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Straight Talk - Interviews
Straight Talk - Larry Wise
By Frank Addington, Jr.
Sep 24, 2007 - 6:30:53 AM
 

I shot my first perfect 600 on this three spot target at the 1979 PA Central Regional Championship just two weeks after having my bow stolen in Vegas.

An Interview with Larry Wise:

FA:  Larry, give us some history, where and when were you born?

I was born almost exactly 60 years ago just a half mile from my current home of thirty-three years here, just outside Mifflintown, PA, in what is known as the Lickin' Crick Valley. The creek borders our fifty acres on the west side and brings back childhood memories every time I look at it.

We fished, swam and shot suckers with our stick bows down in that creek. My life-long friend John and I tried our hand at sailing and built several "boats" using whatever materials were available. It got us in trouble twice: once for building a raft using a walnut board from my basement and once for building a boat using two-inch thick pine boards from his father's workshop. From that experience we both gained an appreciation for quality wood - neither of us pursued a career in shipbuilding!

Both of my parents worked. My mother at the state capitol and my dad at a jet engine parts machine shop. Mom left home at six in the morning and left notes about what was to be done during the day before she got home that evening. Dad left just after noon for his evening shift and gave us verbal orders for outside work. My sister did the inside and I was to do the outside tasks before riding off on my bicycle to somewhere in the neighborhood. They were great times - and sometimes the work got done first.

Growing up in the country provided lots of freedom. Camping out, hunting, fishing and playing games took lots of my time. From age eight I can remember shooting my "Phantom" bow and arrow set at a "Tide" laundry soap box stuffed with cardboard. When I was twelve my dad brought home two hunting bows and we started our bowhunting careers together.

'86 Blair Castle, Diana & I

FA: Can you tell us where you are living now and a little about your family?

Currently, my wife, Diana, and I still live in our home along the creek and plan to for a long time. I've retired from teaching public school mathematics - thirty-five years was enough. I loved it - but I wanted to teach more archery, write, shoot a little, and bow hunt somewhere other than in my own woods.

My daughter, Jennifer, is a doctor of Chiropractic and has two offices in Naperville, IL. She's getting married in a week and her future husband is learning to bow hunt with some help from me. Jen won two National Field Championships as a teenager but has moved on to focus on her professional career.

Our son Todd is now living in Bakersfield, CA, and working for Chevron as a petroleum engineer.  His passion is magic. He very skilled at presenting walk-around tricks, table magic and even stage acts. As a twelve year old he won a World Field title for his age group but then moved to soccer, tennis and more magic. He's been successful bowhunting and this fall we get to hunt together in Kansas - a trip I'm really looking forward to.

3 yr old Todd with first bow

FA: How did you first become involved in archery?

I'm not sure if I got a bow set first or if I saw my old neighbor, Charlie Sheesley, with his hunting long bow first. That would have been about 1955 as I remember. There weren't many bowhunters in Pennsylvania then but in my small world there was one next door and that seemed pretty big - I was hooked.

There just seemed to be something special about the flight of the arrow as it was flying toward a target. And every once or twice in ten shots I could hit that Tide box from really far away, like maybe twenty yards! You know, I still have that same fascination today. I like kites and balsa wood airplanes, too.

By the time I was thirteen or fourteen some of the local guys formed an archery club, put up bales and held an animal target shoot. My friend Gary and I shot all twenty-eight targets and tied with a score of eight-six. We found all of our arrows, as I remember but most of all, we had fun. I try to keep that in mind as I shoot today and my body doesn't want to cooperate like it used to and not so many arrows find the middle.

Several local clubs held tournaments throughout the year. Seven Mountains Archery held indoor shoots over top of a firehouse and outdoor "field" tournaments. So did Shawnee Archers and we joined in to use our bows all year long. Little did I know then that I would later become a World Professional Field Champion - I guess the seeds were well sown.

Dad took me bowhunting every October. We saw lots of deer. I remember hunting one Saturday morning and shooting all five of my arrows at deer. I missed them all cleanly, retrieved several of my arrows and missed twice more before the morning hunt was over. I told dad and we both laughed as he had missed a shot also. We chalked it up to experience and a great day in the woods.  A few years later he killed a nice six pointer with a heart shot - I was taking a girl friend to a college football game. I wished I could have been there but dad proved it was possible and that motivated me to keep at it. Since then I have taken over forty deer with the bow.

Posing proudly with my '97 back yard buck

 FA: Tell me how you got involved with Jennings archery?

I know it was 1976 when I got interested in archery again. I got through the college years, my teaching career was going well and we were settled into our newly built home with lots of woods behind the house. Harry Heikes, a long time archery friend, ran the local archery department at the local E.M. Guss Hardware store and kept telling me about this new style bow with wheels. So I bought a used Jennings Trail Boss compound and all the accessories. Of course, I shot with a finger tab because that is what I did for so many years with the recurve bow.

I hunted with it also and a year later I killed a nice doe just behind the house. A year later I took a really nice eight-pointer with my Jennings Arrowstar.

I worked hard at shooting with fingers but reached a plateau, developed a little target panic and my scores began to decline. I put a clicker on my bow and that helped but I wasn't that good. The Jennings sales rep in our area, Henry Fulmer, suggested that I try a release aid and that got me thinking. I started thinking about it and one June day while struggling around the local Juniata County Archers range I ran into Henry and said I was ready for the release aid - he gave me a Stanislawski two-finger back tension release.

I took it home and tried it. Using Henry's words of instruction I shot eight consecutive arrows into the dot at twenty yards. WOW, I could really do this release aid thing! Then I drew the next arrow, the release prefired and I hit myself in the mouth with my hand. Ouch! Undaunted and with bleeding lip, I drew the next arrow carefully and shot it into the middle with the first eight. Suddenly, I was a release shooter.

From there I went on to shoot my '77 Arrowstar outdoors at a regional field tournament and some animal target shoots. I soon learned that at the time release shooters were considered second-class citizens and the cause of "what's wrong with archery". I didn't let that phase me and went on to shoot my first indoor perfect 300 that winter. Yep, I could do this release aid thing!

I won the PA State indoor in '78, the Atlantic City Classic amateur division and then the North American Indoor in Cobo Hall, Detroit. I also finished second in the amateur division at the NFAA Outdoor Field Nationals in Aurora, IL, and traveled to the PSE Lake of The Woods tournament and signed up in the Pro class for the first time. I think I won a CB radio for second in first flight.

Jack Cramer and I won the 1979 Manufacturers World Team Event at the NFAA Field Championships in Detroit Lakes, MN. This was a winner-take-all event with our prize being $5000.

In 1979 Jennings Compound bought me a plane ticket to Vegas and I was suddenly a professional archer. I flew to Vegas with Jack Cramer, we practiced at the shooting hall the first evening, stored our bows at the Jennings booth and walked back to the hotel. When we returned to the hall the next morning my bow case and its contents were gone! Stolen! I was devastated to say the least.

I did have my backup bow and one hex wrench in a soft case. With help from Jack and Tom Jennings I borrowed arrows, a sight, and a stabilizer. I remember borrowing a release aid from Pete Shepley, President of PSE,  who also assisted in getting this collection of equipment assembled and tuned. I didn't have a quiver so I just stuffed my arrows in my back pocket and started the tournament. Needless to say it didn't go well but I finished all three rounds, returned the borrowed equipment and limped home much the wiser and more determined than ever.

Two weeks later I shot my first perfect 600 Vegas round at a Pennsylvania regional tournament. That record stills stands and my pro career took off from there.

FA: What are some of your accomplishments with a bow and arrow you are most proud of?

I have many accomplishments of which I am very proud but I mention just a few. I suppose at the top of the list is my 1986 World Field Championship win in Scotland. I won by one point over Terry Ragsdale after five days of tough shooting up and down some really steep hills. That win has meant so much over the years because it answers that old question that many folks ask when they find out you shoot professional archery, "well, just how good are you?" when you answer that you're a world champion they seem to understand that you're pretty good.

'85 World Team with Ron Walker & Tom Jennings

I was also fortunate enough to partner with long-time friend and world champ Jack Cramer to win three consecutive World Team Championships in '79, '80' and '81. I won two more a few years later with Ronnie Walker, another good friend and great shooter. These events were all shot at fifty yards; I won a lot of money at fifty yards over the years.

I can also remember winning some indoor tournaments with perfect scores. I won the Ann Marston Open in Detroit with a pair of 450 rounds, the Milwaukee Sports Show with a 450 and 300 and the Long Island Open with another pair of 450 rounds to mention a few. I shot he first twenty-yard 600 at the Pennsylvania State Indoor in 1995.

I had a lot of big wins but my greatest achievement came in 1982 at Atlantic City. The AC Classic was always a 900 Round on Sunday back then but that weekend they held the Mid-Atlantic States Indoor, which was, two sixty-arrow rounds on the five spot target - one round Saturday and one round Sunday. Just to make it interesting they also held a FITA 18-meter round and a FITA  25-meter round both on Saturday.

So, for the weekend, if you shot all five rounds, you had to score 330 arrows. As I recall I won all events that weekend hitting a total of 317 tens and thirteen nines with a perfect 600 at twenty-five meters. My wife, Diana and I were both dog-tired as she spotted for all of those arrows. It took us a week to recover but the satisfaction I have from that weekend still hangs on after all these years.

'85 World Team Champs/Ron Walker/Jan Lueck/Martha Lawrence

I won the Big Sky Open in Craig, CO, in 1984 shooting for Bear-Jennings. I recall that Terry Ragsdale shot well the first day - we shot the twenty target "V" formation round - while I shot two at sixty and two at sixty-five yards on my first ten targets. I readjusted my mindset and shot clean on the next ten targets to pull within two points of Terry. The next day I shot clean over the first ten targets and through eight more on the second set of ten. At that point I was ahead by several points and won by two. I was pleased and proud to have shot perfect for 28 consecutive targets. In our traveling group - Ron, Jack and Mike Leiter- the winner buys dinner so I gladly took my turn that evening. Because it was my first big win, as soon as I paid the dinner bill they threw me, clothes and all, into the pool. What a bunch of "nice" guys!

FA: Larry, I have a copy of your book, "Core Archery."  Can you tell us in a nutshell what it is about?

My book Core Archery is the book I wanted to write back in the early eighties but I didn't know enough about what I was doing regarding my shooting form to write it. There were no coaches for the compound/release shooters back then so we just muddled through, learning as we went and working together experimenting. I can remember long periods of frustration with poor shooting and working through them - and learning.

When I was asked in 1995 to get involved with coaching I was fortunate to get assigned to help Bud Fowkes at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. With Bud's guidance I started to finally "see" good shooting form and learn how to teach it.

Larry gives son Todd a few pointers on 3D.

FA: How did you develop this theory?

I was asked to be a member of the Coaches Development Committee in the NAA. As an early part of that work our chairman, Fred Warner, asked us to define back tension before we developed methods to teach it. I took that assignment seriously and worked with my chiropractor at the time, Dr. Guy Schenker, to help me. That's how my book started.

My form steps in Core Archery are each designed to setup the best conditions to utilize the rhomboids muscles in back tension. Of course that means you have to use your skeleton to its best advantage also. My theme for archery form is the same as it is for all other sports, maximize skeleton and minimize muscle.

For the more advanced archers there is also the mental game. This could be an entire book but in Core Archery its only one chapter; just enough to get the basics started. The private coaching I do enhances these concepts and helps students keep the mental game simple - too many make it more complicated than it should be by pretending there are "secrets" that only they know. There are no secrets, just basics.

'96 Darrington, WA, World Field, Todd won the age 10-12 group

FA: How can someone obtain a copy of this book?

I sell my books from my web sight, www.larrywise.com  and through the publisher, Target Communications and archery retail shops everywhere.

FA: Name some of the top bow designers of our generation.

Without a doubt Tom Jennings is at the top in the bow designer list. He took a very important idea of the compound bow and married it to limbs and handles that could shoot accurately. From there he invented the cable guard to go with it and as I look at most of the bows being made today I see cable guards on them.

Rex Darlinton of Darton Bows is up there as well with his asymmetrical cams designs. With the prominence of the single cam bow you would have to also include Matt McPhearson on Matthews Bows.

FA: As a shooter, give our readers some advice on why they need a coach or school to improve their game?

Every archer needs a coach! I need a coach! I wish I'd have had one back in the early eighties to help shorten the learning curve to elite archery performance. A coach can see you as you can't possibly see yourself. A coach can see small changes in your body position and help you correct them before they become bigger problems. Good coaches remind you of the basics and that alone makes you better because, as in any sport, the basics are what make the shot consistent. All the mental coaching and preparation in the world won't be of any use unless you can first "make the shot" with proper body position and use of back tension and a coach keeps you on that task constantly. A good coach should use the "KISS" method and keep it simple shooter.

Right On Target Family Archery shooting school in 2006 with owners Les & Gail Wynne on Waynesville, NC. I do two-day shooting schools and private coaching throughout the year at home or on location at shops and clubs.

FA: Can your theories also improve their bowhunting as well?

Good archery form is always the first rule even if your bow fishing. To hit the fish, a deer or an elk you have to have a reliable shot routine based on good science. Ignore the science and the simple rules of body position and you'll miss at that critical moment when your single opportunity arrives.

In my opinion, the single most critical error that bowhunters make is to shoot too much draw weight. They use a weight that doesn't allow them to draw their bow while continuously focusing their vision on the target animal. Once they contort their body to get the bow drawn they have to then reacquire the target . . . and it's moved . . . and then the chase is on between sight and target and in the rush an opportunity is bungled or lost.

Scotland World champs 1986
 
FA: Tell me what your greatest victory was in tournament archery.

1986 World Professional Field Archery Championship in Scotland was my most important victory.

FA: Any funny archery anecdotes that you'd like to share with us?

Previously mentioned pool incident.

FA: Who have been some of the people from our sport that have made an impact on you?

Early on my dad made the biggest impression when he brought home two fiberglass hunting bows in 1956. I had been shooting a small bow for several years but this was the "big" time because dad and I were going hunting now, WOW.

Our small band of fellow archers back in the fifties made going to a shoot on Sunday really special. I remember Clyde Bender, Harry Heikes, Harry Seifert and Kurt Junod to name a few.

When I got back into archery again in 1975 I met Henry Fulmer who eventually loaned me a Stanislawski release. Then I met Sherwood Schoch at the PA Eastern Sport Show in Harrisburg and soon found myself riding with him and Jack Cramer to the North American Indoor Championship in Detroit - that was my first long trip to an archery tournament.

In 1979, 80 and 81 I did seminars for Sherwood's sales group. I remember doing 45 one summer, a different town every night. Sherwood taught me about the archery industry, sales reps and passed on some very useful information about shooting tournaments - I owe him a lot.

Sherwood Schoch and Tom Jennings were two of my mentors and good friends. This picture was taken at the 1985 PA Bow Festival where we hung out together for three days.

Tom Jennings was great to me. He was so knowledgeable about bows and what makes them work. Later, I think it was 1983, when I was shooting for Bear-Jennings they sent me out to Tom's place in California to test the prototype of the Unistar. I had a great time working with Tom testing, refitting and tuning this new bow idea. For a break Tom suggested that we take some old arrows he had and go up on the hill behind his workshop and shoot at some rabbits. He said he had never hit one but it was great fun trying to get close. We hadn't gone far when we saw the first rabbit hop out onto the path at about thirty yards so Tom took his shot and, wouldn't you know it, he hit the poor thing and we had to chase it down. He felt really bad about that because it was more fun missing than hitting his "pet" rabbits. . . . . . . I'd like to see Tom again.

In the fall of 1986 I was invited to Grouse Haven, MI, to hunt with the great Fred Bear. I got to know Fred over the next two years and to appreciate what he accomplished and that he was an outstanding human being. I am lucky to have known him and to learn from him.

During my years with Bear-Jennings I got to know Mr. Fred. I soon learned that he was a Pennsylvania boy like me, having been born in the Chambersburg area. I think he told me he moved to Michigan when he was about nine or ten. After my World Championship win in '86 Bear invited me to hunt at Grousehaven near Rose City, MI. What a wonderful experience. I got to know the real Fred Bear, swap stories and hunt. I got to take a few neat pictures of Fred wearing one of my camo sweaters - he was doing a video spot for Ben Lee at the time but didn't have any camo. Later, Fred sent me a nice hand-laminated picture of him and me at Grousehaven. He sent me about six different laminated pictures over the next year but what was really neat about Fred was that he took the time to send an autographed one to my wife Diana. It showed up in our mailbox one day addressed to her. I'll always remember that about Fred, he was a true gentleman as well a great sportsman.

I must also mention here my three long-time and very good friends, Ron Walker, Mike Leiter, and Jack Cramer. We traveled many miles together, shot a million arrows, won some money but most of all made true and lasting friendships. There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying the goes: 'Make new friends, keep the old, the one is silver and the other gold!'  I sure have accumulated tons of gold through archery! I am truly a rich man.

FA: Give me the answer in your opinion to this question:
 Archery is ____ % mental.
 Archery is ____ % the brand bow.
 Archery is ____ % physical training.
 
I feel that the three areas of archery are mental, physical and bow tuning. The brand of bow has little to do with how well you perform.

Success is defined to be the meeting of preparation with opportunity. Therefore, preparing physically is one-third of an archer's success. Without good conditioning habits you won't be able to execute the shot when you need to or be able to sustain that execution over the number of shots it takes to win a tournament - you have to train hard and smart to put yourself in a position to win.

Preparing your bow and accessories is also one-third of the recipe. You can be the physically fit and mentally ready but without a good setup to do your bidding at the target you can't win. A high level of in-depth tuning skills is necessary to make a bow group well for your shooting style. You also need those skills to make repairs on the fly during a tournament or between rounds. It's nice to have someone do it for you but only you can feel the bow while aiming and decide what it needs to make it better and then to know if you have made the proper adjustments.

I hear so many people - athletes and coaches - say that any sport is 90% mental. I don't think so, not for archery. If that were true then I would have won many more tournaments than I did. I shot too many times with bows that were not grouping well - that's the best I had when it was time to shoot the tournament so I competed and tried to win with a strong mental game. Mental preparation is also one-third of the elite shooter's game. I will add this; once the tournament starts your mental game is your main source of power and success because the bow tuning and physical preparation are done. So, at full draw your mental game is most of the recipe but it takes lots of hard work to get to that point.

 
FA: I understand you recently made a trip to Israel?  Was this a pleasure or business trip?

During the summers of '98, '99, '2000 and '01 I was asked to help coach archery in Israel at a master violin school. This school known as Keshet Eilon, (bows of Eilon) is held every summer at Kibbutz Eilon in the north of Israel in Western Galliee near the Mediterranean Sea. I got this invitation through Bud Fowkes who had been going there to coach for the two summers before that. I was asked to help with some of the local archery club members who shot compound with release and to help Bud with the violinists who learned to shoot the recurve bow every afternoon.

Denmark world Team Champs/David/Brady/Steve

The school lasted for three weeks and the violinists became quite skilled at shooting. As I remember there were over fifty violinists from over twenty countries there. It was a fantastic experience as I learned so much from Bud, so much about violinists and so much about the country of Israel.

Every night there was a concert featuring solo performances by six to ten of the students playing the classical violin compositions. They got the best instruction each day from great violin teachers like Schlomo Mintz, the head patron of the school. I got my grandfather's violin repaired by Amnon Weinstein of Tel Aviv, one of the most recognized and talented violinmakers and an archer himself. He was always quick to point out that all of the stringed instruments are descendents of the bow and arrow - the violin is just two bows being rubbed together. I learned to play a little but am too old to learn much; learning young is the way to start if you're going to be good.

I haven't been back since 2001 and miss it and the people. I still keep in touch with the program and some of the people. Some of the teachers live here in the US and I get to see them occasionally. I also miss Bud Fowkes who died in late December - he was a great man and a good friend.

I won the 1986 International Field Archery Associations World Championships held at Blair Atholl, Scotland. After five grueling days of shooting the steep hills on the grounds of Blair Castle I won by one point over Terry Ragsdale.

FA: What does the future hold for Larry Wise?

Our culture has changed since I was a boy, there's so much to do now that keeps kids away from the outdoors and outdoor sports. I think the NASP Program is doing archery a real service by getting archery in front of so many kids - they find out that they can do archery where they might not be able to do the other major sports. After all, archers win awards for being still and mentally strong as opposed to relying so much on quickness, speed and physical strength.

I do lots of archery presentations to all kinds of groups in my home area. I helped with a bowhunter camp today and I'll go back tomorrow to do it again its volunteer but I owe archery so much that I'm trying to keep up on my payments - I think I'm behind actually. If each of us or most of us reach out a little to help camps and clubs we'll keep kids coming to archery and learn to enjoy a life-long challenge of launching an arrow to the target center - I still enjoy watching the arrow in flight.
 
FA: Larry, you have been an educator.  What can we do to get the next generation to turn off their computers, video games, and TVs to get outdoors and active in sports like archery, fishing, and hunting?

I've been shooting since I was seven or eight years old. Wow, that's fifty-two years and I'll keep shooting as long as I can. Although my skills have lowered a bit I can still shoot better than most people and show them how to get better using good form. I can say with all honesty that I wouldn't change a thing; it's been the greatest.

FA: You've devoted a lifetime to the sport of archery. Any regrets or things you would do differently if you could do it all again?

I suppose any athlete has regrets about the tournaments he didn't win but almost did. Same for me but I never dwell on those kinds of things because there's always so much in front of us that has to be done.
 
I do wish we could have brought more money into archery in the mid eighties when I was competing. The men and women I shot with and against were the best and deserved more for their efforts. I remember Katie Smith outshooting everyone on occasion but got little for it. The same goes for the men who were winning.

FA: You have an opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of archers, bowhunters and potential bowhunters with this interview. What would you say to them?

To all those who read this interview I would say that in today's culture most are looking for the easy way to success but there isn't one. It takes hard work, it takes time and it takes smarts. I had to learn through trial and error and with friends but now there are coaches who can shorten your road so search one out and learn in one year what took me decades. Most of all, I hope everyone remembers that the first rule of archery is "have fun"!

To reach Larry Wise:

  • Private coaching, two-day or one-day group Core Archery shooting schools at your location.
  • Larry Wise Archery, RR#3, Box 678, Mifflintown, PA, 17059
  • www.larrywise.com
  • 877-464-9997 (toll free)
 

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