Our journey to London to watch the Olympic archery competition was only a few hours underway when I realized what a “fish out of water” I would be. For all the years of my long love affair with archery, I’ve never stepped up to the line, pulled back my bow and shot against anyone for the best score. I’ve never shot in a tournament, a club event or even against a friend for pocket change or backyard bragging rights. Why? Because I’m a bowhunter. Bowhunting has been my world.
I’ll soon be on Lord’s Cricket Ground in St. John’s Wood in North London, sitting and watching the world’s best archers shoot for all the marbles. I’ve bowhunted all my life and consider myself a good shot, but only now am I coming to grips with the difficulty of shooting against the world’s elite archers. These athletes are standing on a flat, open archery range, shooting at a target 70 meters away, and adjusting for wind, sun and any other weather conditions while thousands of people watch in person and many millions more watch on TV. That’s something that would leave me shaking in my boots.
I’ve absolutely loved bows and arrows since my teenage years when, along with my best friend, I began shooting. From the beginning, though, my purpose for shooting was to bowhunt. I considered bowhunting the ultimate outdoor challenge, whether hunting for rabbits, carp or deer. Bowhunting and bowhunters have always been “archery” to me, and I never really thought much about the actual sport of archery. Or, when I did think about it, I’m ashamed to admit I once dismissed archers as the kind of athletes who play croquet or bocce ball.
Today, I can safely say I’m in awe of the difficulty of archery, especially at the elite level. Shooting for hours, training for days and weeks, months and years even, and working to control the mind and reflexes to maintain maximum precision and accuracy are just a few of the sport’s most difficult challenges. And then to deal with distance, weather and your competitors while the world watches…well, that’s daunting.
As London draws near, I’ve decided archery is not just an obscure name for bows and arrows, hidden behind the camo of bowhunting. Archery is a competitive sport that demands more commitment than most bowhunters ever consider giving. Where bowhunting is an intensely private affair, archery places a person – all alone – in front of a target with a time limit and three arrows as the entire world watches and judges.
When a top-ranked archer like Brady Ellison goes bowhunting to relax and enjoy another form of archery,that puts me right in my place. In a few days, when this young kid steps up to the line, draws his bow and releases his arrows, I’ll be cheering for him as the bowhunter I’ve always been but who, in archery, remains a rank amateur. Go USA!
The image featured in this blog was created in a variety of sizes. The ATA encourages its members to download the image and send well wishes to USA Team Archers by posting it on your company’s social media pages and/or Web site.
This blog is republished with permission from the Archery Trade Association. To read Jay’s updates from London in real time, follow the Archery Trade Association’s blog here.