Prepare for the first episode of The Chronicles, a HuntStand original series.

After 20 years of bowhunting, my philosophy, preparation and expertise continues to evolve. I’ve come to realize that when you’re eye to eye with an animal and preparing to draw your bow, there’s a 10-second window of time that can determine the outcome of the hunt. I call this “10 seconds of red.”


I often get advice and insight from my older brother, a retired Army Special Forces Operator and Sniper. He has been engaged in numerous firefights and combat situations during his 20 years in the service. A technique I learned from him is thinking about a hunting mindset in terms of YELLOW, ORANGE and RED. Sitting at hunting camp or on the way to the woods, you’re in YELLOW (relaxed but thinking about the hunt). When you’re in the woods, you’re at ORANGE (alert and taking in your surroundings). When you’re about to draw your bow on an animal, you’re at RED. The question is, what do you do during that 10 seconds of red?

We all practice and prepare for a hunt in some form or fashion: we shoot our bows, check the HuntStand weather forecast, pack the right gear and condition ourselves physically. These things are all very important and necessary, but what’s often hard to prepare for or practice is how we will mentally prepare ourselves for the 10 seconds of red when we’re about to range an animal, determine when to draw, etc.

During my recent hunt in New Mexico, I was hunting a world-class mule deer that easily scores over 200 inches. He was my biggest deer I would hunt to date. As you’d expect, I prepared in all the typical ways leading up to the hunt and then shot my bow the day I got to the camp. I was solid out to 70 yards with my Elite Energy 32 using a Copper John sight and shooting Carbon Express Maxima Red arrows.

We would be hunting in the mountains and in the alfalfa fields, so I could have a flat, declined or inclined shot. I would consider myself an above-average shooter.  While there are many better shooters out there, I’m confident in my shooting. That only comes with repetition.

Back to the 10 seconds of red. Long story short: I had an opportunity at this giant deer on the last day of the hunt, and I missed him at nearly 60 yards as he was on the side of the mountain straight down from me. Watch the episode and you’ll see an amazing deer nicknamed “El Guapo” and the heartbreak of a hunter. After the initial disappointment in myself, I’ve reflected upon the situation to learn from it. While every hunter in his or her career is going to miss, it still bites you—especially when a world-class animal is at stake.

As I move from ORANGE to RED, I usually go through a sequence of steps in my head before I shoot an animal during my 10 seconds of red:

1. Determine the shot distance. 

2. Consider the animal’s body position/how the arrow will impact. 

3. Look for any brush in the way. 

4. Aim Small and pick a spot on his body.

5. Choose the right pin. 

6. Consider if the animal might move or drop. 

7. Aim high or low based on terrain. 

I missed a crucial step on my mental checklist while drawing on El Guapo. I forgot to compensate for a declined shot on the side of the mountain. Even though El Guapo dropped when I shot (he was looking right at me), I failed to aim low enough based on him being straight down from me. I quickly tried to find my 50- and 60-yard pins, split the difference and put it on him. He was quartering sharply at me, so I aimed back a little so the arrow would enter his body and angle towards his opposite shoulder. The arrow sailed right over his back. The combination of these two things cost me a 200-inch mule deer.

During the 10 seconds of red, doing what you can to mentally process your environment will help you be more successful. Sometimes it’s not as simple as drawing your bow and shooting. Take time to mentally visualize your hunt and the shots you might take. Repeat your mental checklist in your head as you practice shooting your bow, so when you move from ORANGE to RED it comes easier and hopefully more relaxed. This focus might help you become less apt to be “rattled” by the animal you’re hunting.

Missing is real and comes along with the territory, but we can always learn from our mistakes or failures. I’m still sick about this hunt, but I can promise you I’ve learned from it—and because of that I’m a better hunter.

I love going back to my home state of Florida to chase Osceola gobblers with my bow. Florida offers one of the earliest spring turkey seasons in the country! During this hunt, I’m in an orange grove using an Avian-X jake decoy paired with a hen decoy to bring in a mature longbeard. This decoy combination can be deadly during any part of the spring turkey season—especially during mid-morning hunts when gobblers have finished their early morning breeding and they’re on the prowl.

Brian Stephens  kicks off Season Three of The Chronicles in his home state of Florida, chasing the coveted Osceola turkey with his Elite bow. He loves to get eye to eye with these gobblers, which are native only to the Sunshine State. The early season birds aren’t very vocal or aggressive, making it a challenging hunt for Brian. With a heavy dose of patience and finding the right bird, he’s finally able to run an arrow through a dandy Osceola longbeard.

Brian Stephens from The Chronicles is turkey hunting giant Nebraska Merriam’s turkeys with his Elite Option 6 bow. Nebraska is a state that has both Merriam’s and Rio Grande turkeys. Brian is there in the early season when the birds are still flocked up. During this exciting time of the season you have the chance to encounter multiple giant gobblers at one time. It’s a target-rich environment and Brian encounters a beastly gobbler with five beards at 8 yards. Watch as his Fleetwood Arrow and Rocky Mountain Warhead Broadhead hit their mark.

Brian Stephens is back in Nebraska turkey hunting with his Elite Option 6 … this time in plain sight without the concealment of a ground blind. It’s mid season and most of the hens are nesting, so lonely gobblers are more likely to fall prey to the right setup and a sweet chorus of Lynch Mob calls. There’s no better time to target an old longbeard.

Brian eventually coaxes a Rio Grande gobbler into range at eye level. The big bird stands no chance in the face of a Fleetwood Arrow and Rocky Mountain Warhead broadhead.

Brian Stephens turns a thrilling new page in The Chronicles—this time during a close-quarters archery hunt for gorgeous spring black bears at Northern Alberta Outfitters with his Elite Option 6. Watch this film teaser to get a taste of Brian’s exciting journey, as his Fleetwood Arrow and Rocky Mountain Advantage Broadhead meet their fate with two incredible bears, including one very special color-phase black bear.

Watch another bowhunt for a different Canadian beast from last season of The Chronicles right here.

Black bear densities in northern Alberta are beyond belief, making it prime country for bowhunters who seek in-your-face action with the tremendous beasts. See what it’s like to get shockingly close to big, impressive black bears with archery gear in hand.

Brian’s setup for bowhunting black bears includes an Elite Option 6 bow, Fleetwood arrrows and Rocky Mountain Advantage broadheads. “You’re humbled by these animals when you get this close to them,” Brian explains. “With this style of bear hunting, it’s vital to have total confidence in your equipment so you can maintain your composure and enjoy a safe and successful hunt.”

Watch another exciting archery hunt for black bears featured in The Chronicles. 

Here’s my review of the Rocky Mountain Advantage broadhead. I used the Advantage to take two incredible Alberta black bears for The Chronicles. This broadhead created a massive wound channel and a heavy blood trail. My shot wasn’t perfect on one of the bears, but I was still able to make a quick recovery thanks to the Advantage. I made sure to carefully tune my setup prior to the hunt to ensure optimal arrow flight, allowing me to make the most of this devastating fixed-blade head. This thorough preparation is always worth the effort.

The Elite Option 6 compound bow is quiet, fast-shooting, accurate, and has an amazing wall. The new Elite Option 6 features split limbs, a pro-grip design, and a roller-guard system. This bow has accompanied me on some incredible hunts so far this year. I used it to harvest several spring longbeards across the country, and recently two gorgeous black bears in Canada. Elite bows haven’t failed to impress me. I started with the Impulse 31 last year and I still love that setup, but the Option 6 might be my new favorite.