Don Sampson's first encounter with bow and arrows ended with a spanking.
Then 8 years old, the Brentwood boy had removed the suction cups from the toy arrows and sharpened the points with a pencil sharpener to make them more effective.
Not only were the bow and arrows taken away, but "I got whipped to boot," recalled the 65-year-old man, now of Kent Island.
Mr. Sampson was one of about 80 participants in yesterday's annual Miller Bros. Chevrolet Bowhunters' Contest at the Howard County Fairgrounds. Competitors said they love the sport because of its physical and mental challenges, and the opportunity to enjoy nature.
"You go out and practice for three or four hours, and you're dead tired but you feel good," said Ruth Spradlin of Riverdale in Prince George's County.
"It puts you at peace of mind," said Mike Shields of Capitol Heights.
"You can leave all your worries at home," interrupts his friend, Johnnie Stevens of Suitland. "If you like nature, there's nothing better than bow hunting."
Many bowhunters said they would not trade their bows for guns or rifles.
"It's a quiet sport," said Buzz Chamberlain of Ellicott City. During the daylong event, all that could be heard was the low chatter of spectators and competitors as they took turns shooting models of a standing black bear, white-tailed deer, turkey and javelina, a mountain pig.
Competitors used two types of bows: compound, which are outfitted with sights and other gadgets to make bow hunting easier, and traditional or recurve bows, which are lighter and more simple.
Enthusiasts said collecting the equipment is half the fun. "It just grabs you," Mr. Stevens said. "It's addictive." During the two years he's been involved in bow hunting, he has acquired four or five bows.
Ms. Spradlin, who picked up archery last summer, said she bought a new bow for about $130 but has known people to spend up to $600 on equipment. "It can be expensive," she said. "The more you get into it, the better equipment you want."
In the traditional/recurve division, Peter Witt won first place; Bill Fowlkes won second place; and Ronny Williams won third place.
In the compound division, David Benden of Glenwood won first; Bob Linz of Reisterstown won second place; and Shawn Tyler won third.
First-place winners earned $200 and a trophy; second place won $100 and a trophy; and third place earned $50 and a trophy.