CEO's Blog

CEO Blog: Why Bowhunters Never Come Home Empty-Handed

My first bowhunt offered lessons that I’ve already brought into my professional life. I didn’t go looking for them, but as with most revelations, they found me quickly.
Photo Credit: John Hafner

Author: Matt Kormann

If you’ve read my previous post, found me on Facebook or Twitter, or listened to the recent podcast with Greg Poole from BowJunky Media, you know I recently participated in my first bowhunt.

I grew up without any hunters in my immediate family. I had friends and extended family who hunted, but I wasn’t exposed to bowhunting directly. Once our family found target archery, my curiosity sparked.

Bowhunting has seen a decrease in participation in the past five years. If we’re going to reverse that trend, we have to get more people like me into the field. I think that perspective makes me a good fit at ATA.

My first bowhunt offered lessons that I’ve already brought into my professional life. I didn’t go looking for them, but as with most revelations, they found me quickly.

Be Patient


Matt Kormann grew up without any hunters in his immediate family. Friends and extended family were hunters. He just wasn’t exposed to bowhunting directly. If we want to decrease the trend of bowhunting decline, we’re going to have to get more people with similar stories out into the field. Photo Credit: John Hafner.

I love change, and I love coaching people toward professional growth. The last arrow I shot taught me how important it is to be patient.

Any first-time bowhunter would have been thrilled to see the second buck at which I took aim. My heart was pounding out of my chest the moment he walked into the clearing. When he presented a perfect broadside, I had to lean a bit to my right to get a good sight picture. It wasn’t uncomfortable, and I’d practiced shots like this. But I made the cardinal mistake of looking for impact right when I released. That sent the arrow low. It sounded like small-arms fire when my broadhead hit a rock just below my target. The buck bolted, and that was the end of my hunt.

Another few minutes and he would have likely wandered toward the food plot to my left. As a right-handed shooter, this would have been a much more stable shot, and I could have focused on execution. A few more minutes and maybe I fill my freezer.

Patience is equally critical for my job. It would be easy to assume I am looking for all sorts of things to change in my new role. But if I do that, I’m preventing our experts from doing their jobs. While a good miss is a good result in hunting, a miss in leadership might have a negative impact on our members. I am committed to being patient. I’m listening to our staff. I’ll be in the field with our directors, members, and partners before I see many more of them at #ATA2018.

The practice of patience is also a good reminder for our members. When we face a business challenge, we’re tempted to react quickly. That’s natural, especially in service and retail industries. But we make better business decisions by assessing several options and analyzing lots of input.

Face Your Fears


“Early in my first sit, I saw a decent buck. He walked out and stood just 19 yards away from my ground blind. He was so calm, I couldn’t believe my luck.” -Matt Kormann President and CEO of the ATA. Photo Credit: John Hafner.

Out of five sits while hunting, four of mine were in a treestand. You’re probably thinking, “So what?”

I’ve had a very healthy fear of heights my entire life.

Being on a ladder makes my palms sweat. I’ve had to overcome that, but it’s far from comfortable for me.

Through mentoring from Gregg Brown on our team, I learned how to safely use treestands. The treestand is such a common bowhunting tool, I wanted as much time off the ground as possible. I achieved a perspective I wouldn’t have on the ground, and I can’t wait to get up in a tree again.

That willingness to overcome a personal challenge has given me fresh perspective. All sorts of fears cropped up when I changed careers. Facing those head-on allowed me to quickly get to know our team. In several instances, we’ve addressed unexpected challenges rapidly. I’m also reminded that leaning on an expert helps overcome fear faster.

Currently, there’s plenty happening in our industry to cause fear. Retail is evolving. Customers buy differently. Marketing is more different today than it’s ever been. Modernization has led to manufacturing fears we simply didn’t have years ago. If our members rely on experts to calm these fears, we’ll be more successful. A lot of that expertise lies with the ATA staff. I’m hopeful many of you will lean on us at #ATA2018 in Indy.

If we’re going to grow our businesses, we need to change. For many, that’s the biggest fear they face in business. Beating that fear will bring big results.

Focus on the Process


“Any first-time bowhunter would have been thrilled to see the second buck at which I took aim. My heart was pounding out of my chest the moment he walked into the clearing. When he presented a perfect broadside, I had to lean a bit to my right to get a good sight picture.” -Matt Kormann President and CEO of the ATA. Photo Credit: John Hafner.

Early in my first sit, I saw a decent buck. He walked out and stood just 19 yards away from my ground blind. He was so calm, I couldn’t believe my luck.

In my mind, I was thinking about everything but the shot. I was relaxed, because the presentation was perfect. The buck was slightly quartering away. He was so close. I forgot all the advice of my mentors. I was thinking about venison and a nice mount. In hindsight, I put the arrow right where I’d aimed it – well left of the target. When we found a clean arrow later that morning, I understood my mistake.

Especially when things get tough and emotions run high, it’s critical to focus on the process. When we focus exclusively on the result, our mental game prevents us from achieving it. That’s true in target archery and – as I learned the hard way –  in bowhunting.

It’s also true in business. I’m doing my best to allow our team to focus on process. We are currently preparing for a flawless trade show in a few months – a huge effort. We’re also focused on anticounterfeiting efforts, solidifying new partnerships, growing relationships with state agencies and strategizing new efforts to grow archery and bowhunting. It’d be easy to bypass the process and focus on results. My experience in the woods reminds me how big a mistake that could be.

As I reflect on my first bowhunting experience, here’s my most important takeaway – recognize that opportunities for growth are everywhere. In the woods, we head in with the intention of shooting a deer. More often than not, we come home empty-handed. But we’ve benefited from sitting in a tree, listening to the woods, watching the field in front of us come alive as the sun rises, and hearing the woods stir as the final shooting light dims. Each time I climbed a tree, I was better for the experience. I hear the same from every ATA member. Growing our sport and our industry isn’t just about survival, it’s about learning and growing so all of us can thrive.

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