Would Olympic Archers Be Any Good at Bow Hunting?

A Blog About the Olympic Games
July 28 2012 5:43 PM

Would Olympic Archers Be Any Good at Bow Hunting?   

Brady Ellison
Brady Ellison of the United States competes in the Men's Team Archery semi final.

Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Today’s tremendously exciting men's team archery finals—Italy over the USA with a bull’s-eye on the final arrow!—brought to mind a question that’s long been nagging at me: Would Olympic archers be any good at bow hunting?

Hunting and target archery both involve bows and arrows, but they’re otherwise not all that similar. In target archery, archers stand still and have an unimpeded sightline to a stationary target that's a standard size. Bow hunters, on the other hand, walk around the woods shooting at targets of various sizes moving at various speeds. America's Olympic archers have sponsors, and coaches, and train at a dedicated training center in Chula Vista, Calif. America's bow hunters, as I understand it, live in log cabins and eat what they kill.

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Nevertheless, there are several current U.S. Olympians who are equally adept at shooting both targets and elk. Jacob Wukie was a champion bow hunter as a teenager. Jake Kaminski’s website features a picture of him shaking hands with Ted Nugent, and we all know the Nuge wouldn’t shake hands with anyone who couldn’t shoot an animal between the eyes. American Brady Ellison is currently the world’s top-ranked archer. According to his Team USA bio, he "killed a bear while bow hunting at age 11; the bear now serves as a rug in his father’s home." In an article for Foxsports.com earlier this month, Reid Forgrave noted that Ellison “bow-hunts pretty much anything he can get a tag for: bighorn sheep, elk, javelinas, wild boar. He bow-hunts fish, for God’s sake.” (Take that, trout!)

All of these archers/hunters seem like they’d be naturals at “field archery,” a sport that tries to bridge the gap between target shooting and bow hunting. In field archery competitions, targets of various shapes, colors, and sizes are set up in non-standardized outdoor courses, often in wooded terrain; archers must walk from target to target. A few target archers also compete in field archery. At the 2009 World Games in Taipei, former U.S. Olympic archer Vic Wunderle took gold in one of the field archery competitions, while Michele Frangilli, whose last-shot bull’s-eye today clinched Olympic gold for Team Italy, also did well.

I’d watch the hell out of field archery if it were an Olympic sport. And if it did make it to the games, the Americans’ chances at taking home a gold medal might improve. While many American professional archers grew up shooting moving mammalian targets before transitioning to stationary targets, in other countries archery is almost exclusively a target sport. In order to get to the Olympics, though, field archery will need a strong, high-profile advocate. Are you paying attention, Ted Nugent?

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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