Top Gun Archer Dougo Wentzel

By Melinda Mawdsley

All was quiet in the early morning hours of the annual Western Colorado elk rut.

Dougo Wentzel and a group of archery hunters moved into the middle of an opening when Wentzel started cow calling to see what animals were around. Within 45 minutes, he saw his opportunity and the calm morning turned into a frenzy of activity when Wentzel took off running, breaking branches and storming over drying brush to simulate the noise of an elk herd.

A testosterone-fueled young bull elk, unable to discern Wentzel from a female elk, was drawn to the noise.

“My brother and I had been hunting like this for years,” Wentzel said, adding that the quiet, sneaky experience some may associate with hunting is not his preferred method for success.

Wentzel, 53, ultimately wants to lure elk closer to him.

“Most of the elk we’ve harvested is at 10 yards,” he said. “I’ve popped an elk on the nose to get him off me.”

Although the years, locations and hunters incorporated into this hunting story change, the ending is often the same.

In an annual competition between Wentzel and the region’s bull elk, the longtime western Colorado hunter, and well-known archery instructor and tournament participant, rarely loses.

“He’s one of the better callers for elk that I’ve been around,” said Grand Junction’s Jan Klinger. He has gone archery hunting with Wentzel the past few years and taken lessons with the expert archer.

“(Wentzel is) very aggressive in his techniques in calling elk — stomping the ground, breaking tree limbs. Last year, he called in over a 350 (inch) bull and two other bulls at the same time in the Rangely area. He set me up for a shot, and I declined because I thought I could get closer. We had fun with that bull for over an hour, trying to stalk him and trying to get to a reasonable distance to shoot the elk. The challenge of that is a lot of fun. Trying to outsmart a bull elk is very difficult.”

Whether it’s leading hunters on an aggressive, adrenaline-fueled run through the western Colorado woods or helping archers of all ages improve their mark through lessons — his business is Dougo’s Archery 101 — Wentzel is a prominent figure in the region’s avid hunting culture.

“You see people bow hunting and it’s addictive,” said Wentzel, who picked up the nickname “Dougo” years ago.

Growing up on a ranch with an outfitting business in the Parachute area, Wentzel was introduced to hunting at a young age, shooting his first bow at 14, refining his skill but unaware there was this world of competitive archery out there.

In 1989, Wentzel was in his mid-20s and living in Fort Collins when he went shopping for arrows and came upon an indoor shooting range where an outfitter named Fred Eichler lauded Wentzel’s skills.

Eichler asked Wentzel if he competed in archery tournaments.

Wentzel said, “No. I shoot the ‘P’ in a Pepsi can” for target practice.

Eichler invited Wentzel to a shooting league and Wentzel accepted, offering $20 to anyone who could beat Wentzel.

“Sure enough, I beat everybody,” Wentzel said. “Freddy said ‘I told you, you were really, really good.’ ”

Call it the informal beginning of a professional career that has spanned several decades and yielded, among many top finishes, top 10 placements in different divisions of the National Field Archery Association’s prestigious international tournament The Vegas Shoot, including first place in 1994 in the Pro Limited division, seventh in the Pro Championship division in 2000 or so and a fourth-place finish in 2015 in the Senior Pro Championship division; a 1994 world championship in 3-D archery in the Archery Shooters Association tournament; a second-place finish at the NFAA Indoor National Championship in 1995; an appearance in the 2000 ESPN Great Outdoor Games; 2015 and 2016 overall championships in archery in the Huntsman World Senior Games; and sponsorships from Hoyt, Arizona Archery Enterprises, Carter Enterprises and Red Rock Archery in Grand Junction.

When Wentzel isn’t competing, hunting or working, he’s probably at Red Rock Archery’s indoor range.

Red Rock Archery is where Klinger met Wentzel. Klinger’s grandson Cooper Lovern, 13, also works with Wentzel.

“(Wentzel) found my weaknesses,” said Lovern, who placed fifth in his first tournament and has gone on to win others in the two years working with Wentzel.

A self-taught archer, Wentzel enjoys instructing people of all ages — his biggest clientele are women and youth — on the finer points of archery. He even works with his son Beauen Wentzel, 10.

“He knows what to do,” Beauen said. “He has a lot of patience to help you.”