- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - When JayDee Flohr of Grand Island goes hunting, it’s about strategy and tradition.

He doesn’t use modern firearms. He doesn’t use a compound bow. He doesn’t even wear camouflage.

Instead, he enjoys the challenge of traditional hunting - muzzleloaders, long bows, and buckskin.

“He’s my definition of a modern Mountain Man,” said friend Gary Hickman, who has a hatchet sheath made by Flohr. “He’ll go out rabbit hunting in the middle of winter and shoot a rabbit and build a fire and cook it right there.”

Flohr said his passion for shooting sports started in high school in Marquette, but his interest in traditional methods really grew from a friend and mentor, the late Bob May.

“He was a heck of a craftsman, he could do anything,” Flohr said.

The Grand Island Independent (http://bit.ly/295bmA3 ) reports that Flohr was already shooting competitive archery, but also got into muzzleloading. He’s a current member of the Lower Loup Muzzleloader Club by Dannebrog.

As he grew more comfortable with the traditional equipment, he began making his own gear.

His current pride and joy is a Flintlock Fowler, 62 caliber, 20 gauge, with a maple stock.

“It will shoot anything from buckshot to a round ball,” Flohr said. “It will take squirrels to deer and everything in between. It’s a good gun.”

Hickman has shot Flohr’s Fowler and said it’s impressive - as are Flohr’s talents.

“He’s got good blacksmithing talent with the knives he makes,” Hickman said. “He’s an amazing fellow.”

Flohr has used all kinds of metals in his workshop to make knives. He’s used everything from stock metal, to car parts, or old files.

The knife currently on the bench is from a metal rasp. A caribou antler was shaped into the handle with an end cap made from a piece of maple from a tree that Flohr’s parents grew from a seed and he had logged after it was felled.

Next up on his workbench is a farrier’s rasp, that he plans to shape and sharpen into a unique piece. He handcrafts knives in all kinds of styles from Damascus, to rustic and big-bladed Bowie knives, named after James Bowie, who died at the Alamo. He also makes knives from bone.

“It varies in what I build,” he said.

Flohr, who is a retired sign fabricator, used to have his own forge to heat and shape the metal, but sold it to work more on other pieces that he crafts from grinding and sanding.

Another love of Flohr’s is a lemonwood long bow with walnut and ebony accents that he calls “The Phoenix.”

“It was made in the 1940s and I’ve repaired it twice,” he said.

The purpleheart backing on the bow broke, so Flohr replaced it with hickory.

“I put new backing on it and retillered it, but it was too strong for me to pull - it was probably 65 pounds, so I took it down to 47 (pounds) and it’s a fun bow to shoot,” he said.

Lowering that poundage, or draw weight on the bow, is accomplished by “scrapping away wood,” he said. It’s precise work because once it’s lowered, the wood is gone so it can’t be adjusted upward again.

Flohr makes his own bow string - Flemish twist string.

“It’s three bundles of five strands each that are twisted together - there’s no knots or anything in it - it’s all twist that holds it together,” he said.

It’s easier to make the string for a hand-crafted or repaired bow because then the length is just what is needed and Flemish string just “looks cool,” Flohr said.

He also likes to make his own arrows and quivers. Of his quivers, some he made from elk hide, some from tubes covered with basketweave caning.

Some arrows are made from wood, some from bamboo, which he heats slightly on the joints to straighten. He splits turkey feathers and sands them down to make fletching and uses deer antler to make the nock on the arrow.

“Bamboo arrows are a lot of work to make - they are labor intensive,” Flohr said. “They are so crooked to begin with you have to straighten them.”

But even with the imperfect knots in the bamboo, Flohr said if the arrow’s nock and point are in line, they will still fly pretty well.

“Making my own arrows is real satisfying,” he said. “To take an animal with an arrow that you’ve handcrafted from scratch is satisfying.”

To further up the challenge, Flohr said he’s been “traveling light” lately.

“I’m getting to the point I don’t even carry a quiver - one arrow, that’s it,” he said. “If I can’t get it down in one arrow, I’m going home.”

Flohr earned 24 state titles in archery before he retired from competitive shooting in 1990. He served as president of the Third City Archery Club in 1988. While he used compound and recurve bows during those competitive years, he’s turned now to primarily shooting the long bow in efforts to present new challenges.

His next new challenge will be building a long-bow from a piece of 6-feet-long osage orange. He uses planes and knives to get the wood the right thickness.

“You have to follow the same growth ring all the way down … scrape it down to one continuous growth ring,” he said. “If you don’t, it will epically fail.”

“I’ve got to chase this ring down the whole length, and it’s tricky to see the difference,” Flohr said.

But he can feel and listen to getting to the right thickness too. There’s a soft covering just before the growth ring that feels “punky” and the knife “chatters” as its getting to the proper growth ring, he said.

It’s just all part of the challenge and the tradition - of having multiple skills to do things as they once were.

“I just enjoy shooting,” Flohr said. “There’s always something else to learn.”

___

Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com

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