Rocky Mountain Archery’s Stewart King
Trevon: Welcome Stewart, how are you?
Stewart King: Good, yourself?
Trevon: I’m doing great. Will you please introduce yourself and how you’re involved in the archery community.
Stewart King: My name’s Stewart King. I graduated from CSU in ‘92 with an engineering degree. I worked in different fields here in Fort Collins, moved away for about a year and a half, and realized that was a horrible mistake. Got back as fast as I could to this community. Been shooting since I was 15 and worked with Jim Widmier at Arrow Dynamics when he was being coached by the Olympic team out of his facility. When I found out that he was retiring and moving on to greener pastures, I thought, “This is an opportunity.” So I decided I was going to switch hats, change careers, and built Rocky Mountain Archery, and here we are…. 10 years ago we opened up.
Trevon: I remember when you opened. It really did fit a hole that we had in the northern part of the state. Jim Widmier, as you mentioned, played a vital role in my growth as a bowhunter. He’s the one that finally grabbed me by the ear and said, “Trevon, you’re left eye dominant. Why don’t you shoot a bow left-handed?” I remember the first time in his shop shooting a left-handed bow, the hardest part was learning how to put an arrow on the string left-handed. But after that, my accuracy went through the roof. It was just so much easier.
Stewart King: Sure. Right.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Trevon: So when did you start bow hunting?
Stewart King: I started bow hunting in 1985 back in Missouri looking for whitetail. To be honest with you, I was self-taught. When I started off before the internet, I would look through outdoor life magazines, and if I felt like an article was relevant, I would cut it out, staple it together and reread it. I had a collection of all these articles. When we made tree stands, they were homemade wooden platforms that were not OSHA approved and we gave it our best. So I probably bowhunted back there for three years unsuccessfully. Because the success ratio is pretty low when you are learning, but I tried awful hard, and then I came out here, and I killed my first deer... Boy, what year was that? Like 1989, something like that.
Trevon: I was graduating high school.
Stewart King: I graduated in 1985, but after I graduated and ended up out of here on my wife’s family ranch. Got a nice velvet muley down in the bottom lands with an old Hoyt Raider. Aluminum arrows, 2315s with five-inch feathers that I got from Jim Widmier.
LET’S TALK MENTORS
Trevon: Did you have somebody that was your mentor? I guess maybe it was Jim that got you into bowhunting or was it just your curiosity to desire to hunt with a stick and a string, and try and kill an animal.
Stewart King: To be honest with you, my “AH HA” moment was an article I read by Chuck Adams. It just made sense. I read it and for some reason and something clicked. I thought, “This is what I’m going to be doing for a long time.” and I told Chuck that at one of the ATA shows. I said, “If this screws up, it’s your fault. You influenced me.” My parents shot recreationally, but very little. So as far as a mentor goes, yeah, it really was Jim giving me the advice to get to the next step and all the information I needed to be dangerous. In the beginning, I mostly self-taught. Since then, I’ve gone through a ton of training. I am a US archery level four coach. There has also been a lot of other training in order to coach other archers, but mostly it’s self-taught, with some influence from Jim.
Trevon: I know for a fact that you really do have a soft spot for getting kids involved in archery. You’ve worked with my daughter numerous times, and there’s something about somebody else stepping into that role as teacher or coach versus her dad.
Stewart King: Right.
Trevon: She takes input from you better, possibly because you’re not her dad, but possibly because you speak that language. You do such a great job. I’ve seen it firsthand. My nephews, we were at the shop just the other day. You speak to that beginner archer in a way that is understandable. And so that’s something I appreciate from you from the shop, from the resources that you bring with Rocky Mountain Archery.
Stewart King: With kids it’s important, when I’m working with the little kiddos, I get down on my knees on the ground, so that I’m looking at them eye-to-eye. I’m not the big towering, giant intimidating adult that they have to look up to. I want to be on their level instead and explain things instead of just downloading data. It’s important to put archery into kid terms that they can understand. While doing it correct and safely have a little fun at the same time.
Trevon: Right. And I think you hit the nail on the head is that you make sure it’s fun. So that’s something I appreciate. Let’s get into a little more bow hunting.
Stewart King: Okay.
LET’S TALK BIG GAME
Trevon: I want to ask what’s your favorite big game to bowhunt?
Stewart King: Mule deer. Easy. For some reason mule deer, because you can’t normally call them in, and you can’t pattern them like a whitetail. Hunting is mainly spot and stalk and it’s super challenging. It’s probably because I’ve paid so much attention to their behavior that I can read mule deer. If he looks like he’s going that way, but I know he’s going to go that way and then turn left, then I can go around and ambush him. I just have the best luck with mule deer and I just enjoy hunting those guys.
Trevon: And you’ve killed some good ones!
Stewart King: Yeah, I’ve got one record book buck that we’ve roughed scored. I haven’t had professionally scored yet. Because like yourself, I’m out there for the fun and the joy of the hunt. Not trying to kill the biggest thing on the mountain. I just want to be successful, put a little meat in the freezer. Horns are nice, but they’re hard, you can’t eat them with ketchup.
Trevon: Do you have a favorite story of a bowhunting experience, it can be successful or unsuccessful, that maybe you want to share?
Stewart King: Probably the one that I share the most is about a lesson learned. I shot a big six by seven elk, maybe eight years ago, and I hit exactly where I aimed, but the elk was quartering a little more than I thought he was. It taught me some things about the mechanics of an elk’s body. Basically, I hit a rib with a cut on contact broadhead, which pushed the rib in, and the rib just deflected and pushed the arrow right back out. I opted to try to let him go, not disturb him, and let him go lay down. He didn’t, he just kept walking and walking and walking. I tracked that bull for nine miles and 1500 vertical feet during a horrible, horizontal snow blizzard. It was a challenge. But I knew if I wounded him it was my responsibility to get on him. What I learned from that too, is that if you know you’ve got one arrow in them, you keep shooting until they’re down. So, it’s not necessarily a successful story, but a lesson learned. I feel like my job here at Rocky Mountain Archery is to pass along the knowledge I gained by doing it the hard way and screwing up. If I can pass along that information and help someone finish the harvest, then that ends up making my hunt a successful story.
FAVORITE HUNTING STORY
Trevon: What’s your favorite successful story?
Stewart King: Probably the big buck I shot with my daughter. It was several years ago and we were just driving around a hunting area, found a giant buck which I ended up harvesting, but he was not on the property we had access to. He was close, but not quite on our property. So that evening I went back to the house, and did a little e-research and found out that the piece of private property that we had permission to be on had an adjoining property on the other side of the fence. They were connected. I didn’t realize that it had the same owner and we actually had permission to hunt there. Before the next light, my daughter and I went out the very next morning on the property we had permission to be on. We were as close as we could be to where we had spotted that buck and lo and behold, overnight, he had crossed the fence. I can remember I made a really good shot with a good follow through. I just held my bow solid and hit exactly where my pin was. All the other deer scattered. Samantha was standing right behind me and I looked back up at her and I said, “Did I hit him?” and she stated, “Oh, he’s dead. He’s done.” That was fun that we were able to share that moment together.
Trevon: That’s pretty special, and what’s neat about Rocky Mountain Archery is it’s a family affair. You have a few other people that work there, but mainly family. It’s not uncommon for me to pop in there and have Sam work on my bow or if Derek’s off of his day job, he might be there and help me. And then of course Colton…
Stewart King: Right, Colton works there full time.
Trevon: The love and passion for archery goes through your whole family. So it’s a special place. Let’s talk a little bit about competitive archery. That’s something that you do in the wintertime in the shop. You have winter indoor 3Ds, but you also do paper target competitions. How does competition archery lead itself to successful bowhunting?
Stewart King: I think it really comes down to shots under pressure. If you’re shooting paper in a very controlled environment and you’re two points down, you still have to be aware of your surroundings. A lot of people, even though you’re not supposed to, will look over at their competitors’ target and know that they just shot a nine instead of a 10. So now it’s on them, it’s added pressure. As an archer you have to make that perfect shot to take first place. If I’ve got a lot of crosswind, I’ve got to hold steady and wait for the wind to die down. I’ll take the shot at the exact moment that the animal provides the best shot angle or make sure there’s not another animal blocking the shot. If you can train yourself to perform well under pressure here on the range, you are more likely to do that in a hunting scenario as well. So I think that’s the key thing. Of course the archery rigs are typically different as far as bowhunting versus competition, but at the end of the day, the style and the mental game, which is huge, is going to be very similar.
Trevon: How, in your opinion, can we get more people involved in bowhunting, kids specifically?
Stewart King: It’s really tricky... I mean, the CBA is on top of it. I’ve talked to several of the guys from there, and they’ve got the right philosophy. The mentor program is so essential. I can’t tell you how many kids 11 to 16 years of age that come in and talk to me about archery and say, “I really want to do this. This looks so amazing. I’ve got no one to teach me.” This is where I came from too. I had no one to teach me. In that situation, you have to put that guy or that kiddo alongside someone who’s made mistakes, like I talked about earlier, someone that can share that knowledge and shorten the learning curve. I did a lot of Scouts with my kids growing up. I was both of my boys’ Cub Scout leader. If you can get maybe a small group, girls or boys, that want to learn to bowhunt with a couple of adult mentors, instead of just a one-on-one, I think maybe a program like that might be a little bit more beneficial.
Trevon: That’s good, and I think that’s how we’re going to turn the tide. I think that’s how we’re going to increase recruitment. Kids nowadays, it seems their attention span seems to be getting shorter. However, I do believe that if you get a kid out in an experiential outdoors activity, they’re much more in tune with it.
ONE THING YOU WON’T LEAVE BEHIND
Trevon: Alright, next question… Besides your bow, arrow, broadheads, and release, what’s the one thing you won’t leave behind when you head out to bow hunt?
Stewart King: The one thing I won’t leave behind is my bino pack. The way I run that is a little bit different. So in my bino pack on my chest are my binoculars, my range finder, a knife, a sharpener, my license, a pen, and I actually carry a little bottle of water purification tablets, and a little bitty foldable bladder. If I get on a critter, I’m a very mobile hunter. I get after him. I try to get ahead of him all the time, but I’ll dump my main pack, set a waypoint so I can come back to it, and then I’m just gone. I might be gone until after dark with just my bino pack. So that’s sort of my day pack, a survivalists type of thing that I’ve got everything that I need right there so I can harvest the animal and field dress it. Then I can get the license on the animal and do whatever I’ve got to do and then get back to my main pack. So that bino pack, the way I have it put together is a critical piece of equipment.
MISTAKES MADE BY NEW BOWHUNTERS
Trevon: That’s great. What’s the one mistake that new bowhunters most often make?
Stewart King: Not practicing range estimation on 3D animals. If I’m hunting deer versus elk, because of the very different size of their body, they quite often misjudge the distance. They think that elk’s a lot closer because he’s so big. In the heat of the moment they miss the shot because they misjudged the distance. I’m not very good at judging distances, so I use my range finder almost religiously. That helps me avoid making poor shots, so yeah, I think misjudging distance by lack of practice.
3 TIPS FOR BOWHUNTERS
Trevon: That’s great. Can you give me three tips to help someone be a better bowhunter when it comes to, first of all, stalking an animal, reading the wind, and then just being comfortable while hunting.
Stewart King: From a stalking standpoint, it’s being very conscious where each one of your footsteps land. If you’re paying attention to what’s going on straight ahead of you and not what’s below you, you’re going to step on a stick, some dry leaves, it crunches and you are busted. You’re in their house and if you aren’t being super careful they’re going to hear you and they’re gone. So you’ve got to be very conscious of that foot placement. Reading the wind is tough because most of the places that we hunt, thermals are going to change during the day. They’re going to swirl on you just when you think you got it perfect, but you’re wrong. One of the things I learned on my trip to South Africa was my guide there, he went through two bottles of the little smoke stuff, in the seven days I was there.My advice on being comfortable while hunting is don’t buy brand new high-end expensive gear and put it on the day before you go hunting. It most likely won’t fit right, and your boots will not be broken in. You need to get those clothes well broken in and well worn. Use scouting trips, 3D practice, and camping trips to test your gear. Wear that stuff and get it to where you are comfortable with it.
WHY DO YOU BOWHUNT?
Trevon: Good. That’s great. I’ve got a few questions left and the main one is why do you bowhunt?
Stewart King: I don’t know that I have an answer for that. I guess I appreciate the challenge. I appreciate the up close and personal. I feel like I need to earn it in order to get within 30 or 40 yards of an animal and then execute a shot with a stick and a string. So I appreciate the challenge.
Trevon: Why would you encourage anyone to join the CBA?
Stewart King: That’s going to be mainly that united we stand. We need to be together as a group so that our voice is a little bit louder than a bunch of individual people. I feel that the CBA is going to give us a legislative voice. I know we’re working on potentially getting rid of the 80% maximum law let off. So there’s things like that. We got the lighted knock several years ago. That whole thing developed as a misunderstanding between bowhunters and legislation. The CBA was able to clear that up. So I think the biggest thing is, we have to stick together.
Trevon: Well, Stewart, thank you so much for taking this time out of your busy day. I know you got people about to bust down your doors there at the shop. So I just want to say thanks, and I appreciate it. And we appreciate you and what you’re doing for the sport of archery and for the heritage of bowhunting.
Stewart King: Thank you and we intend to keep moving forward as long as we can.