Straight Talk - Byron Ferguson By Frank Addinton, Jr.
Aug 10, 2007 - 9:38:38 AM
FA: Byron, before we get started, where were you born and raised? I was born in Moulton, Alabama. At about 2 years of age my family moved to Birmingham and then to Hartselle, where I still live.
FA: What was your early childhood, family life like? Let's just say my mother had her hands full. I have always been very adventurous.
FA: Did you play sports in school? Yes, I played baseball, football and ran track.
FA: What type of work did you do prior to your archery career? I was a sheet metal worker for several years before getting into the outdoor sports business. I still use some of the skills I learned in sheet metal for bow designing.
FA: How did you become involved in hunting? My Dad was always good to take me hunting. I shot my first animal, a rabbit, with a 410ga shotgun at age 2 or 3.
FA: I understand you were a gun hunter before taking up the bow. Who or what convinced you to try bowhunting? I got into bowhunting as soon as I learned I could hunt deer 4 weeks earlier than with a gun. When I was 12 I worked as a brick mason helper to earn money for my first bow. It was a 55lb Browning Wasp Recurve. The guy that sold it to me told me to get a bale of hay and put a paper plate on it for a target. Paper plate my foot! I couldn't even hit the hay bale, much less the plate.
FA: What bows did you use for hunting? I started with a recurve. When compounds became available I bought the first one I saw. After 8 years of shooting the compound and missing everything I shot at, I was ready to quit bowhunting. Then I remembered as a kid I could shoot running rabbits with my recurve. I dusted the old recurve off and began shooting it. I began having fun again. Shooting the compound was a chore, like mowing the lawn, something I had to do before hunting with it. The recurve breathed new like into my shooting and hunting.
Not long after I began shooting the recurve again I bought a longbow. Opening morning of bow season I hunted with the recurve. After lunch I decided to do a little scouting. As I was walking out the door I noticed my longbow sitting in the corner. I put the recurve down and strung the longbow, grabbed my back quiver and as and after thought took a broadhead tipped arrow from the bow quiver on the recurve. As I made my way along an old woods road I shot arrows at leaves, stumps, limbs, just having a ball shooting the longbow. I came to a place where a tree had fallen across the road. Rather than going around I decided to go under it. I pulled the backquiver under my arm and started under but before getting completely clear I noticed movement to my left. About 35 yards out was a nice fat spike buck. I managed to get the broadhead tipped arrow out of the quiver and on the string. While on one knee with the bow held horizontal I took the shot....and just drilled the deer through the lungs. I may not be the smartest bear in the woods, but I learned something that day and haven't shot anything but a longbow since.
No matter where he goes or what he does, it always comes back to Whitetail deer.
FA: How did you meet Wanda? Does she share your love for the outdoors and archery? Wanda and I met at a local country store. I taught her to shoot the bow and arrow but due to a car accident she doesn't shoot any more.
FA: I understand you have two sons, Shaun and Zachary. Do they shoot? Shaun is the oldest. He still plucks strings... but not a bow. He spends most of his time either playing or teaching others to play the guitar. Zachery loves to bowhunt and now builds custom longbows. These are bow I designed for him. He calls the Zbows.
FA: So what was it about the long bow that drew you to it? The short answer is Howard Hill. When I read what this man could do with a longbow…
Avid hunter, Byron took this nice bear with a perfect shot.
FA: You have become one of the top exhibition shooters of all time. How did you get started shooting archery for spectators? A good friend of mine is very afraid of snakes. Once while scouting for deer we met a rattle snake coming toward us. I drew a blunt tipped arrow and shot the snake through the head. Jimmy told everyone I saved his life. Later that year Jimmy hosted a BowHunter's Classic at his archery shop and asked me to shoot my longbow at this event. The spectators were amazed anyone could hit targets with a bow without sights. When I shot a quarter out of the air they went nuts! The word spread and I started getting phone calls wanting me to shoot at events around the country. Buck-Rub archery in WI called and offered to PAY me to shoot…. As they say "The rest is history".
Taking aim in Sweden.
FA: How often do you conduct your archery shows now? As a general rule I shoot every weekend from the first of January to the middle of May. I do TV work until the end of Aug. Then a couple more exhibitions in Sept. Then deer season opens! No shows during deer season.
Thrilling the crowd in Sweden.
FA: Does Wanda still assist you in your shows? Yes, haven't shot her yet.
FA: What was your most memorable show, and where? That's a hard one. They're all memorable in one way or another. I like to think the best is yet to come.
Hard enough shooting straight, here Byron shoots behind his back while looking into a mirror.
FA: Where were some of your first performances as an exhibition shooter? The first paid exhibition was in Wisconsin. Most of the first were free exhibitions at schools, 4H clubs etc.
FA: What's been the highlight of your career performance wise? Drawing more people than country music singers is always nice. At a show In France I drew over 70,000.… that scared me to death.
FA: Byron, what's the toughest shot you have ever made on stage or in the field? There are two of them. The shot with the most pressure was during a live TV show in Japan. I had to shoot an arrow through a diamond ring worth over $17,000.00 The hardest shot was for the American Shooter TV program. I shot a disk out of the air while aiming in a mirror.
FA: You have been called the modern day Robin Hood and the modern day Howard Hill. How does that make you feel to know people think so highly of you and your skill to be compared to these immortals? Very flattering, but I know better. Just think want they could have done with the equipment we have today. Aluminum arrows, fast-flite strings, laminated bows vs. wood arrows, linen string and self bows.
This caribou added to Byron's list of trophies.
FA: Are you a big Howard Hill fan? Mr. Hill is the greatest archer that has ever lived, period.
FA: Like Howard are you a fan of heavy bows? Mr. Hill shot a heavy bow because he felt he needed to for hunting. I shoot heavy bows because I'm not that talented. Sloppy release.
FA: You have traveled abroad with your shows, taking the sport of archery to foreign countries. Tell us about your international shows and how you were accepted in these countries.
n France I was named "The king of the show" because of the number of people that attended my exhibitions. I would bet you not a one of them could tell you my name now. But they remember the longbow. That's the way it has gone in every country I've preformed in. It's not about me, it's a guy that still shoots the longbow.
FA: Who were some of your archery heroes/influences? Howard Hill for his shooting ability, Fred Bear for his kindness, my Dad for teaching me the ethics of a hunter.
Alaska, the perfect backdrop for an archery legend.
FA: When did you first see Rev. Stacy Gropscup's exhibition and what was your impression of Stacy and his shooting? I spent a weekend with Stacy and his son during a PA Bowhunter's Festival. We stayed up late every night talking about everything under the sun. Stacy's shooting was impressive. I was very impressed with Stacy's outlook on life. He was just a super person who believed what he preached.
FA: In my shows I tell folks that there are several ways to shoot a traditional bow with no sights. There is instinctive shooting and then there's the Howard Hill method of looking at the arrow. Fred Bear may have shot this way too, he called it snap shooting. It all works because Howard, Stacy and Fred and you have harvested game with a bow! When shooting do you look at the arrow or just your target? I guess you could call me an instinctive gap shooter. I point the arrow at a gap below the target, not looking at the arrow, just pointing it. With practice this gap doesn't change with distance, making it the ideal method of aiming. It's just as easy as looking at someone's eye and pointing your finger at they're foot.
This Milk River buck was another end to a great hunt.
FA: Ok, I do shows and sometimes have an off day. Could be an equipment glitch, could be jetlag, there's a million excuses. I call these shows "dogs." Have you ever had one and how do you react? I think everyone has an off day sometime. The key is to understand that our job is first to entertain. Make sure everyone watching has a good time regardless of how you feel about your performance. Second, practice, practice, practice then practice some more. My goal is to shoot well enough that even if I have a bad day, no one will notice.
Bowfishing and another day of fun with bow.
FA: How important is the mental aspect of archery to what you do? Believing in yourself is very, very important. A famous football coach once told me "You can't win by playing not to lose". You also can't make the shot by trying not to miss.
FA: I have seen your shows a few times and am always entertained. The clock shot is my favorite. Tell us about that shot and a few of your other crowd favorites... The blindfold, or clock shot is a pure timing shot. The person throwing had better be able to put the target in the right position at the right time or it will not work. I can make slight adjustments but limit myself to three attempts. If I can't hit it within three try's I'm not going to hit it.
FA: You & Glenn Helgeland came out with a book a few years ago titled, "Become the Arrow." You also have a videos out. How can someone obtain these and what can they learn from them? All my video's and the book are available at local shops or online at WWW.BYRONFERGUSON.COM "Become the Arrow" is instructional. Both the Video and Book teaches how to shoot a bow without sights. "Incredible Shots" is an hour long DVD featuring exhibition shooting. Here I shoot everything from long range shots to baby aspirins tossed in the air. I also have a new DVD on Camp Cooking and another on making arrow's I produced for Gateway Feathers.
FA: What bow are you shooting these days? I shoot the "Royal Safari", a bow I designed several years ago and is now being made by Fred Bear Archery. I also shoot the bows I designed for Zach, the Zbows.
Tonight Show host Jay Leno, another impressed with Byron's incredible archery performance.
FA: What products are you endorsing these days? Byron Ferguson Archery Exhibitions are being sponsored in part by Summit TreeStands, Vortex Optics, BowRak, Morrell Targets, Easton Tech. Products , Liv'n on the WildSide TV and Shooting USA TV.
FA: Do you collect any archery memorabilia? I'm not a collector but I do have a few items from Howard Hill.
FA: Any other hobbies or activities you do when you are off the road? When I not on the road I work as the Host for "Liv'n on the WildSide" a TV program airing on MOR "Men's Outdoor Recreation " and also shoot for "Shooting USA" a TV program on "The Outdoor Channel"
FA: When you are off the road between shows do you practice? I try to shoot every other day. Sometimes it's hard to find the time. Lately I've been shooting everyday for about one hour.
Supporting our troops at Walter Reed Medical Hospital.
FA: Ok Byron, if you could share a hunting camp and campfire with anyone from archery's past or present, who would be around your campfire and where would it be? First and foremost, my Dad. He's been gone 17 years now. Then I would invite Howard Hill to join in. Fred Bear, Earl Hoyt and Stacy Groscup would round it out. Camp would be a cabin cruiser anchored in Sawmill Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska. One more thing, no one would complain about my snoring.
FA: Any last words of advice for our readers? Work to be better than you are and have fun with it!
FA: One last question Byron, can I finally get my signed Byron Ferguson arrow now?!?!? Another One?