Champion archer: Practice, practice, practice


With bow season in full swing in most states and the transition to muzzleloader already happening in others, I took a moment to reach out to two dear friends with insurmountable experience in the archery world.

First up, a mentor and hunting buddy Curtis Ashcraft. The second part of this two-part article will be a Q&A with Pennsylvania legend and Juniata County native Larry Wise.

Curtis and I talked some hot archery topics for both new archers and archers of old. Discussing his credentials that seemed endless at times included an Indoor World championship, and an ASA Tru-ball championship. Curtis is also a three-time Maryland state champion, three-time Virginia state champion, Pennsylvania state champion, Delaware state champion and “many more that i have forgotten about,” he added.

We wasted no time getting into the thick of it. So I asked: what do you think is the most critical and common mistake that archers make when they head to the woods to hunt?

“There are two critical mistakes of the common archer — one is that they don’t practice near enough and they don’t practice with broadheds before they head afield.”

In other words, practice, practice, practice — and always try your broadheads on target.

In the modern era of bow hunting, I asked, where bows are decked out with newest technology and shooting faster and more accurately, what would be your open advice to a new archer?

Curtis offered that, “With said technology of newer bows proper form is the number one factor to accuracy. Grabbing the bow like you did in 1972 won’t work. My generation changed archery by introducing the ‘low wrist grip.'”

He added that “all new bows need to be shot this way. My shop takes the time to properly teach this technique to everyone who comes in. You can have the best equipment with loads of technology, but if you dont have the right form you will certainly shoot poorly.”

Flowing from his previous mention of practice and form, I asked a question in the same realm: How often would you recommend practicing or shooting and is simple target shooting enough? Would you suggest practicing shooting from a stand or mock hunting scenarios?

“An archer needs to shoot as often as they can, especially when taught the low wrist form, to get familiar with new form and their equipment,” he said.

He also suggested “basic shooting at first, then animal targets next. To be 100 percent ready for tree stand shooting with mock hunting situations are a must. Do this with gear that will be worn while hunting. This will ensure the string won’t hit clothes and that the proper anchor points can be achieved.”

We concluded with this question: Can you share a little about a recent successful hunt you’ve had and something unique you learned that might offer insight or perspective to someone reading this article?

“Unfortunately I dont get to hunt as much as I used to when I was growing up. But if i had to tell someone just a couple things to make thier hunt more successful it would be these; practice, practice, practice. I know I sounds redundant, but you cannot say it enough,” Ashcraft said.

He also added that a hunter should “never shoot an animal quartering to you, and I mean never. Get out in the woods and do your homework. Those three things will always make you more successful:

“1. Practice, knowing where my arrow will go. 2. Not shooting a quartering animal will lead to more recovery. 3. Doing homework in woods will let you see more deer.”

From his lips, to my ears to your eyes, an incredible insight into some of the basics from one of the best.


John Knouse writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.