- Brett Pauly
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What is it about bowhunting and ballplayers?
Houston Astros reliever Mike Williams is another example of a major leaguer having a propensity for targeting home plate or swinging a bat, as well as for drawing a bow.
Williams didn't have the answer, but he says he easily can understand why any athlete would complement his playing on the field with hunting in the field.
"I think it is just relaxation," said the 33-year-old right-hander. "I think if you ask the other guys that, too, they'll say the same thing. That's because there are no cell phones ringing, there's nobody beating on your door, there's nobody telling you that you have a meeting or you have to be on the field to stretch.
"You don't have to be there at game time."
Well, you can bet Williams will be there at game time tonight in Atlanta, as the Astros gear up for a must-win situation against the Braves in the first round of the National League playoffs. Atlanta is up 2-0 in the best-of-five series.
ESPN Outdoors caught up to Williams earlier this season, before he was traded to Houston from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here's what he had to say during an Athletes in the Outdoors interview:
ESPN Outdoors: "Describe your specialty in the outdoors field and your attraction to it."
Mike Williams: "I think bowhunting is probably my specialty. That is what I enjoy the most. I guess the animals aren't as skittish out there. You see a lot more things. And it's not all about killing animals, or this or that, although that's a big accomplishment. It is just being out there watching them and their features and the things they do and how they go about their business."
EO: "At the stadium, there is the nose-bleed section, then there's the front row. As a fan, you'd rather be closer to the action. Likewise, with bow hunting, you can't expect to draw on an animal unless you are right there, is that correct?"
MW: "Well, I think that is one of the biggest things about bowhunting. I limit my shots to 30 yards. And if I'm not that close, then I move my tree stand and try to get closer. I think that is the cat-and-mouse game with bowhunting and that is the fun part for me: trying to get in and get close enough where I can get that 30-yard shot, or better. And, if I can't, he wins; tomorrow is another day and that is the fun part about that.
EO: "You aren't bothered if the deer wins?"
MW: "Oh no, definitely not; that is the challenge in bowhunting for me, just getting close enough to get that 30-yarder."
EO: "How can you be stealth about moving a tree stand when there's a deer nearby? Do you mean you move it for the next time that it comes around?"
MW: "Yeah, I'll move it like that day after I get out that tree stand after that morning sun I'll move it to another tree, then the next time I come back it'll be closer to where I saw him the last time."
EO: "Is it presumed that the animal comes back to the same spot every time?"
MW: "Well, yeah. I mean you are hoping that. You know a lot of times he'll come right back by where you had that tree stand the first time. (Laughs.) That is the fun part about it to me; it's just that challenge, plus being out there and seeing little things that you wouldn't see driving down the road."
EO: "Where do you check to put up your tree stand? I mean what kind of scouting do you do to determine that?"
MW: "I was born and raised in Southwest Virginia. My parents own about 300 acres there."
EO: "So you grew up hunting?"
MW: "I did. My dad has always hunted and brothers and friends that always have been around me hunted. So I've always been around it and always enjoyed it; I don't even know what age I actually started hunting. Probably 8 or 9, I would say, going with my grandfather. I remember going squirrel hunting with him, or him taking me actually, things like that.
"So, it's always been in my blood and I enjoy it. Virginia is where I do most of my bowhunting. (Williams and his wife, Melissa, live in Newport, Va., within a few miles of his parents' home and where he was born in Radford, Va.) I also do a trip to Colorado every now and then, but that is rifle hunting for elk."
EO: "Is there anything about Virginia whitetails that makes them unique?"
MW: "No, it's probably not one of the places you would go unless you had a place that you could just go and just hunt. It wouldn't be your first choice for whitetail, probably wouldn't be in the top 10. But, like I say, being born and raised around there and knowing the land is why I hunt there."
EO: "That begs the question again, but what are you going to look for, specifically, before you put up a tree stand?"
MW: "To be honest, I'm looking for the trails and this and that, some rubs and stuff like that. But I can pretty much go to the same spot, or very close, year after year. And because I've been around there for 30 years and I know the land, I know the deer and the pattern of the deer. So, that makes it a little easier, but it is still a challenge."
EO: "How often are you in a tree stand?"
MW: "You know, as much as possible. I'd hunt seven days out of the week if I could, but I have a family and a couple little girls (Morgan, 2, and Madison, almost 1). So, they get quite a bit of my time. But I'm usually out there three or four days a week. I usually hunt in the morning and then come back in and spend time with the family in that afternoon, or whatever else I have to do."
EO: "How many deer did you take last year?"
MW: "You know what, I took a couple, but that was with a rifle. Last year I didn't take any with a bow."
EO: "So, if you spent an entire offseason waiting for a deer with a bow and didn't get one, would you consider it a success?"
MW: "Definitely. I guess another saying is, 'A bad day hunting is better than a good day work.'"
EO: "I think some people would question that saying when it is applied to a pro athlete."
MW: "I do enjoy my job, too."
EO: "I'm sure you do. I'm trying to get a feel, from a baseball player's point of view, if there are any preparation comparisons to hunting. I mean when you hunt, is there anything you do to warm up?"
MW: "I wouldn't say warm up, but there is definitely a preparation factor in bowhunting, I mean you don't just pick up a bow and put it down at the end of hunting season and pick it up the first day of the next hunting season and fling an arrow and hit the bull's-eye. You've got to practice and practice. And it's the same thing with baseball. After the last day of the season, you don't go until the first day of spring and pick up a baseball and throw it right on the dot.
"You've got to shoot, shoot and shoot, and practice with a bow and make adjustments all the time; because your string is stretching, your limbs are getting weaker, you know there are different factors in there, bending arrows, for example. You have to keep maintaining and fine-tuning, and that is the same thing with baseball; you have to keep working out and keep throwing the ball and maintaining your strength, stamina and fine-tuning your skills every day. You can definitely put the two together, as far as preparation goes."
EO: "At what point during the regular season do you find yourself practicing for the hunt, or do you?"
MW: "I do a little bit. I don't shoot a whole lot during the regular season, because it is tough on my elbow. But I actually do have my bow here with me, and I'm probably going to start using it before long. It's sitting in my apartment right now."
EO: "Would you go to a range or something?"
MW: "Actually, I'm going to bring it to the stadium here (in Pittsburgh), and I'm going to get me a target and stick it in the batting cages and shoot in the batting cages. I think I can get about 20 to 25 yards. in the batting cage, so that will be good just to keep in shape a little bit in the batting cage."
EO: "What happens when your trainer sees that?"
MW: "He won't say anything. If he does I'll shoot him. (Laughs.) I'll hang him out there as a target."
EO: "Yeah, well can bowhunting really mess up your elbow?"
MW: "I don't know if you can mess up your elbow, but I guess it would just be like doing something new. In the first few days when you do something new that you haven't done in a long time, your muscles are soar. Your muscles say, 'Hey what's going on,' you know."
EO: "Have you ever had an injury bowhunting?"
MW: "No, I have not, knock on wood."
EO: "Anything could happen, though, you could trip, fall."
MW: "You are right. You are exactly right. I could stumble whenever I get up from talking to you and break a leg, too, but that is part of life. But, I actually think I'm a safe hunter, but that doesn't mean I can't have an accident."
EO: "Outside of baseball, what would you consider your proudest moments?"
MW: "I guess my two little girls. Being around them and the little things they say."
EO: "Are you going to teach your girls to hunt?"
MW: "If they want to. I'm trying to get my wife into shooting with me a little bit. I actually got her a bow, and got her into it. If they want to, I mean that is strictly up to them, I'll support them in whatever they want to do, as long as it is the right thing."
EO: "What is the most memorable day in the field and why?"
MW: "I could probably pick any of them. I've been hunting with my dad (Laymon) a few times during the past few years. I watched him kill a turkey and watched him kill a deer; that was pretty good for me."
See Mike Williams' player profile on ESPN.com's MLB pages.