What got you interested in bowhunting?
When we were teenagers, my brother bought a bow and went hunting. He couldn’t stop talking about how many deer he saw and how much fun he had. The next summer I bought a bow and joined him.
Tell us about the first animal you shot with the bow
The first year I bowhunted, my brother and I bought one dozen 2219 Easton aluminum arrows to share. We practiced all summer in the dunes. By the end of that summer all the anodizing was worn off the front half of those shafts, but we hadn’t lost any. Every arrow had been repeatedly straightened by the local archery shop.
The first morning of my first hunt I shot all 6 of my arrows at cow elk. I was able to find a few of those and shoot again. Eventually, I came back to camp to see if I could borrow some of Rusty’s. Needless to say I was unsuccessful on that trip. However, the next weekend we went back with 6 brand new arrows and I was able to connect on a fork horn muley at 20 yards. The deer fell in sight, and for the first time, I was convinced that the bow and arrow was a lethal weapon.
What would you consider to be your favorite game animal to bowhunt and why?
Mule deer. A mature mule deer buck is, in my opinion, the most difficult big game animal to kill with a bow. I love the challenge and I love spending time in the country they live in.
On top of your bowhunting and archery career, you are a successful professional. How have you been able to juggle the two?
I came from a very modest background. I had to work very hard to get through school and then harder to be successful in my profession and business. I wasn’t able to spend as much time hunting in those early years. That hard work is paying off now. When Tammy and I decided to have children, I slowed down on all my business and competitive archery endeavors to focus on the family. That, in turn, has given me more time to hunt. I feel very fortunate to have an understanding wife and family and the time and resources to hunt as much as I do now.
Explain your current bowhunting equipment setup? Type of bow, releases, arrows, Broadhead, etc.?
I am currently shooting a Hoyt Vectrix XL at 70 # using Winner’s Choice bowstrings made of BCY material. I shoot Easton Full Metal Jacket 400’s with Snyper or Rage broadheads and Arizona Archery Enterprises fletching. I use a FUSE fall away arrow rest (Smart Rest), a Fuse sight (Navigator) and Fuse quiver (Posi Lite). I shoot a Carter Qwikee 2 release.
Do you ever get buck fever or target panic?
I’ve never had target panic. I do get a touch of buck fever on a regular basis. Oddly enough, it seems to be worse when I’m not the hunter, but rather when I’m guiding someone else in on a stalk.
Explain your practice regimen. How you prepare for your hunts, physical training etc.
I’ve been an endurance athlete, competing in some type of long distance racing (mountain marathons and ultramarathons, endurance horses, adventure races, mountain bike racing etc.), my entire adult life, so staying in shape has never been a problem. The same holds true for practicing my shooting. I’ve been involved in some sort of archery competition from early on. That has kept my shooting on track.
Besides your bowhunting success, you are one of the top target shooters. What would you consider the most important aspect of the shot; breathing, the release, follow-thru?
That’s a tough question because it’s hard to separate the shot out into its many individual components—they are all interrelated. A good shot is like a chain, all links have to be strong or it breaks down. That being said, I think bowhunters as a whole have the most problems with their release. A surprise release that occurs after the trigger has been squeezed seems to elude a lot of people.
Last year you had a chute plane accident. Can you explain what happened and what went thru your mind when you crashed?
I drew a tag on the AZ strip, the holy grail of mule deer tags. There is no separate archery tag for that unit, it is a rifle hunt. I’m a mule deer fanatic and I felt that this was my chance to shoot a truly giant deer with my bow. Unfortunately, this country is not conducive to bowhunting. The deer density is extremely low and much of the country is flat pinyon /juniper country. Most rifle hunters shoot their deer after jumping them up in a vehicle or on foot. That’s not an option with a bow.
I went up for a week of scouting, glassing etc and found very few deer and no huge deer. I felt a little desperate and felt that the only way I could kill a big deer with my bow during a gun season was to find a big buck before the season, figure out where he was drinking and sit water. I thought the only efficient way to find a big buck in that country was to fly. I told my friend, Greg Krogh, what I was going to do and, to his credit, he begged me not to for several reasons. But I was struck with irrational exuberance. From what I had been told, many of the big bucks that are killed there are found by flying pre-season. And though it is completely legal to scout by flying, it sure feels awkward when you are doing it.
For the record, let me say that I have never found an animal from the air and then went back and killed it. I’m certainly not passing judgment on anyone who chooses to scout that way. I think it is a personal choice how one limits themselves scouting and in the field as long as you obey the game laws. In this case I think I justified it in my mind because I was hunting with a bow and was at such a disadvantage to the rifle hunters. And if all that sounds like an apology or an excuse, maybe it is.
The bottom line is I made the decision to do it and I did it. Apparently I wasn’t very good at it and crashed.
To answer the second part of your question, the only thought that went through my mind as I was headed down was that it won’t be fair to my boys if I die.
Out of all of your hunts, which single hunt would you consider your most memorable?
My wife’s Desert Bighorn hunt. We found a giant ram before the season. Several of my good friends came up to help. Tammy had a broken toe, yet she and I climbed up three huge nasty-steep chutes during an all-day stalk, while my two young sons and my buddies watched through spotting scopes from the valley floor. She made a great shot straight down a cliff. My boys got to see the whole thing. Her Ram won the Award of Excellence for the biggest sheep of any species taken that year at the national FNAWS meeting, a meeting that I had previously been invited to speak at.
What do you consider to be the greatest threat to bowhunting?
How would you like to be remembered 25 years from now?
A good father, husband and friend.
For more on Randy Ulmer, including articles, photos, and contact information please visit randyulmer.com