A brawny buck or a target the size of a dime doesn’t stand a chance when Richard Bowen picks up a bow and arrow.
This ace of archery has honed his accuracy to become one of the top target shooters in the United States. Bowen is routinely among the leaders at high-level archery tournaments held around the nation.
The National Field Archery Association is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the sport of archery. It is the largest field archery organization in the world.
Founded in 1939, the association consists of 49 chartered state associations and nearly 1,000 affiliated clubs. The group is a member of the International Field Archery Association and a national allied organization of USA Archery.
If target archery was football, Bowen would be a star in the NFL. He’s shoulder to shoulder with the nation’s elite archers at contests that award big-time prize money.
Bowen wins his share. Last year, the 37-year-old made more money shooting his bow than he did in his job as a wildlife biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Bowen works out of the Game and Fish regional office at Beaver Dam and lives north of Rogers. In his off time, he’s practicing at the indoor archery range at Outdoor America in Springdale.
It boggles the mind of an amateur shooter to watch Bowen fire arrow after arrow from 20 yards into a target a tad larger than a sewing thimble. That’s how accurate he is, and how accurate he has to be to compete at his level.
It takes practice and nerves of steel.
“The mental game is huge, the anxiety and mental stress. You learn to shoot comfortably while being uncomfortable,” Bowen said.
“I try to shoot 120 arrows every day for two weeks” to get ready for a match, he said.
Practice makes perfect, or nearly so. Last month, Bowen narrowly missed winning the National Field Archery Association championship held in Cincinnati. He finished second among 200 pros after a shootout that’s similar to a sudden-death playoff in professional golf.
“I still performed well. I made five good shots,” Bowen said. One happened to be a whisker off the mark.
“Was I nervous? Absolutely. But the experience of being in other shootouts helped,” he said.
In January, he won the Kansas City Shoot-Out national pro-am tournament. He’s competed four times in The Vegas Shoot international tournament in Las Vegas with the top archers in the world. Bowen finished in the top 1 percent of the field each time.
It’s also amazing that Bowen took up target archery only five years ago, but has been flinging arrows since he was a kid. He watched his dad and grandpa shoot their bows before he got his own as a youngster.
“I was enamored with it. I’d get bowhunting magazines and read every article,” he said.
Back then, hunting was the focus of his archery. Bowen eventually took up shooting 3-D tournaments to become a better deer hunter. In 3-D, archers shoot at life-size animal targets of deer, bear and other game.
“Then I started shooting targets to get better at 3-D,” Bowen said.
His target bow is longer and heavier than the usual compound hunting bow. Archers add weight to their target bows, Bowen explained. That improves accuracy. Target bows are outfitted with a high-quality scope.
His accuracy is almost unreal to other shooters, said Aaron Weiss, owner of Outdoor America.
“We’ve said it a lot. We just don’t understand it,” Weiss said. “He’s a natural, rock steady. Richard deserves every bit of it. He puts in the work.”
Archery teaches shooters much more than how to hit a dime-sized target.
“It’s hard to do. It teaches you not to sell yourself short. Don’t be afraid of challenges. Some people sabotage their own success because they’re afraid to fail,” Bowen said.
Career-wise, archery gets people ” to step out of their comfort zone, to push yourself a little,” he added. “If I miss in a shootout, and I’m out. It’s still OK.”
Archery builds confidence and allows someone to project a calm vibe even in stressful situations, Bowen believes.
Target matches wind down by autumn because most shooters like to hunt. That’s when Bowen heads for the deer woods with his hunting bow.
“Targets don’t move, but deer do,” Bowen said.
The steady nerves he’s developed in target archery keeps buck fever at bay when a trophy white-tail steps into range.
Sports on 04/17/2018