Piercing the target


Mike Pierce stands in a South Dakota forest, surveying the area until he spots his target. He raises his bow, lines up his sights, pulls back on the bowstring and releases, sending an arrow sailing toward the circular foe downrange—it’s a hit.
This was no target practice for Predator’s Archery owner Pierce and his team, however. They were competing for national and international glory at the 2014 National Field Archery Association Outdoor National Championships July 30-Aug.3 in Yankton, S.D. The group barely had time to catch its breath before competing in the international tournament—the 2014 World Field Archery Championships Aug. 4-8, also in Yankton—wrapping up 10 straight days of shooting four arrows at 28 targets.
“Typically when I get back from a tournament, I’m physically and mentally exhausted,” Pierce said. “If you’re not, you’re not competing.”
Pierce took third in team competition at worlds, but said he found more satisfaction in watching his teammates and students succeed. Several took home medals of their own, such as Ashley Earle who finished third on the world stage and Karen Keating who took home a national championship and a fifth place finish in the world tournament.
Teammate Dan Vermilyer had competed in local tournaments before, but nothing as large as those in Yankton. The San Juan Bautista native said Pierce—who has competed in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Scotland, just to name a few—helped brace him for what to expect and provided moral support.
“I thought it was going to be a 10-day vacation, but it was pretty intense,” said Vermilyer, who took second at nationals and third at the world tournament. “I don’t think of myself as a competitive person, but in that competition I felt the pressure for sure.”
Pierce is a two-time world champion and the current Indoor World Champion and record holder, both of which he won after a pair of bad car accidents 14 years ago. The accidents left him with knee and back problems as well as nerve damage which cause him to shake when he shoots. But Pierce said his passion for his craft prevails over the problems the accidents left him with.
“I realized that even though when I shake, I can still shoot world scores. It’s all just a matter of how much effort you want to put into it,” he said.
Overcoming his own challenges inspired him to find a way for others to do the same. In addition to the sales, lessons and maintenance Predator’s Archery offers, the shop also modifies bows for those unable to shoot the traditional way. Pierce was able to modify a bow for a customer with severe Cerebral Palsy—which rendered one of his hands useless—to allow him to secure it to his body by a chin strap and shoot it by biting on a leather strap. This is just one of the many bows Pierce and partner Curtis Campisi have modified since opening the store, located at 7350 Monterey Road in Gilroy, in 1993.
“In 21 years, we haven’t not had somebody be able to shoot a bow,” Pierce said. “People come in and see what you can do, find the problems and work around it.”
Pierce is a Certified National Level Master coach and was named one of three Certified International Master coaches in the country while in Yankton. Pierce credits the certification to his unique teaching method he calls “singular thinking” which allows students to learn archery quicker than the traditional approach that takes three to four years to master.
“I utilize something that I call singular thinking and that’s that people are only capable of one conscious thought at a time,” Pierce said. “Utilizing that knowledge and concentrating on one item at a time, we can cut the learning curve down by years.”
The world champion never had any formal training, teaching himself how to shoot after buying his first bow from Nob Hill General Store at just 7 years old. He and Campisi got into archery as a way to sharpen their hunting skills and the mounted animal heads that line the walls of the shooting range are evidence of their victories.
Pierce said he still has his first bow, which serves as a physical reminder of how far he’s come. After the world titles and the success of his students and store, Pierce said he doesn’t have any particular goals left to achieve.
“It’s all just gravy from here on out,” he said with a smile.
Predator’s Archery is located at 7350 Monterey Road in downtown Gilroy—just look for the dinosaur outside. Visit the store online at predatorsarchery.com.