CHURUBUSCO, Ind. (WANE) – A hot, humid sun beams down on Ryan Davis and Thomas “Bear” Geise as they approach their target.

In the distance is a board with target faces ranging from 20 – 80 cm. A novice may not have much trouble hitting the 80 cm target from a short distance. However, Davis and Geise, two of the top field archers in the country, must nail that target from 50 meters, or from over half a football field away.

The pair compete in barebow archery, a style that uses a mix of traditional and modern methods. The equipment itself is modern, but lacks aiming and stabilizing equipment like their Olympic Recurve counterparts.

Just a bow, an arrow, and a steady hand.

Standing side-by-side, Davis and Geise rest their arrows on a metal pin. In their string (right) hand, the pair use a leather-bound finger tab to determine where to place their fingers. The further the distance, the closer their fingers are to the arrow.

In position, Davis raises his bow, pulling the arrow next to his face – his thumb grazes his lips. The tension from the string and his back only lasts milliseconds. He releases.

Thwoosh. Thunk.

A typical target face used in field archery. The center yellow circle is worth six points, while the outer yellow circle is a par score of five. Each remaining circle decreases by a point, with the outermost circle worth one point.

Davis has competed in barebow archery for just three years, but he’s already one of the best in the sport. From 50 meters out, Davis’s arrow is tenths of an inch from a bullseye, but his shot lands in the yellow – worth five points.

Now it’s Bear’s turn. The Churubusco High School student has a much faster aim and release. His arrow – decorated with red fletching and a neon green notch – whizzes through the air and lands just outside of the yellow – four points.

Bear was first exposed to archery in gym class when he was in elementary school. That piqued his interest enough to join his school’s archery club. Leading that club was Dan Haire, who once competed in the World Archery 3D World Championship. Haire took Geise and other promising archers under his wing, getting them involved in Scholastic 3D Archery (S3DA). Entering his senior year at Churubusco, Geise is poised to become one of the rising stars in field archery.

Living not too far away from Haire is Davis, who quickly climbed the ranks in the archery community. The Fort Wayne native bow hunted for years, but switched to barebow back in 2020. Davis is now trying his hand at field archery.

In his brief time as a field archer, Davis has piled on the accolades. This week, Davis begins qualifying play in field archery at The World Games in Birmingham, Ala. He’s also been selected to represent Team U.S.A. in this fall’s World Archery Field Championships in Yankton S.D.

Joining Davis in Yankton is Geise, who will compete in the junior division.

“It’s very exciting, I get to wear the red, white and blue jersey and represent the United States,” Geise said. “It’s not an opportunity that a lot of people get.

In the weeks leading up to Birmingham and Yankton, Davis and Geise have trained at what they jokingly call the Churubusco Archery Training Center – a range constructed by Haire. There, the two deal with Mother Nature as they look to stay on target.

Thomas “Bear” Geise aims toward the target on a decline. Geise must hit the largest target face from a distance of 50 meters, more than half a football field.

A week before heading to Birmingham, Davis wears his official U.S.A. Archery jersey over a long sleeve shirt. When asked why he’s wearing long sleeves during a 90 degree day, he says he’s trying to get used to the heat. As hot as it gets in the Hoosier state, it will feel even worse in Birmingham.

Every elite archer goes through their own mental checklist before taking their shot. In field archery, that checklist can seem endless because of all the variables from nature.

“Depending on the game you’re playing, you might judge the distance, check the lighting, the wind, the terrain, and you just make your good shot,” said Davis. “You’re not paying attention, you’ll start having some bad arrows.”

As Davis and Geise get ready for Yankton, the two also hope their archery journey inspire a new wave of sharpshooters from northeast Indiana.

“It really shows to the talent coming from this area, and really shows how when people from this area work hard, they can accomplish anything,” Geise said.

In the meantime, the pair remain side-by-side, taking their time as they aim for the perfect shot.