Oklahoma Selfbow Society

Our Story

"A Bit of History" by Thomas “Tommy” Leach


In July of 2003, MOJAM (Ozark Selfbow Jamboree) was in it’s fifth year. For those of you unfamiliar with MOJAM, it takes place in Marshall, Missouri and held the third weekend in July. 

MOJAM Welcome Banner

It was the premier event for the Selfbow community at that time, but a seven-hour drive from Oklahoma City. Doug Rutter, Mike Hames, John Cooke, Terry Newman and Ralph Renfro were attending and hanging out together and came up with the idea to have a similar event closer to home. So, the planning started.

Doug volunteered his dad’s property southeast of Stillwater. I learned of the event in January as I was teaching a seminar at Pawnee Bill Ranch. I had known Mikee from a men’s event I attended a few years earlier and contacted him about the soon-to-be Oklahoma Selfbow Jamboree. He put me in touch with Doug and I volunteered to help since I was in Stillwater and Doug was in Sapulpa, Ralph in Kansas and the others in Norman.

They decided on Spring Break of 2004 as the date for the first OJAM.

2004: The First OJAM

This first event had 35-40 people. Most were building bows and building friendships. A bandsaw and sander were brought, a clout shoot was shot across the lake and a potluck dinner was held. To say it was a success is an understatement.

2005: OJAM, Rain or Shine

Year two brought rains and mud. We rented a 20’ X 20’ tent, filled it with bow benches and waded mud over ankle deep. It was so nasty we didn’t hold a clout shoot but took the donated prizes and held an auction to pay for tent and porta-potty rentals.

Even with the weather, we had close to one hundred people in attendance.

2006: Outreach

During the third year, we worked with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Outdoor Oklahoma TV show to produce a special on OJAM.

Our goal was to take someone who had never built a bow through the complete process. Then, he would be filmed hunting with his own equipment. The segment was a success even though no animals were harmed. This helped get our event on the "outdoor" radar.

2007/2008: Growth and Next Steps

During years four and five, we continued to grow. It was becoming obvious we needed to form an organization for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, we needed to protect Ed and Martha Rutter and those of us organizing the event from any potential litigation. 

By creating an organization, we could purchase liability insurance. We could also raise funds to purchase gravel for the road, tents and pay for portable toilets.

2009: The Founding of The Oklahoma Selfbow Society

In early 2009, seventeen of us met in Stillwater to discuss creating this organization. We created a Charter and Mission for the group. Several names were tossed around with everyone agreeing on the Oklahoma Selfbow Society.

We determined we needed a Board of Directors to include a President, Vice-President, Secretary / Treasurer, Four Area Representative using I35 and I40 to break the areas, a Non-resident Representative, and Event Coordinator and a Webmaster. I was elected to be President while using the restroom. Mike Hames was elected VP and Terry Newman Sec / Treas. I had served on a couple of boards for non-profit organizations and used those Constitution and Bylaws to draft our first documents.

2010 and Beyond

In the years to follow, we updated our bylaws to better fit the group and make for smoother transitions between officers. We continued to see OJAM grow to a peak attendance of approximately 1800 folks. We also changed how we taught attendees from just visiting with those with some experience to setting up camps. This change also allowed us to develop the yellow hat / red hat structure. This enabled the development of future instructors.

We were extremely blessed for Ed and Martha Rutter. Without them OJAM and OSS would have never existed. Ed was our first inductee to the OSS Hall of Fame. OJAM has seen rain, mud, snow, and hail and most recently cold and wind, but that’s springtime in Oklahoma.

OJAM was held annually until COVID a few years ago. We missed two years then we were able to get back together. During that time, we were able to negotiate with OSU and Lake Carl Blackwell thanks to Rodney Wilson, Conrad Kleinholz and Jason Grace. The past two years we have resumed and continue to develop our relationship with LCB.

I’d be remised if I didn’t mention a few other things about OSS. We have brought in speakers from across the country such as Monty Browning, Dick Robertson and well as locals like Mike Yancey and JD Jones. We were a large part of the ODWC Wildlife Expo demonstrating our craft and bringing archery to kids with our rattan bows. Our rattan giveaways, between the Expo and OJAM have put some 4000+ bows into the hands of our future outdoors men and women.

I’ve left out a lot of little details otherwise this article would be pages and pages. To wrap up, it is an honor for me to have helped Doug, Ralph, Mikee, Terry, and John get this rolling. It also makes me proud to see leaders like Mike Magee, Conrad and Jason carry on the vision we had twenty years ago.

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