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Bowhunting on the internet

 Dave Mullins searched the vast expanse of the Internet in vain.

He had hoped to find a website that catered specifically to hunters like him - bowhunters who prefer to hunt on public, rather than private, land. He found bits and pieces here and there, but never the whole enchilada.

"The main thing I wasn't finding was a one-stop shop, so to speak," Mullins said.

So, last December, he sat down at the computer in his Charleston apartment and started designing the Public Land Bowhunters website.

"I wanted bowhunters across the country to have a central, comprehensive online destination where they could have all their needs met, and where they could meet new people who share a passion for bowhunting on public land."

When Mullins said comprehensive, he meant it.

The site, www.publiclandbowhunters/forumotion.com, has forums where hunters can discuss almost every imaginable aspect of their pastime.

There is a general discussion forum, of course, but there are also forums that cater to very specific areas.

One is geared toward education. In it, Mullins created sub-forums dedicated to do-it-yourself projects, weather, maps and GPS, and information about blood-trailing wounded animals.

Another, under the heading "Chasin' Critters on Public Land," has sub-forums dedicated to bears, deer, elk, hogs, predators, turkeys, small game and bowfishing.

Still another contains links to bowhunting forums in all 50 states. West Virginia's, for example, contains sub-links to the West Virginia Bowhunters Association website, the Traditional Bowhunters of Southern West Virginia site, and links to hunting-related news specific to the state.

An equipment forum contains sub-forums dedicated to bows, arrows, broadheads, tree stands and ground blinds. There are also sub-forums that link to preferred merchants, forum contests, forum polls, and forum classifieds. There are even sub-forums for members of the military and for bowhunters of the Christian faith.

"I want the forum to be inclusive rather than exclusive," Mullins said. "The forum is open to people who enjoy any legal archery equipment — compound bows, recurve bows, longbows, crossbows or self bows."

And while the forum does cater specifically to bowhunters, Mullins said it's open to literally anyone.

"I support all legal forms of hunting in the United States," he said. "All of us decide what form of hunting is best for us, and everyone is welcome on this website, regardless which form of hunting we prefer."

The site currently has 317 members. Membership is free, but isn't necessary to gain access to the forums.

"I wanted to make it completely transparent, so anyone could look through it without having to become a member," Mullins said. "Public land bowhunting has been my passion for a long time. That's why I've spent so many hours creating content for this website. I believe that the more knowledgeable a hunter is the better. We owe it to the animals we hunt - and to our sport - to be the most knowledgeable, ethical bowhunters we can be."

Mullins has both short-term and long-term goals for the website.

"By the end of this year, I hope to have 1,000 members," he said. "A year from now, I want the forum to have developed a national identity and to have become a go-to spot for archers."

Word appears to be getting out.

"Just this week, I've added 22 members and three preferred merchants. A few big-name bowhunters are among the new members, and national companies are among the preferred merchants," Mullins said.

Every day after he arrives home from his job in the health-care industry, Mullins sits down at his computer and searches the Internet for pertinent new material. Often, he calls on his own knowledge and expertise and creates original content.

"It's a mix," he said. "It's a combination of my knowledge and stuff from other sources."

He's particularly proud of the research he's done in helping hunters understand how better to blood-trail animals they've shot.

"Some of the material came from forensic experts on interpreting blood spatter," he said. "It goes into great detail on how to interpret blood sign."

Knowledge is only one of the things Mullins hopes to impart in his site.

"The goal is to make that knowledge available, and also to entertain my fellow hunters and to help them develop a sense of camaraderie with like-minded people," he said. "It's my goal that the forum grows to be the best online destination for our niche membership."

Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or e-mail johnmccoy@wvgazette.com.


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