Among the hundreds of competitors at a North Dakota state archery championship, one armless archer, using his legs, earned the distinction of shooting a perfect score, hitting the bullseye 60 times.
“It’s important for me to show other people with disabilities that you can accomplish things and compete on a higher level even with a disability. For me, that’s more important than winning,” said Matt Stutzman, 31, who was the only archer to score a perfect 300 this weekend at the North Dakota Bow Hunters Association Indoor 3-D/300 State Archery Championships.
At the two-day event at the Veterans Memorial Arena in West Fargo, N.D., competitors shot 3-D targets of animals and then on a shooting course, said Trent Teets, coordinator of the championship. Stutzman was the only disabled competitor.
“He even shot with the smallest diameter arrow — it’s amazing,” Teets said, noting the bullseye is slightly bigger than the size of a quarter.
The renowned archer, from Iowa, was born without both of his arms. His condition affects 1 in a million people. But that didn’t stop him from trying the sport. In 2012, he earned a silver medal at the Olympics in London. Since then, he has won and competed in state and national tournaments.
While Stutzman was recognized as the best shooter at this weekend’s championship, he didn’t clinch the title because the state requires the winner to be a North Dakota resident.
Before Stutzman began archery, he started out as a hunter. “I’ve always been an outdoor guy — I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad,” he said.
He first started archery in 2009. Due to his lifelong condition, Stutzman said he was used to using his legs for daily tasks, such as eating and brushing his teeth.
“When I first started, I watched YouTube videos every day of an able-bodied man who used his bow and arrow, and basically taught myself how to use different parts of my body,” he told ABC News today.
His self-taught method includes several steps. First, he holds the bow in his right foot. Then, he crosses his legs and brings the bow to his waist level. After hooking his release aid to his right shoulder, he sits up and draws the bow. When he’s ready to shoot, he moves his jaw, pulls the trigger and then finally, releases his arrow.
“Archery can be used as a rehabilitation tool, it can make people feel normal again,” Stutzman said. “Because of archery, I can support my family and pay the bills. It makes me feel good as a father and a husband.”
When he is not competing, Stutzman gives motivational speeches to school and companies around the world. Stutzman does not see his disability as a hindrance, he said.
For him, aiming at the impossible has become a reality.