When the Bow Hunting 101 class started at Outdoor Campus West, the instructors were only expecting about six people to fill out the class.

Since that time, the class has expanded to 12 people and is now full until the next time the classes are offered either in November or December.

Keith Wintersteen, group program naturalist, leads the class with Scott Smallwood. Wintersteen said the course is vital for anyone who is interested in bow hunting.

"We cover all of the basic information you would need to know if you were to pick up a bow and start hunting big game," he said. "We’ll try to get you squared away, so you have a high degree of confidence and you know how to have a successful hunt."

Wintersteen said hunting elk is a slightly different endeavor than other big game like deer or antelope, and the course does not cover that.

The course meets Tuesdays and occasional Saturdays, like this Saturday, when there will be a tree stand safety component to the course which will teach the proper ways to set up, and even fall out of, a tree stand.

The course itself covers 12-16 hours of material and features a little under three hour class times, taking four to six weeks to complete. Wintersteen said at the completion of it, a bow hunter will have completed a safety accreditation for bow hunting.

"We can cover a lot of things that come up in class that you can't anticipate until you get in that situation," he said. "The current class amounts to having myself and a volunteer dive headfirst into taking them from 'Which end is the pointy end?' to 'How do I clean this thing?'"

The course is an off-shoot of a hunting 101 course, and Wintersteen said he found that a lot of people either wanted to hunt with a bow for the first time after hunting with a rifle or weren't interested in anything other than bow hunting, so he started the course.

The result was people of all different skill levels have picked it up.

"We have competitive tournament archers for 10-12 years, but no one had taught them how to go from tournament archery to hunting archery to put food on the table. We have also have people who have never picked up a bow before."

Although Wintersteen said the current course is full, and the course that is later in the season won't leave much time for hunting this year. But the course is comprehensive enough that it will give hunters a head start on the spring season.

"It gives you eight months to practice," he said. "It's a lot of work, but it can be done, people are looking for a little instruction and usually people just run with it and go."

If not, the course is available in spring, and Wintersteen said Outdoor Campus is planning on opening a new archery center by the spring time where the class will be held.

The course isn't just a way for bow hunters to learn about archery, it's also a way for them know more about the animal they are trying to capture.

"In addition to general archery skills, we teach a lot of biology," he said. "A big part of hunting is learning the world around you, how to react when the animal is calm, alert, what to do when people startle them, feed, sleep, focusing on deer and antelope, but in watching them, you’ll see a lot of other things. It’s an immersion in nature."

Contact Geoff Preston at geoffrey.preston@rapidcityjournal.com