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» Trad Gang.com » Topic Archives » Member Interviews » Mike Westvang

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Author Topic: Mike Westvang
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Real Name: Mike Westvang
Nickname: Wingnut
Age: 54
Height: 6í4Ē
Weight: 275
Home State: Texas
TradGang member number: 12
Member Status: Sponsor


(TG)- Tell us about yourself.

(Wingnut)- Well whatís to tell? I live in Weatherford, Texas and have a small bow company that builds selfbows and bamboo/wood laminate bows. We have been in business for a couple of years now. Before that both Connie and I worked for Verizon. I retired three years ago and Connie two years. She contracts part time doing tech instruction for them and I work full time building bows and stuff.
We moved to Texas from Western Washington State back in the winter of í97 on a transfer with the company and just love the sunshine and warm weather here. Of course we are entering into our 100-degree spell now and no body likes it. Although it is better then the rain and cold we lived with in the Washington winters.
Our bow business is currently sized to pay for our hunting and other recreation activities and we would like to keep about there. We enjoy traveling to the shows and meeting all the people and will continue to expand our schedule as time and dollars allow. We donít get tied down to a schedule where we canít drop everything and go hunting.


(TG)- How long have you been bow hunting with traditional gear?

(Wingnut)- After nearly 20 years of bowhunting with a compound, I converted to a selfbow in 1998. I guess that makes this year 7 with traditional equipment.


(TG)- Any heroes? Any role models?

(Wingnut)- Heroes are tough to come by because the standard is too high for mere mortals to meet. Role models are a bit easier. I guess that my good buddy Rusty Craine is as close to either. He is a good friend and is not afraid to hit me upside the head when Iím headed down the wrong path. Not a bad traditional bowyer either.


(TG)- What got you started bowhunting?

(Wingnut)- Bowhunting came as an additional hunting opportunity in my home state of Washington. Back in the late 70s and early 80s we had additional big game seasons for each weapon with the same tag. A guy at work kept coming in the second week of September each year with pictures of the buck or doe he had taken with a bow. Heck I couldnít even hunt for another month. I asked him to help me get set up and teach me to shoot. The rest is history. LOL


(TG)- Do you have any favorite memories or kills that stand out? Tell us about it!

(Wingnut)- My first year elk hunting with traditional equipment stands out the most and I hope I never forget the feelings I had.
I was a typical public land Idaho elk hunt with my long time hunting partner Paul Veach from Washington State up until day 5, we were in and out of elk with only sparse bugling. But on Day five it all changed. We had decided to climb into our spike camp location on a ridge top two miles up a drainage to check out the elk population. As we neared the end of a grown up skid road, we heard a bull bugle in the dark somewhere ahead of us. We were still at least a half hour to daylight but began closing the distance. For the next two hours the old herd bull and two satellites gave us the slip as we climbed higher and higher. After crossing the high ridge and dropping into the next draw, things heated up. We worked a bull to 30 yds but had a wind shift and off he went. An hour later we were once again in good wind position and were moving into position to call. I guess the noise of our crossing a small creek fooled a six point into thinking that those cows were back and here he comes. I was caught with nothing but a six-foot pine tree to snuggle up to. And boy did he come fast. Next thing I know he is standing broadside at 10 yds. I look down only to see that I had failed to nock an arrow. He moved off before either of us could shoot.
The day went on and we had three more encounters with bulls in the small canyon only to have a cow or the wind blow the chance. This was truly the best elk-hunting day I had ever had and it was starting to get on towards dusk. We decided to try one more locating bugle and hopefully one more try before dark and the long walk out. We got an answer down the canyon but we had to circle the rim to get the wind. So off we went with me in the lead. After covering a couple hundred yards, Paul brought me to a stop with a short whistle. He asked if I had heard a cow call. I said I hadnít but just then I heard another and close by. We scrambled to get in cover just as a five point bull started down through the timber at a half trot. He was coming right at us and closing fast. I looked down to see my yellow-shafted tapered maple arrow on the bow this time. I learned fast. LOL I soon realized that he was on the trail that I was standing three feet from and that I was hiding behind Charlie Brownís Christmas tree. Well he just kept coming. He finally stopped at seven steps and was looking right through me. I remember picking a spot and thinking to myself that if I was to shoot I would hit that hair. Just then my fletching disappeared in that very spot. I donít remember drawing the bow or releasing. Paul told me that I had drawn when the bull went behind a tree 15 yards up the hill and had been standing at full drawn for some time.
The bull thundered back up the trail but there was soon the telltale crash we all know. I remember excusing myself and standing there blubbering like a small child for a few minutes. I couldnít believe that I had just taken a bull elk with traditional equipment on my first try. We recovered the bull 50 yards up the hill and spent the night and most of the next days getting him the three and a half miles back to the truck. I hope I never forget the feelings I had on Idaho mountaintop.

(TG)- Do you remember the first animal you took with a traditional bow? Tell us about it!

(Wingnut)- In 1998, Jason and I got hooked up with a crazy olí coot in Ft. Worth Texas named Rusty. He got us introduced to building wooden bows and hosted a bow building seminar every other Sunday through out the spring and summer. Jason and I managed to build shootable bows on our second try each. We made up our mind to hunt deer with them that fall. We practiced a lot and got to where we had acceptable ability at 15 yds. We gave it a go. Off to Gilís place we go on the second week of bow season in October. We had five stands in place and picked our locations before hitting the sack. The next morning I climbed into my stand before daylight and waited for the eastern sky to show signs of life. As soon as I could see, deer began to move from the fields to the bedding areas. I was on a major trail and hoped that they would pass. Soon I heard a twig crack behind me. Hmmmm thatís odd the deer are in front. When I slowly turned I could see a nice doe working through the trees and headed towards the group in the field. She was on my trail and soon was in my shooting lane. The hours of practice shooting both on the ground and from a tree took over and I drew the bow, never loosing sight of my spot and released the arrow. TWACK!!! And the deer was down. Dang I had shot high and broke here back. A quick second shot and she was done. I had spent only two days and two hours in the field with the selfbow I had built and now had a beautiful whitetail doe.
The next morning Jason took his first traditional deer from the same stand. He shot a doe from the group coming in from the field with a perfect 15-yard shot.


(TG)- Can you tell us a bit about your preferred hunting combo?

(Wingnut)- These days I hunt with one of our ďWindTalkerĒ wood laminate bows. I like about 50 pounds for deer and close to 60 for elk. This year Jason and I will be heading to Alaska with matching 58-pound takedown bows and some beautiful purple heart footed POC arrows James Young with Clearfork Archery built special for this hunt. Our arrows will be tipped with Woodsman broadheads.


(TG)- What is the one piece of advice you would give a new hunter to aid him on his hunting ventures?

(Wingnut)- A new hunter or any hunter for that matter needs to get opportunities. You are going to fail to take home the game a lot more then succeed. So the key is to enjoy the experience and donít get tied up with antler size and pounds of meat. I have a very good friend in Washington that hunted with me for 10 years. In that time he took home two deer and missed eight elk. He enjoys hunting more then anyone I know and taught me more about the savoring the experience then I care to mention.


(TG)- What is your favorite animal to hunt?

(Wingnut)- Elk! They have been my passion since the day when I was 14 and my dad asked me if I wanted to give them a try. I read everything I could put my hands on and still do. Other hunting season only fill time until the next elk season.


(TG)- Do you have or prefer a certain method of hunting?

(Wingnut)- Spot and stalk with calling a close second. I really donít like sitting is trees even though I do it quite a bit here in Texas hunting for whitetail.


(TG)- Does any of your family hunt or fish?

(Wingnut)- All of my family hunt and fish. My dad and grandfather got me started when I was very young and it has been my lifeís passion.


(TG)- Who first got you involved in traditional bow hunting?

(Wingnut)- I guess it was Jason. He had a hair-brained idea about building a wooden bow and it was a slippery slope from there.


(TG)- Do you have any bowhunting goals or plans for the immediate future?

(Wingnut)- The moose hunt is only weeks away so itís hard to think of anything else at this time. LOL


(TG)- Do you make any of your own gear?

(Wingnut)- Yep, we make our bows and some of our arrow shafts. Jason is getting into knapping so we will probably have our own stone points sometime in the future.


(TG)- Where is the one place you would really just love to hunt?

(Wingnut)- New Mexico or Arizona for the big elk.


(TG)- Do you primarily hunt private or public ground?

(Wingnut)- Mostly private here in Texas and public when hunting out of state.


(TG)- Do you prefer evening, mid day or morning hunts?

(Wingnut)- Elk hunts tend to be all day affairs. Morning and evening have the most activity but calling midday can be very productive if the rut is going strong.


(TG)- Do you normally use anything like scent covers or attractants, camo, or calls?

(Wingnut)- I wear camo to match the area and love to use diaphragm calls.


(TG)- Do you do any small game hunting?

(Wingnut)- Yep I have said many times. When on an elk hunt I am really hunting grouse and rabbits. Although every once and a while an elk hunt breaks out.


(TG)- Tell us what your dream hunt would be.

(Wingnut)- I think calling a big bull in for Jason would be the big one for me. He has had his chances but it never comes together for him. I think this moose hunt will be his breakthrough. Donít be surprised if the hero pics are of him and his moose and a very proud dad.


(TG)- Who or what got you to building bows?

(Wingnut)- Back in 94' Jason received a copy of "Hunting with Bow and Arrow" as a gift. As he read the book, he became interested in building a selfbow. He told me that he need a yew log and to bring one home from elk hunting if I could. That fall, my partner and I were hunting in central Idaho and came across a stand of yew. I had never seen it before and had no idea what to look for to make a bow. So I took the straightest tree and cut it with my bone saw. I cut a log about 7' long and 8" in diameter. My partner and I hauled it a mile up hill to the truck and I took it home. It sat in the garage until we moved to Texas in '99. I happened to get hooked up with Gil Gresham through the LW and hunted with him that fall. When Jason told him the story of the yew, he said he had a friend in Ft. Worth that might help us out. That friend turned out to be Rusty Craine. Rusty "Trashwood" Craine is one of the best selfbow bowyers in the country and we were soon his Sunday morning bow class. Once I had a shooter I was hooked for good.


(TG)- What is it that drives you to hunt with gear made from your own hands?

(Wingnut)- The fall of '99 was the turning point in my hunting life. Rusty helped Jason and me to build hunting weight osage selfbows. We decided that we would hunt deer with them and hoped to get a shot. Well a shot we did get. During our first weekend of the season, I shot a doe on Saturday morning and Jason shot one out of the same stand the next day.
We were both hooked for life. I transformed from a high tech gadget shooter to a selfbow traditionalist with the loose of that one arrow. I have never looked back.


(TG)- Tell us a little about Connieís win at the Mojam hatchet bow contest.

(Wingnut)- Connie's win really dates back about five years. When I won the contest the second time, she noticed that there were no female participants. That would not do and she started planning her bow when we got home. That year she cut, split and built a bow from hickory. She has enormous patience and would work the bow for hours on end sitting under the oak tree in the front yard. When the contest came she had a shooter that was a very good bow. The MO humidity took it's toll however and it was loosing cast with every shot. She took 4th place and said that she'd be back.
That next winter we got a call from Rusty, he'd found a bunch of osage suckers that were perfect for hatchet bows. We headed over and were soon selecting and chopping away. An hour or so passed and we had four perfect hatchet staves.
We brought them home and Connie started working her's down green. Taking it to a bow blank with most of the back taken to a growth ring. The blank went in the rafters of the shop and sat there all year. We were unable to go to MoJam so Connie didn't finish it. This spring, there was a lot of talk on the Tradgang about the contest and I offered that Connie would be coming with a bow again this year. She didn't know it yet. That evening I told her what I said and she got the blank down an started to finish the bow. She put in many hours and didn't finish it til the morning of the contest. I watch her shoot it and was impressed with the speed and cast. When the contest arrived, she entered and we watched the judges do there thing. Hers was first to shoot and there were a lot of Oohs and AAhs. The rest of the bows were shot and the judges retest a couple of bows. We were all real excited when the Judges announced that she had won.
I called Rusty that evening from camp and he was as proud as a new father.
Next year, Jason is going to enter a bow in hopes of making it a three peat for the family.
Mickey "the Ferret" Lotz has a story of the hatchet bow contest is coming out in the next issue of the Bowyer' Journal.


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