An interview with Hoyt Champion Archer, Cara Fernandez
Where do you live? Lapeer, Michigan, USA.
What class or division do you compete in? Woman's Pro. It isn't merely a hobby, it is a large part of who I am and that's what drives me.
How long have you been shooting competitive archery and what division do you compete in?
I have been travelling across the US since the age of 10, attending the International Bowhunting Organization (IBO) and Archery Shooters Association (ASA) 3D tournaments. Specifically, I started competing over 15 years ago in the Cub class and worked my way up through each division, until 6 years ago, when I decided to turn professional.
What are some of your most notable accomplishments?
Prior to the 2011 archery season, I had won fifteen National titles, eight World Championships, four National Triple Crown titles and three Shooter of the Year honours, in multiple divisions. In 2010, I had the honour of winning my first world championship as a pro at the ASA Classic. This year, I placed runner-up at the Classic and won the IBO World Championship. Throughout 2011, I attended twelve 3D tournaments and placed either 1st or 2nd in nine out of the twelve I attended. In addition, I was fortunate enough to win three Women's Pro events in a row. I was also the only professional archer to make every ASA Shoot Down in 2011, never leaving the top 5 all year. In IBO, I also won back to back National Triple Crown and Shooter of the Year honours. I feel truly blessed because I'm able to compete and represent Team Hoyt as a professional woman archer.
What drives you to compete as a professional woman archer?
I have a genuine love for the sport of archery, which I can't even begin to explain. I'm a fierce competitor by nature and archery is a very individualised sport. Plus it all depends on your individual drive and what you put forth in the sport that is going to make you successful. It's a personal endeavour because you're not relying on a team; you're relying on yourself to perform at the top of your game. With that being said, the material things such as plaques or contingency cheques are not what drives me to compete. It is the fact that I love being on the 3D course, spending time with friends and family and that I simply want to be the best that I can be, each and every time I pick up my bow. I continually push myself, each time I go out to practise because I am always looking to improve; whether it's working on my mental game or physical shot, I'm always analysing and studying what I need to do to reach my goals. I will continue to compete, as a professional archer, as long as the Good Lord allows. It isn't merely a hobby, it is a large part of who I am and that's what drives me.
Who introduced you to archery?
My Dad introduced me to the sport of archery. I am an only child and I was (and still am) a Daddy's girl and when I was three years old, my Dad was outside preparing for the hunting season with our neighbour's boy, I wasn't going to stand for it. I thought something was extremely wrong with that because I wasn't the one outside with my Dad. Little did I know when I stomped outside and asked to shoot with him, that it'd spark my interest in what has become a huge part of my life over the past twenty-two years. My first bow was even taller than me and I used to 'smoke' the bulls-eye with it. Due to my immediate interest, my Dad decided to get involved with our local hunting club and direct the 3D archery programme. He started shooting in the summer months and I would drag my long bow around the 3D range and randomly shoot targets, whenever I felt like it. From that point on, my Dad started building hunting blinds, which had colouring book stations in them, so that I could tag along and keep busy colouring, while he hunted our property. At the age of five my Dad and family took me to my first big local 3D tournament. I remember specifically telling my Dad, "I don't feel well," as we pulled into the shoot. He said "What's wrong?" and I pointed to my stomach. He laughed and said "Oh, you're fine, you just have butterflies." I never knew there could be butterflies in someone's tummy, but I sure found out about them that day. We still practise together and travel across the country competing. I thank him and my Mother for allowing me the opportunity to pick up a bow and for supporting my dreams over the last 22 years.
In high pressure situations, what do you do to keep your "butterflies" in check?
I mentally carry out a list of things. For one, I never think about the crowd watching or how great it would be to win or place. Honestly, I try to think about anything but archery, before high pressure situations. I don't ever want to over-analyse the situation. I concentrate on one shot at a time. And mentally I imagine myself where ever I feel most comfortable, which for me is at home shooting in the yard. I imagine myself shooting just another shot in the yard like it's only practice. I also try to have a pattern for how I move, from target to target, in shoot-downs, this allows me to stay focused on executing my next shot, instead of on the crowd.
What bow and set-up did you shoot this past season?
I compete with two different bows for IBO and ASA. In ASA competition, I shoot a Hoyt Contender Elite and for IBO, I shoot a Hoyt Alpha Burner. Both are amazing bows. I am a huge fan of the spiral cam and would highly recommend that if you haven't tried the spiral cams, you should do so, because until you do, you haven't lived. In 2010 I shot three different bows and won a tournament with each one of them. Hoyt without a doubt manufactures the best bow on the market.
What are some of your goals?
Every single year, I sit down and make a list of the goals I want to achieve. Those goals are only accomplished with hard work and determination.
What is your typical day like?
Luckily, during archery season, it stays light outside pretty late. If that weren't the case, my days would be in shambles. My day begins at 6.00am, I drive 45 minutes to work, where I'm a Business Development Coordinator for a skilled nursing and rehabilitation centre. After putting in a full day, I head for home around 5.00pm. Since my parents' house is on my route, I often stop there to enjoy a home-cooked meal, followed by heading outside to shoot the 37 target McKenzie 3D range, set up in their woods. We're typically out on the range by 6.30-7.00pm and shoot the entire range or at least half of it. The range is set-up IBO style, walking through the woods, judging yardage and dealing with some pretty tough terrain. Luckily my dad is fantastic at moving around our range so we are constantly shooting targets to prepare for 3D tournaments. Believe me, it is the ultimate way to practise during archery season. Once I've finished practising there, I head home. Full and busy days help to guarantee that I'll sleep like a log and be ready to hit the deck at 6.00am and do it all again.
If you were not an archer, what would you be?
If I wasn't an archer, I would probably be a softball player. I devoted myself to archery at a young age but always enjoyed playing softball. When you're not competing, what do you do for fun? I try to catch up on the basic stuff, such as maintaining my house and spending time with my dog. I also try to plan vacations and spend time with friends.
Do you bowhunt?
Absolutely! It's a safe bet that I'll be out in the woods, every fall, after 3D season wraps up. In fact, I shot my first deer with a bow just last Fall (Autumn). I thought he was a giant, but actually he was a spike. I hope to come up with a way to control buck fever and keep my nerves in check while in the tree stand. I'm also an avid turkey hunter and have shot a handful of turkeys with a bow. This past year, my Dad and I shot 'doubles', taking two nice turkeys, using our Hoyts at the same time. I look forward to going on an elk hunt, someday! I also hunt with a Carbon Element and have considered debuting it on the 3D range due to its incredible accuracy.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you?
Yes. I am a University of Michigan alumni and a huge fan of Michigan football. If you're a Buckeye, I send my condolences, but many thanks for the recruits! My best buddy is my dog, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Rosco P. Coltrane. In case his name sounds familiar, it's because he's named after the Sheriff from The Dukes of Hazard, but the comparison ends there.
Who are your other sponsors?
Alpen Optics, Carbon Express Arrows, T.R.U. Ball Release Aids, Axcel Sights, Last Chance Archery, G5 Outdoors, Bohning Archery and FUSE Stabilisers.