For the past five seasons a group of purists have documented some amazing bow hunts for the hit Sportsman Channel show Elite Archery’s Respect the Game.

Their adventures take viewers throughout North America to places most people can only imagine. This season they stalk elk in Colorado, bears in Alaska and mule deer in Iowa, among other pursuits all taken with bow and arrow.

More than a dozen bowhunters make up the featured team on the show with anywhere from two to six participating on any one episode, all sponsored by the Outdoor Group, a parent company for a host of outdoor brands including Elite Archery. 

Each featured hunter is proficient as much with a camera as they are with a bow. And while they might come from different parts of the country, they each have one thing in common and that’s a love for bowhunting. They are also mostly cool young guys. 

So what does it take to become a featured outdoorsman? We caught up with Bill Buckingham, a member of the team based in Michigan to find out about that, why he is so passionate about archery and the future of bowhunting equipment.

Q: How did you get involved with the show?

Buckingham: I always had a love of deer hunting and a love of photography and I was a friend of the president of Elite Archery and a friend of the president of Scout Archery. I was just hunting with these guys naturally, travelling the world going deer and antelope hunting and doing different things. So when the Outdoor Group decided to produce a show they tapped guys they thought had experience behind the company and formed a team. 

Q: What really attracts you to bowhunting?

Buckingham: Unlike other forms of hunting, bowhunting primarily takes place in the most natural state and undisturbed state of the animal. Originally my family and I were all gun hunters and I found that the animals were pressured during that period or were just not behaving the way you thought animals should behave based on the hunting conditions. The neatest thing for me with bowhunting is how intimate and close you get to the animals and how relaxed the animals are.

Q: Do you think you need more experience to bow hunt versus hunting with a rifle?

Buckingham: Just the opposite. For someone who’s new to hunting, even though it’s more difficult, I would suggest starting with archery hunting first based on the seasons being earlier in the year and the animals haven’t been hunted so you have a lot more fun and a lot more encounters among the animals just doing what they do. About 99 percent of hunting is just encountering nature and observing not only what the deer are doing but the birds and the weather and the whole climate of the experience. And I’ve found it’s a lot more fun during the archery season.

Q: As far as the equipment these days, do you think it’s improving or have we done all we can do to make a high performance bow?

Buckingham: I think the bows have reached a plateau as far as their speed, but what Elite is doing is increasing the shootabiliity of the bow. By that it means through engineering they are making the draw cycle smoother yet increasing the energy of the arrow. So you’ve got a really enjoyable experience and you are able to hold the bow back longer and aim more effectively.  So while the raw engineering may have reached a plateau, the company really strives to push things further through shootability.

Q: What do you think of crossbows or air powered guns?

Buckingham: That’s probably a fun toy but I don’t feel that’s an organic archery experience. One thing you’ll find is that drawing the bow and settling in and aiming is 99 percnet of the difficulty of taking an animal with archery equipment. The moment at which you need to move to draw your bow, that’s kind of the moment of truth. Do you get that bow drawn back and settled in without that animal noticing you and spooking? That’s where shootability comes in. How long can you hold the bow back? Are you stressing to aim? That’s my favorite part of archery and what I think makes it unique.

Q: You’re most exposed at that point. You can’t really hide.

Buckingham: You hit the nail on the head. I can’t tell you how many hunts we have had a great trophy animal within range and you go draw your bow and that’s where if the hunt is going to fall apart it usually happens. Another big part of hunting for me is conservation and observing nature and trying to leave things exactly how you found them and not try to disturb anything. I know with hunting there can be a negative connotation, but that’s definitely not the case with our team and many of the modern archery teams that I know. It’s a very progressive environment and conservation minded.

Q: Is that one of your goals?

Buckingham: We are absolutely trying to convey that message. It’s not always about the size of the animal but the experience. In the Iowa hunt, it’s a father and son team. In this day and age it’s neat to see this father and son enjoy the outdoors together. Being raised in the outdoors, I can’t tell you my best day of playing video games, but I can tell you my best day of deer hunting with my dad or the first turkey hunt I took my son on last year.

Photo credit: Bill Buckingham with a mule deer in South Dakota taken with Elite Energy 35 bow Easton deep six fmj arrows and Swarovski range finding binoculars. Courtesy Respect the Game