Sometimes the path to a new lifestyle is smoothly paved, and marked with neon signs telling you where to go. Sometimes the path is rough and rocky, with forks at every turn. Matt Stutzman’s path was rocky, but it was far from impassable. In fact, he navigated his rocky path to become a renowned bowhunter, competitive archer and two-time Paralympian.
Stutzman was born without arms, and his birth parents were told it would be extremely expensive to raise him because of all the modifications the doctor believed he needed to survive. They put him up for adoption when realizing they did not have the money to care for him. He was adopted 13 months later, and his new parents raised him to believe he did not need modifications to live a normal life.
Stutzman adopted that approach. “If you would walk into my house and look around, there is nothing that would make you think, ‘A guy without arms lives here,’” he said in this video from Hoyt Archery’s YouTube channel, as part of the “Defiant” series. Stutzman tackles the world as he is, forever adapting to situations, not the other way around.
Even so, he had difficulty finding a job, but wanted to provide for his wife and family. As archery season approached one year, he devised a plan and shared it with his wife. He asked, “Honey, what do you think about me getting a bow, and going out into the woods and harvesting deer, and putting food on the table?”
She thought it was a great idea. Hunting his own food was important for Stutzman’s sense of purpose, and it helped him teach his children to be ethical by eating what you shoot.
Stutzman isn’t alone in that belief. More individuals are choosing to harvest their own meat because the quality of their food and how it’s acquired is becoming more important to many people. It’s not only ethical, it’s good for the body and the wallet. Plus, it’s a tradition that can be passed down for generations to come, which is what Stutzman hopes to do with his children.
Stutzman taught himself to bowhunt, and so can anyone who is willing to make the effort. Bowhunting 360 has tips and important information for those looking to begin their bowhunting journey. Those skills include how to identify animal tracks and other basic questions.
Stutzman’s interest in archery grew after he learned to shoot a bow for deer hunting. He became an accomplished archer, taking his skill from the woods to competition while earning the nickname, “Armless Archer.” Stutzman credits bowhunting for his transition to competition because it taught him to handle pressure.
“As a hunter trying to take care of his family and put food on the table, it’s a pressure situation,” he said in the video. “So, I started to shoot archery tournaments because I felt like if I could shoot under that kind of pressure in the woods, that pressure wouldn’t get to me as bad, and I could make much better shots.”
Stutzman shoots a compound bow. For those wishing to learn this craft, Archery360’s website dedicates a section to teaching beginners how to shoot a compound bow and other bow types.
People have many reasons for teaching themselves something new, whether it’s sheer curiosity or a situational need. Learning new things can sharpen the mind, body and spirit. Maybe bowhunting can offer new beginnings for you.