In The Beginning – As told by Walt Dixon (Charter member)
Ever wonder how we got started? Did you become a member early in NYB’s history? How does an organization like NYB begin? How did we get our first members when you’re dealing with all of NY State? How do you grow membership and decide what programs to create, how to deal with State government and DEC?
I was there in the beginning. I was at the very first meeting of 17 bowhunters from all over NY. We did not all know each other. How could this meeting come about when the attendees were from all across the state? Here is the story.
In central NY near Syracuse, there were a small group of bowhunters, 10 or so, that started a small archery club named Bois DArc. We met once a month to shoot, make arrows and teach ourselves and others more about traditional equipment. A few of us happened to notice an article in Bowhunter Magazine that was an interview with Greg Haskell, owner of Skyline Camo. In that interview, Greg mentioned he’d like to start a bowhunting organization in NY. Tom Weaver, a member of our club, took the time to call Greg. Tom reported that Greg had said there were several other people around the state who had called him and he’d like to arrange a meeting to discuss starting a NY State Bowhunting organization. The members of Bois DArc decided to offer Greg a place we could all meet near the center of the state. Dale Walburger made the arrangements for a meeting to be held at the Lafayette Inn in Lafayette NY, 15 miles south of Syracuse on March 17 in 1991.
On that morning in March, 17 bowhunters from around the state met. Some were only at that first meeting, never to be seen again. Most continued to work on the project of creating and building a state bowhunting organization. Those present at that first meeting included; Greg Haskell, Ben Dodge, Tom Weaver, Dale Walburger, John Engelken, Bob Gardner, Doug Korn, Gordy Ferris, Doug Kerr, Jeff Vinson, Fadi Bahouth, Bill Webster, Michael Paul, Russell Scott, Dick Mertz, Bill Saroka and myself. After introductions, we discussed this ambitious venture and were all in agreement that a single interest group which focused only on bowhunting was needed in NY and we wanted to form one.
Up to that point the venerable New York Field Archers and Bowhunters (NYFAB) had done a tremendous job representing both bowhunting and field archery in NY. We felt their focus had changed more towards field archery and tournaments, although they still represented NY’s bowhunters, and that a single interest organization representing only bowhunting was in order.
During the meeting, Ben & Greg disclosed they had worked on a set of by-laws. Gregs daughter had artistic skills and had made a tentative logo, a six point buck head in a broadhead on top of the state of NY. The meeting went on most of the day and we agreed to adopt the by-laws and logo. Most of us got out our checkbooks and wrote a check to Ben Dodge as seed money to pay our first expenses. We also decided to split the state into 3 regions; East, West and North. (Later this would become the 9 regions matching the DEC boundaries that we now have) Ben Dodge volunteered to lead us as the first president. I followed as vice, Greg Haskell as treasurer and Doug Korn offered to be secretary. Bob Gardner, Gordy Ferris, Fadi Bahouth, Michael Paul, Bill Webster, Bill Saroka, Dale Walburger and Tom Weaver became directors in our 3 regions.
In April of 1991 we had our second meeting in Coudersport, PA at Denton Hill at the Professional Bowhunters Society second year gathering. Many of the founding members also belonged to PBS. We spent some time shooting arrows at the 3-D targets during the day, while late afternoons and evenings were spent doing NYB work.
June 2nd & 3rd, 1991 was our third Board meeting. It was at this meeting that Harry Rhulen was added as a charter member and made 2nd Vice President to represent us as our attorney. These meetings were laborious, starting Friday evening and going all day Saturday and all day Sunday. My wife, Brenda (who went on to serve many years as NYB’s Administrative Secretary) and I hosted these meetings at our home. At night the guys would be in sleeping bags on our couches, floors, and basement. Ben and I would begin working on the days agenda beginning at about 5 AM while the others got a little more sleep. By 8 AM we would all be up and work until 10 or 11 at night! It was a true labor of love.
August 24th, 1991 we held our 4th BOD meeting (remember all the officers and directors are traveling from the far reaches of the state with no reimbursement) followed by our first general membership meeting at the Lafayette Inn on August 25th. We decided to have an annual rendezvous and planned it for April 25th and 26th 1992. There were 26 members at this first general meeting in 1991. We had issued our first newsletter prior to that meeting. The newsletter had no name and was photocopied at 6 pages including a map on how to get there. At this August meeting, Ralph Stuart volunteered to help out with the newsletter. When asked if he had any background, we found out he was the Senior Editor at Outdoor Life Magazine! We couldn’t believe our luck in landing Ralph to take over our publication. The first issue was named Full Draw and was the pride of the organization. Unfortunately for us, Ralph eventually received a great job offer at another magazine which took him out of state and he could no longer do our magazine. Very fortunately for us, Ben and Diane Dodge along with Doug and Michelle Korn took over as our editors (during my presidency they saved my life!) and continued delivering to our members a first class magazine.
January 18th, 1992 was our next board meeting followed by our first Rendezvous, April 25th and 26th 1992 at Creekside Gun Shop in Holcomb, NY. We actually had two board meetings and a General Membership meeting this weekend. If you are getting the idea we were doing a lot of work, you’re right !
All during the first 4 years, the officers, board members and other member volunteers were busy trying to spread the word. We traveled all over the state trying to reach every club, county federation and bow shop to ask, Who is the best known bowhunter in your area After obtaining a name we would call that person and say, You may not have heard of us, but can we come and talk with you about a new state bowhunting organization? I met with the President and another officer of NYFAB to help them understand what we were trying to do, and also reassure them we had no interest in target archery and hoped for their support to work together on bowhunting issues in the state. As all of you began to join and chipped in with the work, the load became easier. Many of us were putting in 20 to 30 hours per week, nights and weekends for the first four years just to get NYB up and running. The grassroots efforts on the county level really had a strong impact. In 1993 we topped 3500 members and even reached 4000 at one point!
We continued to have an Annual Rendezvous and Ben Dodge put together our first spring Banquet in April 1995. As all of you continued to volunteer and work I began to realize what real quality bowhunters and human beings made up NYB. I can’t begin to mention all the names of the men and women who have given their blood, sweat and tears to grow NYB with members and programs. Those of us that founded the organization are greatly humbled and in awe of what you all are accomplishing. Take a look at the NYB Accomplishments link elsewhere on this website. Print out that list and if someone asks you why they should join NYB, show them what you’ve accomplished.
I could go on and on, but I simply wanted to give you insight into the beginning as we approach our 20th anniversary. I hope you found it interesting. Please continue to support NYB with your membership, sign up a fellow bowhunter, teach a youngster, and continue to work hard for the organization you have helped build. Those of us that founded NYB never imagined the levels you would take your state bowhunting organization to. You’ve made us the best single interest sportsmens group in New York and one of the best state bowhunting organizations in the United States. Many of you are so accomplished in many areas and have so much to contribute. I, along with all the founding members are proud of NYB and so very proud of all of you.
Past Presidents of NYB