(Released October 19, 2015)
Before her arrows started shredding the tiny rings in the center of archery targets, world-class teen archer Breanna Theodore was trailing her dad, Mike Theodore, to deer stands on the Iron Range. When she was old enough, she hunted with a pink .243 rifle.
Now, pink is in the past, replaced by the logos of her sponsors. Breanna, 15, of Hibbing, and her dad travel around the country so she can shoot on the national and international level as a member of Team USA. The two will be attending the 2015 Minnesota Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener, with Breanna taking an exhibition shot to kick off events for the public that begin Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Mountain Iron Community Center.
In a schedule busy with competition and practice, Breanna finds that mastering the mental game while shooting at targets isn’t all that different from trying to make a good shot on a deer – like when two years ago in a deer stand, she heard rustling and out stepped the biggest deer she’d ever seen.
The big-bodied 8-point buck had its nose to the ground trailing a group of does. Breanna was “almost dying” while standing up getting ready to shoot. Like in competition, she aimed to shoot a perfect shot. Like so many of her shots in competition, this one was right on target.
Field dressed, the buck weighed 200 pounds. It was only one of many times she’s earned success while holding a bow.
“When you see a deer and you stand up and get ready and know you’re going to shoot one, your heart beats,” Breanna said. “And it’s the same thing with target archery, that feeling. It’s basically the same thing, you have to learn how to control it. And you do it for the love of it.”
Meeting up with others who want to celebrate Minnesota’s deer hunting tradition and the Iron Range is part and parcel of the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener. The Iron Range area is home to 320,000 acres of the Superior National Forest, three state forests and 500 lakes, rivers and streams.
That the Iron Range has ample hunting opportunities isn’t lost on Breanna and her dad. Mike grew up in the Eveleth area, and the two have spent a good portion of their hunting days on public land. For them, hunting and competitive archery go hand-in-hand.
Pistols or bows?
It was Mike’s passion for shooting and hunting – combined with a desire to spend quality time with his daughter – that led Breanna to get involved in competitive archery. Mike did some competitive pistol shooting and Breanna would tag along to competitions. Around the same time, Mike got back into bow hunting after a couple decades off.
“He shot one of the bucks over here and I got really jealous,” Breanna said.
Mike gave his daughter the choice of whether she wanted to have a pistol or a bow. And the rest is history. “Yeah, it kind of blew up on us,” he said. “It went from having fun to being something pretty serious.”
For Breanna, archery started out as something to do together with her dad, but she got more and more competitive, and would spend hours and hours practicing. At first, her goal was simple: “The goal was just to be better than him,” she said.
Things snowballed once they started shooting in league competition and became more involved in the local archery community. They met others who now help with the logistics of supporting Breanna, throwing fundraisers and getting people to rally behind the teen phenom.
“She’s got a group of people that really stand behind her,” Mike said.
Breanna has collected top finishes over the past three years both in outdoor and indoor competition. In June, Breanna and her teammates on the compound cadet women’s team won a team gold medal in the 2015 Youth Archery World Championships. Out of all the girls in the compound bow cadet (age 15-17) class, she’s ranked 7th in the world.
In spite of the accolades, sportsmanship, learning and meeting new people are more important than medals for Breanna. She and three other girls have been competing at many of the same shoots lately and have gotten to know each other well enough to razz each other at competitions in good fun. And the proud parents get to watch together, too.
“All four of us dads were standing there watching these girls walk from the shooting line to the target next to each other laughing, giggling, being amazing,” Mike said.
Mike noted that even though she wants to win, his daughter also wants her competitors to do well. “She doesn’t want to beat someone because they’re having a bad day,” he said. “She wants to shoot against somebody on their best day.”
To find time to travel to the more than two-dozen competitions she’s had scheduled for 2015, Breanna takes online high school classes. Every now and then, she and her dad will get stopped by some who’ve seen news stories about her progress as an archer.
All this came about from a dad and a kid spending some quality time together at ranges and out in the woods.
“It’s a sport for anybody, that’s for sure,” Breanna said. “You can shoot a bow and you don’t have to be good at it. It’s just all for fun. If you want to be good at it, you can.”
For Mike, time hunting and shooting with his daughter is quality time participating in a sport that anyone can try and doesn’t require somebody to be overly athletic
“There are no barriers – me being almost 40 and she being 15, we can grab our hunting bows or our target bows and compete,” Mike said.
By the time early November rolls around, Breanna and Mike hope to have spent plenty of days out bow hunting. Breanna already has notched progress in that arena by hunting the opening Saturday and Sunday of the Minnesota archery deer season. And even though she and her dad have been able to fill tags over the years, for them hunting isn’t so much about shooting deer as it is about being outdoors, spending time with family, relaxing and watching wildlife.
“It’s been fun all the way around,” Mike said. “Whether it’s scouting or putting out the trail cameras, all of it is fun. And that’s on the hunting end of it. When it comes to target shooting, it’s the practice that’s fun — the learning and the equipment.”
Breanna has been posting updates on her Facebook page titled Breanna Theodore: My Life in Archery. More information about the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener can be found on the governor’s deer hunting opener page.