PHELPS, NY – For Kim Ferguson, archery isn’t just a sport. It’s a family tradition.
“We used to shoot in a league before we had kids,” said Ferguson, noting that it was 26 years ago.
Her husband David had also shot competitively since before they had children, with both participating in a recreational Friday night league. Once their youngest son Brett turned 12, Ferguson, who works at Ontario County Public Health as a secretary, got her own bowhunting license. She specializes in the compound competition bow, with her older son Brandon also playing competitively while Brett mostly just shoots for hunting.
“It’s nice to do as a family,” Ferguson said.
Now 10 years after she began shooting competitively, Ferguson is the newly minted winner of the 2021 International Bowhunting Organization’s World Archery Championship. The annual competition requires the contestant to not only be a member of the organization but to also place in the top 20 scores of their specific competitive class at an IBO-sanctioned qualifying tournament, according to the organization’s rulebook.
In addition to winning the world championship, Ferguson also won the National Triple Crown in the Senior Female Hunter Class, which is only eligible to contestants with the top 30 scores in their class.
“It was really surreal,” Ferguson said of her wins. “It was amazing to see that I did it.”
“We told her she was leading. She didn’t believe it until she saw it,” David added.
‘The competitive bug comes out’
David Ferguson said both he and Kim had initially joined the IBO to improve at their hunting skills. But once they started shooting, the “competitive bug comes out.”
Unlike traditional archery practice, which can involve bullseye targets and clearly demarcated distances within an indoor setting, bowhunting involves shooting at animal-type targets in an outdoor setting at unmarked distances, according to the IBO’s rulebook. Given the lack of controlled settings, that meant “practice, lots of practice,” Ferguson said, noting that she would practice every day, often shooting 30 arrows or more daily.
“We’d practice putting stuff out in the yard to see if we’re right” at estimating the range, David said – which proved to be excellent practice for the actual championship, which was held outside at a ski resort in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, this past August.
“The more I got into it, the more I enjoyed it,” Ferguson said about competing, adding that at first she didn’t think competitions would be for her.
‘Archery doesn’t discriminate’
Michael Price, head coach for the Heritage Archery Academy, part of Heritage Outdoor Sports in Phelps, said he first knew Ferguson as a friend before she was a student of his, first joining the class in 2011. And right away, he could see her was talented.
“She’s gotta be one of the most diligent, purposeful archers I’ve ever coached,” Price said, adding that Ferguson “pays attention to detail more than any other human I’ve seen training.”
The archery academy began in 2006 with Price aiming to build a high-performance team, citing the Fergusons as role models. Soon Price began using cameras to record the positioning of his students while practicing, along with computer programs to track the performance of his students.
“The class is pretty intense,” David said, adding that recording someone using a bow can help the student adjust.
“Some people can’t comprehend what you’re talking about, so they tape it on cameras around you.”
While Price boasts an impressive resume, which includes coaching the USA Olympic Archery Team, he’s a firm believer that archery is accessible to all.
“Archery doesn’t discriminate. It builds confidence in young kids,” Price said. This was the reason for the academy’s slogan being “Changing Lives, one bow at a time.”
“I just eat, sleep and breathe this,” Price added.
And now with Ferguson’s victory, Price remarked on how gratifying it’s been to act as her coach.
“As a coach, as an individual, I get to live through her,” Price said. “To have somebody accomplish their goals was truly wonderful.”