10 Tips From An Olympic Hunter

April 13th, 2010 / Posted by edersbow.com
10 Tips From An Olympic Hunter


 It took serious skills and dedication for Jay Barrs to capture Olympic gold. Here Barrs shares his top training tips that will help you find the 10 ring and double lungs with ease! 

By Brad Herndon

The year was 1988, the place Seoul, Korea, the event the finals of the Olympic archery competition. Jay Barrs, representing the United States, carefully watched the flags posted near the course. His competitors were watching them, too.

As each archer took their turn, they “read” the flags on the ground, made their adjustments in aiming, then sent the arrows toward the target face, some of the shots covering 90 meters (99 yards). Jay, however, was the only one who had noticed a small, but significant detail during his practice rounds: The flight of the arrow could be determined more accurately by how a high Olympic flag nearby was reacting to the wind rather than the lower ground flags. The competition discovered this too in a couple of days–but it was too late. Jay Barrs had captured the Olympic gold medal in men’s archery.

As this example reveals, a razor thin edge can mean the difference between winning and losing when the world’s best archers gather to compete against each other. Each man, or woman, has spent years practicing and studying their sport in order to become skillful enough to qualify for the competition. Both physical and mental conditioning has been an important part of their regimen, with the mental part being the most significant factor–most say as high as 90%.

10 Ways To Gold Glory

Without doubt, being able to pose questions to one of the best men with a bow in the world is something we would all like to do. I feel privileged to have had that opportunity one year in Idaho when Jay and I were in the same whitetail deer hunting camp. Yes, Jay’s not only an Olympic gold medalist, he’s a hunter, too. He has taken western big game, spent many hours in a tree stand, and, just like you and I, experienced the thrill, and frustration, of watching an errant arrow fly over the back of a monster whitetail.

Whether you are a beginning archer or a seasoned veteran, I believe you will gain knowledge as you read the following tips from Jay, given in his honest, but articulate, off-the-cuff style of teaching.


Hours at the range practicing from all sorts of angles and distances will put you on the fast-track to more bow kills.<br>brad herndon photo

Hours at the range practicing from all sorts of angles and distances will put you on the fast-track to more bow kills.brad herndon photo

1. Form.

Actually, the very first step to successful archery is to start with a basic, decent form. I mean it’s amazing how many guys out there just do not pull their bow properly. They generally have their bow set really heavy and they are improperly pulling the bow with their arm, not their back. Start out by getting someone who knows something about archery to show you the basic foundation of form. And then practice your form first; don’t worry where the arrows are going– which is totally against human nature, especially with archery because you get an immediate feed back. As soon as you let the arrow go, if it hits the middle, it’s a good shot, if it doesn’t hit the middle, it’s a bad shot.



Well, that’s not necessarily true. I’ve shot lots of good shots that didn’t hit the middle. I’ve also shot a lot of bad shots that did hit the middle of the target. Don’t get caught up in where the arrow ends up; in the beginning get caught up in how the arrow got there, the mechanics of archery. And basically the better you get, the more you think about form, believe it or not.

2. Consistency. Once you get good form, then work on consistency. Ironically, if a shot is executed exactly the same every time, even a person with poor form might shoot well. Of course this is rare, so what good form does for you is allow you to make a bigger mistake and get less error out of the shot.

3. Know your equipment. Get comfortable with your equipment, understand how it works and why it works. Don’t be scared to play around a little bit with your equipment, the way it’s tuned. Don’t let someone else tune your bow for you, learn to do this yourself. Learn what happens when you do shoot, so if something goes wrong, you will know how to correct the problem. However, don’t get so carried away with tuning that you have to tune constantly. You can take a new untuned bow out of the box and put it in a shooting machine and shoot better groups with it than any archer can shoot.. The only reason you fine tune a bow is because then you can make a bigger mistake and get the least amount of error down to the target.

4. Practice. …

5. Practice. I put this one in here twice because you can’t shoot too many arrows, I can guarantee it. I have yet to see an archer who

Target panic happens<br>when bowhunters try to<br>hard to aim the arrow.<br>Instead, concentrate on the<br>small area you want to hit,<br>your mechanics and hand-eye<br>coordination will do the rest.<br>photo by brad herndon

Target panic happenswhen bowhunters try tohard to aim the arrow.Instead, concentrate on thesmall area you want to hit,your mechanics and hand-eyecoordination will do the rest.photo by brad herndon

really and truly has burnout. I’ve seen a lot of them claim they do, but I have yet to see one that has shot enough arrows to have a severe case of burnout.

6. Aiming.

Most archers, whether hunters or tournament archers, sometime in their career encounter target panic, an inability of the archer to hold the sight on the intended target. In a moment I will mention a method of practice which will correct this aiming error for most archers, but, it should be noted, this problem may be avoided by beginning archers if they learn proper aiming techniques.

For example, most of the time the cause of target panic is the archer is trying too hard to aim. Generally aiming is the last thing you should have to think about. It’s like throwing a baseball. You don’t aim a baseball, you look at what you want to hit and you throw it. Archery is a lot that way. Basically your eye will not let you not aim. It’s just the way you’re put together. If you look at what you want to hit, you’re going to aim, that is just the way your mind works.

Don’t get caught up in believing you must keep your sight pin perfectly still on the target, whether it be a deer or paper. I don’t know of anyone that can keep their sight pin perfectly still. It’s going to move–it may not be much, but the sight pin is going to move. So just accept that fact, and look at what you want to hit and let the sight pin have its natural movement on the target. Then concentrate on the proper execution of the shot, not where the arrow is going.

7. The Release. Whether an archer uses fingers and a tab or a mechanical release to shoot, a smooth release of the arrow is critical to shooting accuracy. Most archers, whether they be hunters, indoor target shooters or 3-D shooters, use a release aid, so I will discuss this in detail. I’ve seen very, very few people who shoot a release right. 90% of the people out there “jump” on a release. Whether they think they do or not, I can prove to them they do. If you have an archer pull their bow back, then let someone else trip the release, I can guarantee you if they are not using a wrist strap, the bow will hit the ground. If you can shoot a release aid without using a wrist strap, you’re grabbing the bow, punching the release. Because if you’re shooting the bow correctly, your reaction time is not fast enough to catch the bow before it hits the ground–unless you have your bow balanced where it doesn’t jump forward, which usually isn’t the case.

I understand in a hunting situation pinpoint accuracy isn’t necessary and that you’re not going to have the luxury of standing there and squeezing your release nice and smooth all the time. Still, you need to practice that way, and then instead of actually jumping on the release when a deer comes along, you will just pull up and lay your finger on the release, then just increase the rate of squeeze so it still is a smooth motion. This practice will result in improved accuracy, preventing you from dropping your finger on the release from about a foot away like most folks do.

It also should be noted many hunters hunt without a wrist strap and shoot very well on big game their entire career, having a lot of fun in the process. However, if you ever decide you want to shoot for score, the use of a wrist strap and working on a smoother release will be two of the first things you will want to focus on.

8. Overcoming target panic. One of the best ways to conquer target panic is to stand very close to a large target, say five yards, with your eyes closed. Then concentrate on slowly squeezing off the shot. When you get to the point where you can squeeze off every shot smoothly, then shoot with your eyes open, again making sure each arrow has a flawless release. After these two steps are mastered, then, and only then, put up a target face and practice shooting at it.

If your arrows still are flying perfectly when you are using the target, then start moving back five yards at a time, first to ten, then fifteen, then twenty. This method does not assure an instant cure of the target panic dilemma. Like most ingrained bad habits, it will take time to overcome target panic. Perseverance is the key word here.

9. The Importance Of Conditioning. Conditioning is very important at my level of competition. Regardless of who you are, or what you do, the better shape you are in, the better you are going to be able to handle what you are doing.

For example, hunting whitetails in Canada, where it might be zero to twenty below, demands that you be in good shape. For a hunter who is out of shape, after about two days of those brutal winter conditions they’re done– because it is tremendously hard on the body. I suppose there are no disadvantages to being in excellent shape. Even if it doesn’t make you live longer, you will die feeling good.

10. Poundage and yardage. If you can’t hold your bow directly in front of you and pull it straight back, you’re shooting too many pounds. Too many hunters have to hold their bow up in the air, draw the bow, then come down on the target. This is true because their biceps muscles are stronger than their back muscles, so they use their arm to draw the bow rather than using their back. Obviously they are shooting too much weight.

What this creates is a lot of unnecessary movement when hunting deer, and as a result, the archer is picked off by the animal on numerous occasions. Deer hunting from a tree stand is full of odd shooting angles. If the bowhunter makes sure he can draw his or her bow straight back at any angle, including in both the sit down and standing position, then they certainly are increasing their chances of success.

Although ten tips described by a few hundred words can not carry the impact of speaking to a person face to face, there is sufficient advice here to make each of us a better archer if we apply ourselves to the task at hand. After all, these words are from an Olympic champion.

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