“Archery is life.” For many, that’s just a saying. But for some, that saying defines them.
Steve Anderson, 29, is a self-taught archer who exploded into the professional ranks to become one of America’s top compound-bow archers. He makes a living shooting arrows and working for Easton Archery, so he works in archery even when he isn’t shooting. His wife, Linda Ochoa-Anderson, is also a professional archer.
Although archery now defines Anderson’s life, it began as just a fun way to spend time outdoors.
“At about 13 I wanted to get into hunting,” he said. “My father farmed, so he’s often busy during hunting season. I had the option to go hunting with my uncles, and they were bowhunters.”
“I went to Idaho State to play hoops,” Anderson said. “I had a back injury there that limited my freshman season, and eventually ended my basketball career. In the meantime, I started shooting archery again with the intention to bowhunt.”
Anderson also started working at an archery shop, and bought a Hoyt target bow to begin competing. Soon after, a friend took Anderson to compete at the Western Classic Trail Shoot, which is commonly called “Redding.” It’s one of the country’s largest tournaments, and combines field archery and 3-D targets. The event features targets from .
Although Anderson had serious archery talent, that first big tournament was a learning experience. “I got my butt kicked, and wanted to get better after that point,” he said. “I think I placed 70th out of 100-something. I was introduced to what people can do with a bow, and what I needed to do to be competitive.”
Even though the tournament didn’t go well, Anderson liked competition. “I committed myself to learning how to execute good shots and properly activate a release,” Anderson said.
He didn’t have a traditional coach. Instead, several mentors in his community helped him with his form and bow tuning. Anderson also worked out many flaws himself through trial and error.
Problem-solving is an important skill for archers. “If I’m struggling in one area, I’ll go and figure out how to improve it,” Anderson said.
His commitment to improving paid off with a second-place finish at the next Redding event. That learning process was full of peaks, including a podium finish, but Anderson often stumbled along the way.
“I go through struggles periodically,” Anderson said. “You just have to work through it. If you know it’s just a rough patch, and go back to the elementary aspects of shooting, you can build yourself back. Then one day you’ll have a great practice day, and your confidence will come back.”
One problem plaguing new and experienced archers alike is shooting one score in practice and a worse score in tournaments.
“You experience frustration at any point in your archery career,” Anderson said. “Early on, it was frustrating not to bring your practice scores to a tournament. I think everyone experiences that. If you can stay with it and work on the mental aspect of your shooting, you can overcome that and even shoot better scores in tournaments because you’re more focused.”
Anderson’s early career featured mostly 3-D and field-archery tournaments. He first tried target archery while working at Hoyt Archery when a co-worker took him to a large competition. He quickly took to the new discipline.
“In my first year, I had the chance to represent team USA in the World Games,” he said. “The next year I made the World Cup team, and have been on it ever since.”
Although Anderson has enjoyed great success in target archery, his passion is field archery. The variety of targets and scenarios make field archery a challenging discipline. The competitors must shoot accurately, estimate distances precisely, and master uphill and downhill shots. His passion for this challenging discipline brought him to the World Field Championships in 2016, where he won gold.
“World field is the pinnacle of archery events, in terms of skill,” Anderson said. “In field archery, you have to have all aspects of your game working right.”
Arguably the top moment in 2017 came at Redding, where Anderson’s tournament career began. In 2015 and 2016, he tied for first place there, but finished second and third after the shoot-off.
In 2017, he again competed in a shoot-off with two of the world’s best archers. “The target is at 88 yards, and you have a few hundred people behind you, with a little wind blowing left to right,” Anderson said.
The target that decided the winner was an elk with an orange spot 5½ inches across. “All three of us drew back,” he said. “Stephan (Hansen) and Kyle (Douglas) shot pretty quickly and missed the dot. I let down and turned to my buddy. Paul Tedford. He said, ‘If you hit the dot, you win.’ I had a little heartbeat going and was shaking a little bit.”
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers, Anderson called the arrow a hit before it reached the target. The crowd erupted in cheers as he won the tournament that launched his competitive career.
Do you want to shoot like Steve Anderson? Start your journey at an archery shop, where you’ll find the gear and expert advice you need to start shooting. Find a nearby archery shop here.