Archers extraordinaire Bowhunters of the Year announced
Felicia Briggs holds up a whitetail buck she harvested this year. Her son, Caden, and daughter, Calbria, joined her on the trip, which made it her favorite harvest yet.
Photo courtesy of Felicia Briggs
Travis Sura excitedly accepts the Youth Bowhunter of the Year trophy at Saturday’s 40th annual LBA Banquet at the Trade Center.
Photo courtesy of Lewistown Bowhunters Association
Gene Sanford smiles proudly by a bull elk he harvested a few years ago. Sanford is honored to be Lewistown Bowhunters Association Male Bowhunter of the Year.
Photo courtesy of Lewistown Bowhunters Association
This week, the Lewistown Bowhunters Association Board announced its Bowhunters of the Year: Male Bowhunter of the Year went to Gene Sanford, Felicia Briggs won Best Female Bowhunter and Travis Sura took home “Best in Youth.” The News-Argus interviewed the winners, who shared their love for the sport and even gave a little advice.
A bowhunter since 1985, Gene Sanford is pleased to receive the honorary award. Passionate about the sport, the Lewistown native is an avid hunter and a dedicated LBA member.
When Sanford started bowhunting, he wasn’t aware there was a local bowhunting association. After about two years on his own, he joined the group, and he’s enjoyed all it has to offer.
“Being able to get to the LBA’s archery range and practice has really helped me fine-tune my shooting,” Sanford said. “It really prepares me.”
Practice paid off, as Sanford killed a turkey and a bull elk during the 2016 hunting season.
“All the practicing has especially helped me trust my instincts and know where I want to shoot,” he said.
Hit or miss, Sanford said just going out with his bow is half the fun.
“I like being out, seeing the animals and watching them interact,” he said. “I like to try and outsmart them, too.”
Sanford appreciates recognition from the LBA, but what he appreciates the most is the camaraderie the group offers.
“I’ve met a lot of great people,” he said.
A bowhunter for the past 10 years, Felicia said she couldn’t believe it when she was named Female Bowhunter of the Year.
“I was blown away,” she said. “I was very honored in being selected for this award.”
Although it took a few years to get comfortable, Felicia said bowhunting is something she was excited about from the get-go, and she’s thankful her husband, Shawn, got her into it.
“If it wasn’t for Shawn, I wouldn’t be bowhunting at all,” she said.
Now she’s hooked. Every hunting season she goes out, usually bringing her children, seven-year-old Calbria and four-year-old Cade.
“It’s wonderful to be able to grow in my love for the sport and be able to share it with my kids,” she said.
Felicia said LBA has helped strengthen this family bond.
“My kids and I love LBA,” she said. “There are great people involved, and it has one of the best archery ranges in the state. I feel fortunate we have this club in our community.”
A range regular, Felicia said she credits the LBA for much of her success, and she had a lot of it, as she harvested a whitetail buck, a whitetail doe, a turkey, carp and an alligator.
Although the alligator was the most exotic kill, Felicia said the buck meant the most, as she had both her kids with her when it happened.
Togetherness is a big part of bowhunting for Felicia, but it’s the challenge that makes it thrilling, and she’s no stranger to challenge, as she has even gone bowhunting while seven months pregnant (with Calbria).
“I got my second harvest (a doe) on that trip,” she said.
In his first year as a bowhunter, 12-year-old Travis Sura defied his expectations, harvesting some rodents, a grouse and a mountain lion.
“It fell out of the tree and collapsed,” Travis said.
Harvesting a mountain lion was cool, Sura said, but there are a couple other animals he’d consider his “dream harvest.”
“I’d really like to get a dall sheep or a moose,” he said
Like Sanford and Felicia, Sura also enjoys the challenge bowhunting offers.
“It’s harder than rifle hunting,” he said. “You have to get close enough where you can get a shot off.”
This being the case, it’s important to practice, Sura said, and the LBA has helped him build up the confidence to get a kill.
Not only does Travis enjoy the range, but he also appreciates people inviting him on hunting trips regularly.
“It means a lot that people would take time out of their day, mentor me and take me out bow hunting,” he said.
Sura said winning Youth Bowhunter of the Year also means a lot to him, and it encourages him to stick with the sport moving forward.
“I’ll keep doing this forever,” he said. “I won’t ever stop.”
Advice for future bowhunters
For those just getting into the sport, the award-winning bowhunters shared a few tips.
“Be patient,” Sanford said, “and be prepared. Always bring a backpack and a game cart.”
Felicia’s advice: just go out and enjoy it.
“It’s not about the harvest,” she said. “It’s about getting out there and having an experience.”
Sura’s advice is similar, as he said it’s important to not get discouraged.
“Even if you miss, you’ve got to get back at it. Just keep going,” he said, “and keep practicing.”