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August 17, 2011

USA Archery Remembers Rodney Hoover

Larry Smith, Robert Hoke and Kathy Millar recently shared their memories of Rodney Hoover with USA Archery:

It is with great sadness we must reflect on the passing of an old archery friend, Rodney Hoover.

Rod was arguably, the most accurate barebow archer who ever drew a bowstring.  Rod had a rock solid bow arm that was a key to his success.  He shot most accurately with a clicker and a recurve.  This was when the compound bow was only beginning to have enough accuracy to rival a recurve bow's consistency to accurately shoot an arrow.  We had many discussions about how he shot a bow.  He would look at the target and see his gap with phenomenal consistency.  Rod did not use point of aim or string walk.  He shot split-finger.  He loved his clicker.  He liked the purity of the shot that a clicker gave him. 
The popularity of the bow sight had evolved through the sixties and barebow divisions had fewer participants.  Even so the NFAA (National Field Archery Association in the USA) still recognised the Barebow division as the true champion.  In the late sixties the Pennsylvania State Archery Association became its own entity and had little to do with the NFAA.  The popularity of PA archery during that time was overwhelming.  It was common to have over 500 shooters at the PA state field championships in Seven Springs.

Pennsylvania had a network of very strong, active, organised clubs.  In south-central PA the clubs held Invitational indoor tournaments.  There would be 100-200 shooters at these invitational events.  There were so many tournaments available that an archer could shoot as many as three invitationals in a weekend.  Most of these invitationals immediately adopted FITA's new 40 centimetre 10-ring scoring, the same 18-meter round we use today.

This is where Larry first met Rod.  "During the early 70's I remember Rod shooting phenomenal scores.  Many times he would shoot invitationals in the recurve division, with no sight.  Rod won many invitationals in the freestyle (recurve) division, barebow.  I can remember him shooting as high as 584 out of 600 points, and many times he shot in the 570s".
Rod won the NAA National Field Championship Barebow Division multiple times.  One year Rod shot the NAA national field championship barebow, in the recurve freestyle division.  He did this because the barebow division did not allow the clicker.  He placed 5th at that tournament.  Rod would commonly shoot in the 530's on the NFAA field round.  If he ever blew a shot it was always on a close target, such as the bunnies (e.g. 10 metres away).  His highest competition barebow field round was a phenomenal 548.  That extraordinary shooting caused quite the stir throughout Pennsylvania archery community.

Robert Hoke (Hokie) remembers that in 1972 at Seven Springs at the NAA Field championship (when walking the string and clickers were still legal) that Rod was in seventh place after the first day and blew by everyone (including Hokie) on the second day on his way to the GOLD medal.  That was the year they turned the indoor miniature golf course into a driving range.

In 1969, FITA held its first World Field Championship.  FITA World Field Championships had a barebow division, but in order to compete in this division, Rod had to remove his clicker.  He placed 4th in the 1972 and 7th in the 1974 FITA World Field Championships.

During this same era, David Hughes was another great barebow archer.  David was the NFAA national barebow champion many times.  Rodney and David shot in different competitive archery circles.  The two archers had very different styles with David string-walking with a compound bow and Rodney shooting split-finger with a recurve bow.  Only once did the two great archers ever meet at a field tournament in the Eastern USA.  Both archers shot good rounds, but Rod outshot David by a few points.

But for all his great archery accomplishments, what Rod will be remembered for most was his sense of humour.  He always had a joke to tell or made a hilarious gesture or skit that would keep people laughing.  Many of the international teams that Rod was on, during that era, are remembered by many as the most fun ever.  For Kathy, Rodney was a kind and gentle man to all who knew him in archery; the true meaning of the word "gentleman".

 - Larry Smith, Robert Hoke and Kathy Millar

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