A Lifetime of Shooting PSE Bows with Steve Ward
Editor’s Note: Steve Ward of Wilcox, Arizona, owner and operator of Ward’s Outfitters, guides and hunts for Coues deer, antelope, mule deer, elk and javelina. He’s been shooting PSE bows for more than 30 years.
Steve Ward Takes a Desert Mule Deer with the PSE X-Force Omen
Steve, why did you choose to hunt with the PSE X-Force Omen Pro this year?
Hunting in the West, I need speed and durability in my bow and a bow capable of shooting at longer ranges than most bows are designed to shoot. The Omen Pro provides all these features in one bow.
At what range are you the most accurate at taking an animal?
Out to about 80 yards is an easy shot for me. But I’ve shot an antelope at 135 yards before and taken numerous animals at 100 yards or more.
What bow were you using when you took that antelope at 135 yards?
I took that antelope with a PSE Mach X.
What deer did you take this past season with your X-Force Omen Pro?
I shot a desert mule deer that scored in the mid-160s on Pope & Young here in Arizona.
Tell us about that hunt.
Being a guide and outfitter, I don’t get a lot of time to hunt on my own. I actually was scouting for a client who was supposed to come for a rifle Coues deer hunt in late December. I always take my PSE X-Force Omen Pro with me, even when I’m scouting. I saw a mule deer doe come out of a draw down below me and thought, “A doe by herself. Man, that’s funny.” Then I saw a buck step out of the same little draw. The buck and the doe were about 1/2 mile away, and the doe was feeding on some cactus. I went down from the hill where I was positioned, into a little wash. I made the stalk to a spot where I had seen the deer. With the wind in my face, I spotted a yucca plant and lined it up with the deer When I got in the wash, I still could see the yucca plant and started closing the distance. I ranged the top of the yucca plant from the wash, and according to the range finder, the yucca plant was at about 60 yards. I decided to come up out of the wash at full draw, hoping the buck and the doe still would be at the base of the yucca plant.
When I peeked out of the wash, I immediately saw the doe. She had no idea how close I was to her. I moved a little further out of the wash, and as I did, I could see the top of the buck’s antlers. I could tell that the buck was standing within 2 or 3 yards of the yucca plant that I’d ranged. I knew because the X-Force Omen Pro was so fast, I could be off a couple of yards when I judged the distance and still make a fatal hit. When I got up out of the wash, the buck was broadside, looking at me. I put my 60 yard pin center mass, and when I released the arrow, the shaft flew true and hit the buck. The buck went down within 30 yards of where he was standing when I released the arrow. He hasn’t yet been officially scored, but when we scored him, he scored 168 P&Y.
Steve Ward’s Unbelievable PSE Coues Deer Buck
Steve, tell us about some of the long shots you’ve made with your PSE bows.
A few years ago, I was hunting about a 200 inch mule deer and a Coues deer buck that I knew would be 100 inches or better during Arizona’s early deer season in August. I’d hunt the mule deer in the evening in the agricultural fields and the Coues deer in the morning. These two deer lived within 10 miles of each other. The first evening I went out and hunted the mule deer, I couldn’t get a shot. The next morning I went after the Coues deer and glassed a couple of nice sized bucks going across a bottom. I’d scouted these deer for about a month and felt that I had them patterned. The buck I wanted to take went into some mesquite, and I knew that trying to take him inside the mesquite would be difficult. I planned to cross some boulders to sneak up on the buck. I felt confident that I could get close to the buck, because the boulders gave me some elevation, and I could move quietly across them. I was just starting to get on top of another big boulder when I noticed that my shoe was untied. I sat down to tie my shoe, because I didn’t want to hop from boulder to boulder with a shoelace loose, which possibly could cause me to fall.
As soon as I finished tying my shoe, I hopped up on the first big rock. I didn’t even have an arrow nocked, because I was just looking for the deer before I stalked him. However, as soon as I stood up on the rock, the buck I wanted to take was staring right at me. “Oh, crap! The buck’s got me pinned down,” I thought. If you stand in one place too long, the buck will get nervous and take off. So, I decided to make a move. Since I knew I couldn’t range him and get off a shot, I decided that the buck was at 80 yards. I turned my bow sideways, got an arrow from my quiver and nocked the arrow. Because I didn’t want to draw facing the deer, I turned slightly away from the deer and drew my bow. Then, I slowly turned back to get into position to take the shot. To my surprise, the deer didn’t run off. I put my 80 yard pin right on him and drew the bow slowly. I didn’t want to rush the shot, since the buck had been standing in the same spot for about 30 seconds. I started to squeeze the trigger on my mechanical release, and when the bow went off like it should. I saw the buck kick up like bucks do when you hit them right behind their shoulders. I thought I heard the arrow hit him, but I wasn’t sure. I waited for a few minutes and finally said to myself, “I smoked him!” I went to the spot where I’d shot and located my arrow. I followed the blood trail for 35 yards and found my buck. That buck scored 111 inches, which is a nice sized Coues deer. I took that buck with a PSE Mach X with a Vortex broadhead.
Bet on the PSE Super Short with Outfitter Steve Ward to
Take Mule Deer
Steve, why did you decide to hunt with the PSE X-Force Super Short? Wasn’t it designed for tree-stand hunters?
Yes, it was. But some of the places we hunt are in really tight quarters, and we also hunt out of ground blinds in Arizona. I guide many bowhunters who hunt from ground blinds. When I spoke to my friend at PSE, I said, “This Super Short looks cool.” Many bowhunters were concerned that the Super Short wouldn’t be as accurate as other PSE bows that had longer axle-to-axle lengths, and I agreed. The Super Short required more accuracy from the shooter than bows that were more forgiving. However, since I was a professional hunter and shooter, I felt that if I paid attention to my form and didn’t try to force the shot, I’d be able to shoot the Super Short as well as I did any other bow. I wanted a short, compact bow, and I wanted to prove that the Super Short could be used to take game at longer distances than many people thought it could.
In Arizona, we can take one deer in December and one in January, because we only get one deer per year. So, one year I was guiding clients in December. I don’t get a chance to hunt when I’m guiding clients. We had clients out in the field hunting, and all my hunters had taken their deer, except for one. Every day I check my ground blinds to make sure they haven’t been destroyed by bears or any other animal, the wind hasn’t blown them over, or a tree hasn’t fallen on them. The last client I had was a good friend of mine, and he was hunting for a Coues deer. I told him that we’d seen some nice sized mule deer bucks in a particular area. I asked him if he wanted to try to take a mule deer buck, and he said he didn’t, but if I got a shot on one, he wouldn’t mind if I took it.
Two of my guides and I were driving into an area where we’d seen mule deer bucks chasing does to check our ground blinds. We got up on this ridge and looked down toward the flats. I spotted a mule deer buck chasing does toward the creek bottom. In Arizona, the mule deer feed in the flats and go in the creek bottoms to bed down. These creek bottoms aren’t the same type as those found in the East. These are dry washes. They never have water in them during the winter. I knew that if I could get to a point to see where this mule deer buck went into this creek bottom, and I was within bow range, I might get a shot. But since the wind wasn’t in my favor, I’d have to let the deer get into the creek bottom, while I came off the side of the mountain where I was positioned, go up the mountain where the deer were located and then go up the same trail the deer used to get into the creek bottom. The buck was the last deer to go off the side of the mountain, and as soon as he went out of sight, I hurried down the mountain, across the bottom and went up the hill that the deer had gone over. I ran for about 125 yards. When I was about 80-yards from where I thought the buck would be, I decided not to stay on the same trail the deer had used. I went about 40 yards up the hill and peeped over at full draw. One of the does spotted me, and I couldn’t see the buck. The doe spooked slightly and took a couple of bounds. I thought, “Dang it! That buck will come running out of there, and I probably won’t get a shot.” But I looked down below me and saw the buck standing at about 44 yards. I moved 10 inches to the right, to get a clear shot. I put my 40 yard pin a little high on the buck, and when I released the arrow, it flew true. That mule deer buck scored 165, and I took him with my PSE X-Force Super Short.
PSE’s Steve Ward on Long Shots, Why he Shoots Them
and Taking Antelope
Steve, do you also hunt antelope with your bow?
Yes, I do. A few years ago, I drew an antelope tag. We were filming a hunt for a television show, and the zone I drew had two, 2 week hunts. I drew the second 2 week hunt, so I knew the antelope would have been pressured for 2 weeks. My brother had hunted these same antelope during the first 2 week hunt and missed. Later, I found out that I took the antelope he missed. The first day of the season, we used our binoculars to spot a herd of antelope, and I saw one big buck in the herd. These antelope were holding in a flat, wide open prairie. Most antelope hunters would hunt over water. But I’d taken six different antelope using spot and stalk techniques. I had a cow decoy I’d made out of cardboard that I called Chuck. My cameraman and I would hide behind the cow decoy and slip up on antelope. On this particular hunt, we got behind the cardboard cow and worked through a herd of cattle, moving like cows. The cows would look at us with a strange look, but the decoy was working. When my cameraman and I were within 200 yards of the antelope, we were outside the herd of cattle. But the antelope still weren’t paying any attention to us. This herd of antelope had 12 does and one buck.
Finally, we reached a gorge. We went down into the gorge and started running up the gorge to get closer to the antelope. Of course, the antelope couldn’t see us. When we came out of the gorge, the does were about 50 yards to the right of us. However, I couldn’t see the buck. I kept looking and still couldn’t see the buck. We learned later that another buck had tried to come into the herd, but the bigger buck chased him off. Finally, we saw the buck about 500 yards away. We waited for the buck to come back. On the way back to his herd, the buck made scrapes, and the does started working toward him. I knew I’d get a close shot at this buck, so I told my cameraman, “Turn on the camera. I’m going to take the shot.” I ranged the antelope at 133 yards and then ranged him again at 135 yards. There was no wind, and all the conditions were right for the shot. I drew my PSE Mach 10 and released the arrow. The broadhead hit the buck right behind the shoulder and exited the other side of his body. The buck ran about 80 yards and piled up.
How much confidence did you have taking that shot?
I was 99.9 percent confident I could make that shot. We had a bright, warm, sunny morning with no wind; the same weather conditions I’d had when I practiced. The animal was calm. I’d learned that at longer ranges, animals didn’t tend to react to the bow’s firing. I’d only seen animals react to the bow’s firing when they were 15 to 20 yards from me. When this buck took the arrow, he kicked up and ran a circle, like antelopes do when they’d been hit, and then just fell over.
I don’t tell people to shoot at longer ranges. Your effective shooting range is your effective shooting range and shouldn’t be compared to anyone else’s. And, you only should shoot at distances where you feel confident you can place an effective shot on an animal. Because I haven’t shot my bow for about 2 weeks this summer, I probably couldn’t make that same shot today. I typically shoot 2 hours a day. I don’t start shooting at 30 yards. I practice shooting at 60 yards and then at further ranges. If you’re always practicing at 20 yards, you won’t become a better archer. When you shoot at longer distances, your mistakes in form are amplified, and you can see that you may be shooting 4 inches to the left. So, I feel confident taking those longer shots, because I practice at long distances. My first pin sight is set on 40 yards. If an animal comes in at 30 yards, I aim an inch low. At 20 yards, I’ll aim about an inch high, 2 inches at the most. When I take clients who hunt from ground blinds and tree stands, they often can take animals at 15 to 20 yards with their bows. But I prefer to spot and stalk. That’s just the way I enjoy hunting.
PSE’s Steve Ward Takes a Javelina on His First Big-Game Bowhunt
Steve, tell us about your first bowhunt.
I’d rather tell you about my first big game hunt. Here in Arizona, to hunt with a bow, you have to be at least 10 years old and be able to draw and shoot a 40 pound bow. I believe that the javelina was created for bowhunters, and that God put them on this earth for archery hunters. When I was 10 years old, I was shooting a PSE Scamp bow. I’d been shooting a recurve bow since I was about 3 years old. When I was 5, my dad bought me a compound bow, and when I turned 10, he bought me a PSE Scamp. I shot that PSE Scamp every day for hours. Remember that this time was before video games, and before kids were content to sit at home and watch TV. At 10 years old, my brothers and the kids around the neighborhood were shooting nocks off arrows at 20 yards. We might shoot 15 or 20 arrows before we’d bust a nock off the end of an arrow, but the arrows that didn’t hit the nock were stacked really tight.
On my first big game hunt, I went with my dad to hunt javelinas down in a flat. I’d been hunting javelinas hard for about 5 days and never could get a shot. Finally, we saw a herd of javelina go into some tall grass. So, several other hunters and I surrounded the pigs and decided to move in to try to shoot one. I was sneaking along with my dad, and he finally yelled in a loud whisper, “Stop, stop, stop!” Dad was pointing down at my feet about 2 yards in front of me. I whispered, “I don’t see anything.” Dad whispered back, “He’s right there.” I saw this black blob that I knew was a javelina. Dad said, “Pull back your bow.” I whispered, “Dad, I can’t see him very well.” Dad said, “Okay, pull back your bow, and I’ll tell you where to hold it.” I pulled the bow back and heard Dad say, “Move your bow to the right. More. More. Now pull your bow down just a little. Come down. Come down. Right there! Okay, shoot.” I shot, and the javelina jumped up and took off running. He was a young pig, and he didn’t run far. That was the first big game animal I harvested with a bow, and it was the closest shot I ever took on an animal.
Steve, do you guide gun hunters, as well as bowhunters?
Yes, I do. But Ward’s Outfitters specializes in bowhunting. It’s our passion, and the way we love to hunt.
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