The Fit BowhunterYou can be in the best shape of your life and get on game constantly. Still, if you can’t make the shot, it’s a lot of investment for little return. One of the best ways to deal with moment-of-truth jitters is to compete in the Alpha Bowhunting Challenge. Designed by hardcore bowhunter and former Train To Hunt National Champion Phil Mendoza, the Alpha Bowhunting Challenge will take your preparation to the next level.

There are four 2017 challenges, all hosted in Colorado. There’s also a fifth challenge designed for youth. You can check dates and locations at championshipbowhunting.com.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Phil Mendoza, founder of Alpha Bowhunting Challenge, to walk through what makes the event so effective.


Fit Bowhunter: What inspired you to start the Alpha Bowhunting Challenge?

Mendoza: I had shot a ton of 3-D archery at regional and national levels. Then, I took notice and started competing in some of the more mountain-based physical competitions like Train To Hunt. By competing in traditional 3-D and these physical-based competitions, I started to see what was keeping people away from entering both types of competitions.

I immediately decided my events would be shot from known yardages. I also eliminated the super-physical challenges. I wanted my event to appeal to both the elite physical athlete as well as those athletes who are looking to get to an elite level. I also wanted my event to appeal to the elite shooter and the average shooter alike. This is why I developed different classes like the Men’s Alpha, Men’s Open, Masters, Super Masters and Traditional., as well as a Women’s Alpha and a Women’s Open. We have a Youth division, too. I also wanted to create a game that showcased a bracket-style head-to-head format. When you’re racing and shooting against one person who is competing right alongside you, it really raises the nerves – nerves you’ll have to face when the moment of truth arrives.

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Fit Bowhunter: Tell me about the competition.

Mendoza: Like I mentioned before, it’s head-to-head. The first part is a marked-yardage, 25-arrow qualifying round. Shots at targets will be taken from standing, kneeling and sitting positions. We also have some targets that require the shooter to draw and hold for a bit of time.

The qualifying round also has a lot of shooter-choice targets. For example, I will put the same target at 30, 40 and 50 yards. This allows the shooter to shoot the 30-yard target for standard points, the 40-yard target for a bonus point or the 50-yard target for two bonus points. I will also throw a target or two out there that is not marked. You can judge the target and shoot it for extra points, or you can simply range it and shoot it for standard points. I do this to give shooters who have fallen behind a chance to take a risk and catch up, but those catch-up type shoots also boost the nerves. Once we get to the brackets in any division, we go head-to-head.

In both the qualifying and the head-to-head rounds, men are shooting with a 25-pound pack on their back. Women are shooting with 15 pounds. This is just to simulate what bowhutners will experience when hunting the West. We want as close to a real-life hunting scenario as possible.

In the head-to-head, you shoot at five targets, but can take six arrows. You can go with a quiver or without. Each of the five targets has a clay pigeon hanging in the vitals. Hitting this clay target takes 30 seconds off your overall time. If you miss the clay target and your arrow lands in the vitals, it’s par. You don’t get any time removed, but you don’t get any added either. If you hit outside the vitals, 30 seconds is added to you time. The sixth arrow is for those who know they’ve taken a time hit. While shooting another arrow takes time, it may help them carve off some of the seconds that have been added to their time for putting an arrow or two outside the clay target’s vitals.

In between each target is a physical exercise, but we also allow you to have a spotter. Your spotter will be standing at the next target after you finish your physical challenge. They will tell you the range of the target you’re about to shoot and they will hand you your bow loaded with an arrow. We do this for safety. Too many times an exhausted bowhunter who is trying so hard to compete will lose mental focus and forget to load an arrow. We want everyone to be safe and for their equipment to be undamaged. Each round takes between three and three and a half minutes to run. The entire time, the head-to-head is going, we have a DJ playing loud music, which makes the event more spectator-friendly.

Related: The Fit Bowhunter Rebounds By Running For Time

Fit Bowhunter: How is the Alpha Bracket developed?

Mendoza: After the qualifying round, we put everyone in order from first to last in the qualifying score, and then we bracket the head-to-head rounds. The top 20 to 25 percent will make up the Alpha Bracket. First will go against eighth, second against seventh and so on. Everyone else gets bracketed into the Men’s Open bracket. And, of course, we have other brackets as well. Creating the Alpha Bracket in this way using a qualifying round prevents someone from coming in and sandbagging.

Fit Bowhunter: Tell me about the finals.

Mendoza: This year, we will have three outdoor qualifying events with guaranteed cash payouts. Visit our website for the dates of these qualifying tournaments. You can also register for the tournaments there. The finals will be held in Denver, Colorado, on July 1-2. One of the things I really like about our event is the two-day venue of the finals. As a 3-D shooter, I hated showing up for a tournament, shooting 40 targets and then driving right home. This weekend event features a barbeque at the end of the first night. We are also going to have a private film viewing with some of the local guys who want to display their work. People will have time to network, see their buddies and just have fun.

If you’re looking for a little friendly bowhunting competition that will test your shooting skills and physical abilities, all while simulating as close to a real moment-of-truth situation as possible, throw your hat in the 2017 Alpha Bowhunting Challenge ring.

Featured image: Alpha Bowhunting