NORWAY — “It was about 23 years ago that a friend let me borrow a bow,” said Jon Thompson of Norway, the 2019 International Bowhunting Organization World Champion in the Senior Hunter Class.

“I was only going to use it to go hunting, but I liked it so much that I went overboard,” he said.

The rest, as they say, is history. And Thompson’s history is one filled with friendship, love, challenge and loss.

Jon Thompson of Norway was recently named the 2019 International Bowhunting Organization World Champion in the Senior Hunter Class. Advertiser Democrat photo by Dee Menear Buy this Photo

Thompson bought a bow and, after hunting that first year, began shooting it at a range in Buckfield. That is where he met Roger Thibault, a well-known and respected member of the bowhunting community.

“Roger must have seen something in me,” Thompson said. “He took me under his wing and spent a lot of time coaching me.”

It wasn’t long before Thompson started competing in tournaments. “Roger made me step out of my comfort zone and made me a better shooter,” Thompson said. “He was actually quite proud when I started beating him.”

Eventually, Thompson’s passion for the sport led him to a pro-staffer position with Hoyt Archery. As pro staff, he would attend special sales to answer questions about Hoyt products. It was at such a sale in 2015 that Thompson met the woman who would become his wife.

“I had a Hoyt bow, it was instant love for him,” joked Angie Thompson.

“I like to say I met her at a spring sale at L.L. Cote and I brought her home with me,” Jon Thompson added.

Under Jon’s guidance, Angie began bowhunting that fall. She also started shooting in archery competitions.

Angie Thompson holds the bow that attracted Jon Thompson’s attention at a Hoyt Archery sale in 2015. Jon holds the belt buckle awarded to him for taking top spot in his class at the 2019 International Bowhunting Organization World Championship. Advertiser Democrat photo by Dee Menear Buy this Photo

“We shoot 3-D animal targets outdoors in the warmer months and spots, or targets, indoors in the colder months,” she said.

The Thompsons are members of International Bowhunters Organization. In fact, Jon is the Maine representative for the group whose purpose is “to promote, encourage and foster the sport of bowhunting; further bowhunter education; act as a political coordinator and liaison for the protection and advancement of bowhunting; function as a clearinghouse for essential bowhunter information;  and adhere to the basic idea of the unification of bowhunters.”

It organizes a series of sanctioned tournaments across the globe, including the National Triple Crown and the IBO World Championship. Most weekends, the Thompsons are attending competitions in Maine or across the country.

They were set to go to the 2016 World Championships when the first of a string of calamities struck. Just one week before the competition, Jon suffered a type of stroke caused by bleeding around the brain. He spent nine days in intensive care and six months out of commission.

“During his recovery, he couldn’t even pick up his bow,” Angie said. “He missed most of the winter indoor season but was intent on getting back to shooting.”

Jon Thompson of Norway explains the International Bowhunting Organization scoring system. Depending on where on the target an arrow hits, a shooter can earn a score of 11, 10, 8 or 5. A hit on center target is worth 11 points. Advertiser Democrat photo by Dee Menear Buy this Photo

Jon was back at the range by February 2017. With determination, he started practicing and competing. Once again, he earned a place at that year’s World Championship. But, just before the competition, Jon learned he needed surgery to repair his rotator cuff.

His doctor was on board with putting the surgery off until after the competition. Two days after he placed 17th in his class, Jon had surgery, which once again put him out of commission.

He was still recovering when the indoor shooting season rolled around in November. Jon went with his wife to ranges and watched her shoot, but he was frustrated.

“With my love of shooting, I couldn’t sit back and just watch her shoot,” he said.

Jon once again resolved to get back into the game. He learned to shoot with one arm and used a mouth tab to pull back the bowstring. That winter, he won his class in the indoor shooting competition.

His momentum continued and he placed 18th in the Senior Hunter Class at the World Championships in the summer of 2018.

Then, last fall, Jon suddenly lost his mentor and friend.

“Roger was 72 but was in better shape than most of us,” Jon said. “He rode his bike 90 miles that day. He went home, fell asleep in his chair and died. ”

“Jon was devastated, but after losing Roger he was determined there would be no stopping him,” Angie said.

Jon competed in all three legs of the 2019 Triple Crown, held in Pipestem, West Virginia, in May; Bloomington, Indiana, in June; and Franklin, Pennsylvania, in July. He finished eighth overall in the nation. He had earned another chance to compete in the  World Championship, which was held Aug. 8-11 in Snowshoe, West Virginia.

“Shooters come from everywhere to compete,” Angie said. “Some international competitors traveled for five days to get there.”

With 67 shooters in his class, Jon faced stiff competition. He knew he had to be on his game.

The competition consists of five courses, each with 10 targets. Depending on where the arrow hits a target, a shooter can earn a score of 11, 10, 8 or 5 for each shot. The aim is to hit center target, worth 11 points.

The most points that can be earned in the competition is 550. Jon started his final course with 410 points. He had hit center target 18 times during the first four courses.

“I was the first one up to shoot on the final day,” Jon said. He scored an 8 on his first shot, which was not at all where he wanted to be.

His second shot hit the center target. So did six of the next seven shots.

“He was on fire,” Angie said. “Everyone knew Roger was there with him. No one could touch him.”

Jon Thompson of Norway won the Senior Hunter Class 2019 International Bowhunting Organization World Championship, held Aug. 8-11 in Snowshoe, West Virginia. Advertiser Democrat photo by Dee Menear

Jon took some time before making his final shot. He paced, deep in thought.

“Everyone was quiet. Everyone left me alone. They knew I was talking to Roger,” he said.

Jon’s final shot hit the center, giving him an overall score of 516 and putting him in the top spot for his class.

“It was pretty emotional when I heard them say, ‘Meet your 2019 IBO champion,’” Angie said. “He is well-loved and admired in the sport. He is a mentor to many and his peers look up to him.”

To sweeten Jon’s win, Angie placed sixth in her class.

So, what does a champion do when the season is over?

“Hunting season is coming up,” Jon said. “Then I have a title to defend.”


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