Hunter, wife stay sharp with bows

Virginia and Tom McGee say their archery activities keep them youthful. Tom, 87, has been bow hunting since he was about 55 years old, and Virginia, 85, has been shooting three-dimensional targets since she was 72 years old.

Tom McGee is a procrastinator, and the evidence is in his living room.

On the coffee table of Tom and Virginia McGee’s home in Eudora is a picture album — “The Over the Hill Years” — that chronicles every deer Tom has taken with a bow and arrow in the last 10 years.

On the front of the album, numbers ranging from 75 to 86 are scratched out. Each year was supposed to be the age that Tom, now 87, quit hunting.

“Each year, I tell the kids it’s going to be my last year,” Tom said, who retired 25 years ago as a surveyor for Douglas County. “This year, I really think it might be, but I keep asking in my prayers to keep on keeping on.”

Tom has been hunting and fishing since he was about 10. However, he only started bow hunting about 30 years ago. He has been bow hunting exclusively for the last decade or so.

“You’d be surprised how much enjoyment you get,” Tom said. “You get pretty close to God sitting in a tree, being out in nature with the animals.”

Although Tom still climbs trees to sit and wait for deer, many of his other hunting practices have changed.

For starters, he looks to shoot smaller deer because the carcasses don’t weigh as much.

“I’ve never got what you would call trophies; plus, I always felt the smaller deer were more of a challenge,” he said. “The main reason I turned to bow hunting was the challenge.”

The sight of an 87-year-old man climbing a tree surprised even Virginia, 85, who said it makes Tom “look like a kid.”

“I do it very carefully,” Tom said.

Another advantage of bow hunting is the safety factor as more homes are built in the rural areas surrounding Eudora, Tom said.

“As the population moved to the country, you didn’t know where houses were,” he said. “The safety factor makes it a much more enjoyable hunt. You shoot an arrow, and you’re not going to shoot someone’s picture window out.”

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how the couple use the deer Tom kills.

“We butcher them all ourselves — cut up the meat and none of it goes to waste,” Tom said.

The couple’s interest in archery isn’t limited to hunting, as evidenced by the eight trophies on display in the living room.

“What I’m proud of is her,” said Tom, referring to his wife.

Virginia developed a passion for archery when she was 72 years old.

“I went with him shooting 3-D targets, and I thought it looked like fun,” Virginia said.

She took up the sport with Tom, and for a time the two went to outdoor 3-D range competitions about every other weekend, Virginia said. Although they’ve cut back on competitions, the McGees said archery has helped them maintain vitality.

“You have to have something that you’re interested in,” Virginia said.

“I really think hunting is part of why I’m still here,” Tom said. “I love it. You’ve heard about people being in their second childhood; well, that’s where I’m at.”