Due to his titles, records, writings and the video series Masters of the Barebow, there is one man that has become synonymous with longbow shooting in America. That man is Larry Yien and I recently spoke with him. This is Larry’s story.
Larry – One of my cousins invited me to go bowhunting with him and his buddies up in the Sierra Nevada for Mule deer. One minor detail being, I needed to learn to shoot a bow and arrow. That August of 1986 was a special time, I fell head over heels for bowhunting and got a quick introduction to archery. The wilderness, traipsing around with a bow and arrow it was primal, it was rugged and it was tough! Archery was a new challenge and it intrigued me that I could hunt game with a primitive weapon.
Jimmy – Did you shoot a compound first and then transition? If so what sparked the change?
Larry – As a bowhunter I started with a compound bow, I still remember those days at Discovery Park archery range in Sacramento California, sighting in my bow and getting it tuned. I was completely and utterly wrong with my set up, shooting fingers with a fall away rest with no side pressure. The bow seemed like a tool or a weapon which we used to hunt. But there was something more to it than that, it sang out to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it was like the “muses” were singing to me to come closer. It all became clear when I started shooting my first recurve, I realized what the melody was and thus started my romance with archery. My awakening came one sunny day when I broke my compound and my neighbor offered to lend me his bow. When he brought over his bow my jaw nearly hit the ground, it was a beautiful vintage Hoyt Promedalist, rosewood riser maple limbs, 66″ and 38# @ 28″. That bow was what was singing out to me and she was a beauty!
Jimmy – Let’s talk a little bit about competitive archery. How many major competitions have you won and what were they?
Larry – Discovering archery at a later age, 24 I was amazed and blessed that archery was very healthy in California. Pick any given weekend and you can find a 3-D novelty or NFAA outdoor shoot somewhere in our state. There is a healthy representation of both NFAA and NAA shoots and clubs, IBO has not established itself but I’m still hopeful. I started competition locally and quickly went up to the regional shoots. Within my first year I was shooting state level tourneys. Perhaps the turning point in my career was shooting in the NAA World Field Trials and National Fields. I placed second that year but my eyes were open to what an “elite” archer looked like. We got to spend time with the likes of Jay Barrs, Ed Elliason, Judy Adams, Rick McKinney Randy Ulmer, and the list goes on.
While I consider our state competitions major tournaments, as well as our regional championships, they aren’t on the same level as National and World Competitions. I’ve had plenty of podium visits at State Championships but I’m most proud of my State Record for the NFAA Animal round which still stands at 500 for men’s longbow with wood arrows (my gear was IFAA approved).
I’ve competed in 2 North American IFAA (continental tournaments) and won gold in both tourneys in Men’s longbow and hold current North American records for field hunter and aggregate rounds .
I won gold medals in the IFAA World Field Archery Championships 1996 Darrington, USA, 1998 New Zealand, and 2000 South Africa. WFAC occurs every 2 years. Darrington was special because I set some World Records that stood for some 10 years.
The most supreme honor was competing on the inaugural USA team at the IFAA World Field Championships 1996 where we won the Gold medal. I was a USA team member in successive years 1996,1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 where we won the Gold Medal in the “Champion of Nations” for the USA/NFAA team.
As much as I would like to say those Gold Medals are the most important thing in my archery life, it truly was the friendships I made with team mates and competitors as well as representing the USA that truly was the bounty. We still keep in touch talking on the phone or at tournaments. These are guys and gals that I might not have met otherwise.
Jimmy – What is your most memorable shoot and why?
Larry – When I showed up to my first World Championships in Darrington Washington I had a few things in mind. I wanted to experience the World Class caliber range in Darrington that was legendary in it’s challenges.
Secondly I wanted to compete in a World competition in hopes to meet archers from around the world and perhaps learn from them how their culture influenced their sport. And how they reveled and embraced this wonderful sport.
Thirdly I wanted to have fun, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I remember thinking to myself that I’d be happy to shoot middle of the pack. Of course I’d shoot my best, but the fear of failure was what spurred me on to practice up for the tournament, the unknown.
I feel like I accomplished all of that and more. I got to feel the wrath of the Darrington ranges as they presented challenges in shooting up, down, and sidehill while being set in the dense forests of Washington state. I met archers from all over the world and got to see different bows, tabs, armguards, quivers, as well as bows and arrows. In addition I met great friends, some of them have been lifelong friends who I still keep in touch with. Everyone was colorful and friendly, all of them were warm generous and fierce competitors in this sport we call archery.
And lastly I shot better than I had hoped. It was an adventure and the start of a great journey shooting on the World venue.
Jimmy – You worked your way up to a champion, what do you attribute to your success?
Thousands and thousands of arrows shot. Setting proper goals and setting outrageous goals in my archery. I was cleaning out my book shelf the other day and found a dusty old legal pad. I found some notes I had made back in 1994, a few of the goals I had written down were pretty gutsy aspirations. Funny thing is they had all come true. From killing a 6 pt. bull elk with my longbow to winning a World Championship.
Reaching world class standards takes a tremendous amount of hard work and refinement of technique it also takes a strong mental cue to keep you in the tournament. Having faith and conviction and trusting in the Lord provides a solid foundation for me to build upon.
Larry – Finding my skill in archery was serendipitous at best, playing competitive sports as a youth garnered that competitive spirit in me. Always wanting to excel and being able to get back up after falling down helped with that drive to be the best I could be. Having a supportive family that allowed me to spend countless hours at the range and traveling to tournaments. And of course having friends and family pointing me in the right direction when I lost my way. Always supporting me in finding my way and my salvation.
The many teachers and coaches I have had along the way.
When you have bowhunting and archery greats alongside you as a greenhorn, how can you not become great. Having Ben Rogers shooting for soda’s and teaching me how to shoot gap. Having Tom Daley giving me tips and direction as I first started shooting big tournaments. Sharing a cottage with Randy Ulmer and talking about elk hunting. Teachers and coaches are good for giving tips and insight and also to find strengths and weaknesses. Once identified it is important to utilize strengths and work on improving or dealing with weaknesses.
Jimmy – What was the most pressure you’ve felt shooting?
Larry – Literally and figuratively the most pressure I felt was going into the World Championships in Scotland in 2002. It was a big tourney and I was looking forward to shooting with the European archers. My preparation was going well with practice scores in and near the 400’s, back then the world records I had set were mid 360’s and 370’s so I was ready to “rock”. Well let’s just say I got to see what color my parachute was. A couple of days before the tourney started I started getting flu symptoms. I got some cold and flu medicine from a target mate and it seemed to make things better, but my scores were weak and I found myself quickly in the second group of archers watching the top flight move away with each target.
Although there was the pressure to perform I also found solid ground in “just” enjoying the moment, enjoying the shot and practicing what I preached which was score isn’t linked to having a good time. I worked on proper shot execution and enjoying the tourney and my target mates for the next 2 days. On the 3rd day things started feeling more proper form wise but I started feeling really sick and bloated, the ibuprofen had started me bleeding internally and I was up all night. I knew I needed one of those acid reducers or maybe a hospital but we were getting in each day from shooting way too late and I was going to have to toughen up and have faith that it would all work out.
After the 4th of shooting I had managed to claw my way up to the top 6 archers and shoot in the first flight. I said my jolly good byes to the folks in the 2nd group and started day 5 with the hot shots. They had all watched me on day 1 but by now they knew I wasn’t a threat to even medal. But I had a great warm up, and really tight groups at each target, I found myself in true form and more importantly I was in the “zone” I could not miss. It was all I could do not to giggle through the round and I kept myself quiet by singing silently my favorite tunes. By the half I was looking at third place. A few more targets and I was even with the guy in 2nd. Going into the last 3 targets I had pulled even with the fine archer in 1st! EGAD, pressure? But to be honest with you I was in a zone where winning didn’t matter, well let me re-phrase that beating the guys ahead of me didn’t matter. It was all about shooting good shots and letting the chips fall where they may. After the last arrow was shot I had an overwhelming sense of joy with tears in my eyes. I congratulated Martin Konig for his win and I was very happy to podium with silver.
Pressure wise I felt it coming into the tourney since I was shooting so well and I was the defending World Champion. During the tournament I think I alleviated the pressure but then started to feel pressure from the internal bleeding. After shooting that final day I rushed off to the pharmacy and got some acid reducers that allowed the bleeding to stop. That was a great tournament! If it doesn’t kill ya it will make you stronger.
Jimmy – What do you most like about competition shooting?
Larry – I like the drive to shoot the best I can on any given day. The camaraderie in fellow archers to improve and excel as archers and craftsman. But in reality it is very individual for me I strive to improve and shoot better. I love romancing the shot and striving towards that “perfect shot”.
Jimmy – If you were king for a day and could change any one thing about competition shooting what would it be and why?
In a “limited” style of archery like Traditional Longbow we are bound by rules upon rules to keep things limited. If we shot freestyle everything goes and there are very few rules. But I digress, within these elaborate rules we have equipment disputes and restrictions abound.
If I were King for a day I would have a competition set up like the “little 500 bike race” (ala “Breaking Away” the movie) patterned off the Indianapolis 500 car race, where we all had the same bows, for example: all Howard Hill “tembos”, an affordable stock bow maybe it should be a Martin “Stick”. Just set the nock point get the arrows flying out right and shoot a field round. No face or stringwalking, finger touches the nock. Let the games begin!
Jimmy – Do you hunt?
Larry – Hunting is what brought me to archery and it is very prime that I hunt and gather for as much of my food as I can. We do visit the market to supplement our food but we try to grow and harvest as much of our food as we can. My favorite animals to hunt are Rocky Mountain Elk and Mule Deer, I also enjoy bird hunting for quail, grouse and pheasant.
My primary bow is a Fox Triple Crown and Royal Crown. I just picked up a bow from Robertson Stykbow, Dick made me one of his new hybrid takedown longbows for those hunting trips when I need to hop on a plane. The bows that I’ve been hunting the most with lately have been my osage laminated to bamboo longbows(no glass) made by Jamie Miller, Jamie was trained by Dean Torges and they both make top notch bows. I’ve also been dabbling with my Hoyt and Win Win recurves maybe toying with the idea of shooting fita barebow and NFAA Traditional Recurve.
Jimmy – What arrows?
I’ve got a garage full of arrows, I’ve been practicing with Gold Tip Traditionals because they are so durable. I still have a stash of old acme shafts and Rogue River tapered shafts and I prefer Port Orford Cedar arrows. I use dodge nocks, gateway 4″ LW Left Helical, 100-125 grain points and my arrows fall near 10 grains/pound of draw weight.
Jimmy – What # bow? Trainer bows 32-35#, competition bows 38-42#, hunting bows 50-60#. I prefer longer bows in the 66″-70″ range. I shoot BCY dynaflight 97, 8125, and dyneema 02 string and halo serving.
Jimmy – What aiming system do you use?
Larry – My aiming system is a hybrid of sorts where I shoot gap, pick a point, and instinctive depending on what target and distance.
Jimmy – What is a typical training session and how many days per week do you shoot? How many arrows in a day?
Larry – Currently I am shooting part time but I hope to up my shooting sessions. I shoot every other day and average 120 to 200 arrows a day. On the weekends I make it to the outdoor range and shoot at the practice butts and then shoot half a field round, 14 targets. I warm up at 10 yards and then shoot blank bale or blind bale for about 3 ends and then warm up at 20 yards and 30 yards working on proper shot execution. My special days when I slate a specific step of my shot sequence to work on I will alternate time between close bale and 20 yards to learn and then reinforce proper execution.
I vary my training sessions from practice on a specific round, to training on proper technique and execution, to actual tourney shooting.
Jimmy – What are your archery dreams/goals?
Larry – My dreams and goals are to win another World Championships in Field and set some new records in field hunter and or animal. I’d also like to make a World Team. But most of my dreams are centered around partaking on a 10-21 day adventure into the wilderness hunting for big and small game and living off the land. It’s a feeling of being very vulnerable yet empowered to live in the wilderness.
Jimmy – Do you have someone or something that motivates you? If so what?
Larry – I went off to Oregon to get some expert coaching from one of my team mates a fine archer who shoots in the limited compound styles, Rob Gentry. We spent a week together hunting elk even though we both knew he was going to work on me with my archery. He shared some special things with me as we explored archery and hunting. What he invited me to do was to shoot my shots in faith. To shoot each shot for the Lord.
It reminded me of a scripture a friend shared with me once:
Whatever you do,
Make it an offering to me –
The food you eat or worship you perform,
The help you give, even your suffering.
I find motivation in my daily shooting to honor the Lord with each of my shots, and I find worship as I draw each arrow and release it. Without ego, or desire for personal gain. Each arrow is shot in faith and it is as much his shot than mine.
Jimmy – Thanks for the time Larry.
Larry – My pleasure Jimmy.