he’s been alive.
Hours before our conversation he had just reached 105 push-ups for a morning workout and in his nightly one, he had plans to do knee lifts and crunches before he got in the shower. Fitness is an everyday pursuit for him — sometimes an hourly one.
On cold days in the stands, he does knee lifts “to keep my blood circulating," and every single day he makes it a point to practice conditioning his draw arm by yanking back a special exercise band designed to strengthen bowhunters.
If there is anything Mr. Charles has learned that will keep a person physically fit enough for the sport, it's constant conditioning, or at least a simple exercise once or twice a day.
Staying fit over the years has paid off and Howard has earned his weight in gold as far as stories go.
Stories of getting his boot stuck between limbs of a tree, a snake let loose in his hunting buddy’s truck, squirrels crawling over his feet like he wasn’t even there, and the discovery that turtles can sound extremely similar to deer compose the contents of just a few of them.
While bowhunting has always been one aspect of Mr. Charles' life, he also hunts duck and dove with a gun and hunts for fish on the river… with a bow of course!
In 1968 he took a scuba diving class and he has been doing that in rivers ever since to find old guns and bottles and such for people. Though he has allegedly never found a message in a bottle, Howard has found his share of snakes and gators, a few suspicious logs, and some "still more suspicious spots in the water that move" when he stepped on them. He still has all of his fingers and toes but there have definitely been a few close ones!
Aside from those adventures, Howard has been hunting for many years on Fort Stewart and still goes on week-long camps by himself to hunt different Georgia animals. This fall he hopes to go on another week-long camp by himself "to see if he can shoot more deer."
At this point, he has become a part of the animals’ environment instead of the other way around — the animals come around to watch Mr. Charles in the woods. Owls, snakes, and squirrels alike let him get closer and closer — many times they pass him by unnoticed.
He tosses fish heads down in his yard when he cleans his catch and hawks dive down right in front of him — one time, one landed on the table and took a fish out of his hand, while just recently, he looked down and saw a squirrel climbing on his boot!
Three deer lived in the bushes just outside of his window for a couple of years and he fed them corn daily — still, daily he even has a timed feeder that puts corn in his yard every few hours.
That's one of the incredible things that makes Mr. Charles a true outdoorsman — he cares for the same animals he hunts. It seems counterintuitive, but really the two things can be the same thing when done right.
While Mr. Charles takes care of the animals in his yard, he also kills them to keep the population healthy — call it what you will, but we see that as true love for creation.
In one of his stories, Howard was scratching a hogs back one day with the edge of his bow while the next day on the hunt the same three hogs came by and he shot one of them. It was an overpopulated area so it helped them for him to do so — but we still find it pretty amazing that he is able to respect the animals he hunts so that it means more when he finally consumes the harvest.
Howard isn’t out there just for the fun of hitting a target— every part of the hunt to him is something to be experienced to the fullest and regarded as sacred as life is sacred.
Mr. Charles still hunts every week — still using the same old used army clothes he got shipped from Sweden so he has plenty of insulation and pockets. He is still constantly outdoors or taking care of animals.
The club of 8 still meets for hunts when they can. He is thankful to be the last in the group that can still pull back a bow, as most of the men in his club have switched to crossbows for their hunts.
“No, no I don’t think I will,” Howad replied, after asked if he would ever switch to a crossbow or rifle. “If I get to where I can’t pull back a bow I may as well hang it up. I don’t even think I’d shoot a crossbow — it’s just not as fun, you know. It’s too easy.”
If bowhunting has ever changed someone’s life, it has changed Mr. Charles'. It became a lifestyle for him back in high school and ever since it has kept him athletic, kept him constantly conditioning, kept him outdoors, and kept him well-fed because of the harvests he makes on his hunts.
It's certain that of all the things he has built over the years, his life has constructed a legendary story. When the time does come for him to “hang up his bow,” we know he will still be outdoors and continue to be active — because though bow hunting can have its ups and downs, it has pulled him into an entirely different way of thinking about God's creation.
Meet Mr. Charles, our own hunting legend!
Even when the time comes when you can’t pull back a bow (which no one sees in the near future of your active soul) we will carry your legacy with us through generations — the legacy of loving creation passionately and serving the Creator always!
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