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You know Hawkeye? Avenger? Greatest archer in the (fictional) world? Can hit a supervillain zooming by at sonic speed half a mile away?
Yeah, he’s got nothing on Jennifer Delaney.
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You might be tempted to call BS here, but no, seriously, we mean it. One look at Delaney’s fast-growing YouTube channel will show you just how skilled she is. She’s posted videos of herself slicing a single water droplet in half. With an arrow. From across her backyard.
For Delaney, archery was never supposed to become this super impressive part of her life. It came to her because she told herself she needed a hobby. At the time, she was in university for human relations and international affairs, and was also holding down a high-stress internship for her dream job: mergers and acquisitions consulting. She was pretty jazzed about her pursuits, until, she says, she woke up one morning and realized she wanted a hobby. Something relaxing that would let her wind down from school and work mode.
That “something relaxing” turned out to be insanely difficult trick shot archery.
Delaney landed on archery because, when considering what hobby she’d like to pick up, she asked herself what she’d always wanted to try, but had never been able to. Shooting a bow was at the top of the list, so one Saturday, she Googled nearby facilities, jumped in her car, and was on the firing range 30 minutes later.
“They gave me arrows and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing,” she says. “I watched this guy, I don’t know if he was a teacher or what. He was giving tips to this kid, and I was totally not stalking him, but absolutely watching every single thing he was doing.”
After absorbing as much information as she could, she lined up and took her first shots.
Then, she says, “I was into archery.”
Delaney originally launched her digital presence as freedomandfeathers on Instagram, then expanded to TikTok when it grew popular in 2020. She eventually figured if she was doing TikTok, she may as well do YouTube, too–and that was a good move, considering her monthly view count jumped to more than 20 million per month as soon as she started uploading videos showing off her skills.
Since 2020, Delaney has grown her TikTok to 1.5 million followers and her YouTube to 116,000 subscribers. And, thanks to her growing presence on both platforms, she recently starred in an episode of the History Channel‘s reality competition series Mountain Men: Ultimate Marksman.
Check out our chat with her below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Give me a little intro about you, where you’re from, and what you did before YouTube.
Jennifer Delaney: I saw your questions. I guess the first thing is a bit of background on myself. Grew up in the suburbs of Texas, did all the typical girl things, if you will. When I was a kid, I did gymnastics and soccer, cheerleading. In middle school/high school era, I very much was focused on cheerleading. Following graduation from high school, I actually ended up at the University of Oklahoma for my bachelor’s undergrad degree. I also did debate which played a whole role in my whole speaking fast thing. At OU, my major was human relations with a minor in international affairs, which was awesome.
Then I got my undergrad in human relations, major, minor international affairs, and I actually took a– Since I got a job up outside of Washington DC, so I think that was 2012 to 2016, I was up there working at a company right outside DC, and then I ended up at a boutique financial planning firm. It was actually there that I was director of client services and I realized I really had a lot of soft skills, but I needed some hard skills. That was my pivot into my MBA grad school, which is when I got into archery and how I came back to Texas.
Tubefilter: You got into archery later in life, then!
Jennifer Delaney: Oh yes. I’ll actually never forget it. In grad school, MBA specifically, high-level, it’s a lot of work and kids are- students, I should say, because at that point, we usually were older. A lot of studying, living in the library. For me, I knew I wanted to get into consulting. Typically speaking, the interview process is a little bit earlier on in the year. By December, I think it was, I had locked down my consulting internship for the summer. I’ll never forget. Typically, there’s a lot of networking events, socializing, but one Saturday morning, I woke up, and it was the best thing that ever happened.
I woke up early and I was like, “I feel great. Sunny day, man, I wish I could go outside and do something.” Then I realized I didn’t have any hobbies aside from studying and previously working. I love to read, but I didn’t have a hobby. At that moment I was like, “If there’s any opportunity to get into a hobby, any chance, timing-wise, this would be it.” It took me a split second to realize I always wanted to shoot a bow. Within 30 minutes, I had Googled and was in my Honda Accord coupe, driving 30 minutes from my apartment in uptown Dallas to the only facility I could find that let me rent equipment.
I sat in a 10-minute presentation max and they were like, “Do you want a compound or a recurve?” At the time, I had no idea really what they were. I was like, “That one looks mechanical.” They’re like, “Yes, that one’s typically a bit more tech-savvy, easier.” I’m like, “Well, I’m not going to go with the easy one.” I chose the recurve. They gave me arrows and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I watched this guy, I don’t know if he was a teacher or what. He was giving tips to this kid and I was totally not stalking him, but absolutely watching every single thing he was doing.
Then I was into archery.
From there, I was going back home later that day and the next weekend, I found this little pro shop that unfortunately is not open anymore. It was archery-specific. I went up there, they helped me order some gear that arrived the following week and I found an old rundown range at the time. That was outdoors because obviously, I wanted to be outside and started YouTubing how to shoot a bow.
Tubefilter: What made you try it once and then immediately fall in love with it, or just at least want to try more?
Jennifer Delaney: I feel like there’s a typical route every girl goes through in life. There’s sports that are, I don’t want to say acceptable, but the typical girl sports. I always did them growing up, but I would read a lot. I’m a huge reader. I’m a reader. I would read these books and these novels and I’d be like, “That’s so cool. I want to do that.” Of course, there’s some amazing women out there who do competitive shotgun and they do skeet shooting. They do stuff. They hunt. But being from suburbia, it was never common to find a girl or a woman with that type of background.
For me, it’s just something I always wanted to do. When I realized I was an adult, I’m like, “I’m in grad school. I’m an adult. I have an opportunity to do a hobby. What is something I’ve always wanted to try, but stopped myself?” I have always wanted to shoot a bow, and within 30 minutes, like I said, I was at a facility and I was like, “I’m so proud I’m by myself.” Didn’t call anyone, didn’t tell anyone anything. I was just like, “I’m going to do this.” Then I did it.
Tubefilter: That’s so cool. How did you escalate from hobbyist archer to where you are now?
Jennifer Delaney: Oh, good question. So this place was called Elm Fork Shooting Range and it’s right outside Dallas. It’s outdoors. At the time it was really run down. By the time I got my gear, I’d shot a few times at that place, like I said, got my own gear and I went out there. They’re like, “Okay.” They treated me like I knew what I was doing. They’re like, “Here’s your wristband. If you want a golf cart, take a golf cart. The archery range, hope you wore boots because it’s overgrown.” I hear now it’s doing great. I haven’t been back since I have my range in my backyard.
I went out there and I was in the middle of the woods and I’m by myself and there’s these old targets and I’m like, “This is so cool.” I hadn’t even got my–I’d done nothing. I’m like, “I’m literally out here with the bow and arrows and no one’s around me and I can make all the mistakes I need to because I don’t need to worry about anyone who’s literally an archer range in the middle of the woods. I just fell in love with it. From there, you can ask any person from grad school, there was a period of time where I was always around, and all of a sudden it’s like, “Where’s Jen? The answer is, “She’s in the woods.” I was in the woods.
It’s funny because my focus is archery, but it’s a lot of work, especially, getting up and going with archery. Your muscles aren’t quite ready. Another thing that I ended up picking up while I was out there, because I would have to take breaks to relax my shoulder muscles, etcetera, I also always wanted to learn how to throw a knife from Bass Pro.
While I was taking breaks out there, I would throw knives at trees, old big trunks. It was just the most amazing experience and I never really encountered anyone. Maybe a year in. Actually, towards the end, I think that’s around when my social media started getting a little bit big on Instagram, more people started going out there and I would encounter folks. I wouldn’t throw knives when people were out there because it was an archery range.
Tubefilter: That’s wild.
Jennifer Delaney: I just loved it.
Tubefilter: I can tell. When did the YouTube side of things come into it?
Jennifer Delaney: I think I launched Freedom & Feathers on Instagram first in 2017. I started getting some traction there and it’s growing. I didn’t really tell other folks about it. Some folks found it, some folks didn’t. Then I think around, I don’t know, 2019, I would say– No, 2020. 2019. Probably 2020, I launched my TikTok because that became a thing with COVID and stuff. I was like, “You know what? If I’m doing TikTok, I should do YouTube too.” My focus though had really been TikTok at that point in time. Well, I would cross-post over to YouTube. It wasn’t really my main focus. I’m just terrible. I didn’t really focus on it until literally this past November, December.
I’m like, “With the new monetization policies and opportunities for creators like myself to do more of short videos.” I’m like, “I’m going to focus on this now. This is my note.This 2023, my year is going to be YouTube and everything else just comes.” Then the growth is just, I think at that point when I finally focused on it, I was at 40,000 subscribers, and within the past month and change, it’s just been insane to see the growth.
Tubefilter: When you shifted into that higher gear, did your production amount change? Did you change how many videos you were producing per day or per week, or how did things change?
Jennifer Delaney: From the production standpoint, I’m still the same. I guess for me too, though, is that I haven’t been posting every video on YouTube. Usually, right now I’m probably filming and posting maybe two videos a week. My goal is to attach maybe three this year, it just depends on my full-time work schedule. Right now, I’ve been posting every single day on YouTube, just playing catch up with all the other trick shots and videos I’ve posted throughout the past two years on Tiktok and Instagram.
Tubefilter: I’ve talked to a lot of people who say that the videos that do really well on TikTok tend to not do well on YouTube and vice versa. Is that the same thing you’re finding? Clearly, you’re finding success with posting TikTok originals to YouTube, so that might be a different situation for you.
Jennifer Delaney: All my videos I’m posting on YouTube now, I’m not using any of the watermarks. I am re-editing them.
Tubefilter: Oh, that’s smart.
Jennifer Delaney: Yes, it’s all from scratch, which is a little bit of editing time. Editing is not my forte, but I’ve gotten, I think, much more efficient at it. I don’t know how quite yet. I’ve been doing all this stats research on YouTube, in terms of the trending sounds, recommended sounds, top sounds. I think that at the end of the day, the videos that went viral on TikTok are also the ones that are still doing really well on YouTube, like the water droplet one.
Tubefilter: I think the first one I saw of yours, actually.
Jennifer Delaney: Yes. I was really excited about that one. It’s crazy because I always try to come up with these new trick shots and stuff. I chat with James Jean and Orissa Kelly, who are two other great contortion archers. Orissa is the one that does all the foot archery, and James Jean curves all the arrows. He actually did the water drop, I think maybe a year or two ago. My goal was to increase my distance though, so I did a little bit more distance than he did. I didn’t expect it to get as big because obviously, it’s something that’s been done before.
Tubefilter: That’s so impressive, though!
Jennifer Delaney: Thank you. Thank you. I was excited about it. It was a challenging one. It was a very challenging shot, but I thought it would take longer to get.
Tubefilter: How long did it take to get? I’m curious.
Jennifer Delaney: See, everyone always asks me how many…I don’t count shots, but I count time, because I was obviously recording. I think that that video, it was within 30 minutes. Maybe around 26 minutes, 27 minutes.
Tubefilter: Oh, wow.
Jennifer Delaney: Yes. It was quicker than I thought. In fact, I’m actually thinking about trying it again but increasing my distance even more. It didn’t take too long at all. It’s just at the end of the day, these types of shots, they just take rhythm. You have to find out the balance between your shot, how it’s going to launch if you will, where the target is, and with those droplets, just panning out how frequently that water is dropping and time it accordingly.
Tubefilter: Got it. How do you come up with trickshot ideas?
Jennifer Delaney: It’s the, it’s the hardest part. That’s one of the coolest things about archery. Technically, it’s called recreational archery, traditional archery in a sense. Some of the legends like Byron Ferguson, you always hear about lifesavers, which was my first video that ever went viral, shooting a lifesaver that I threw. Most folks use archery for hunting, which is totally fair. There’s not a lot of inspiration, if you will, when it comes to trick shots in archery. You can throw a ball in the air. You can get a tiny aspirin like Byron Ferguson did, but coming up with these ideas, it’s literally me staring at the ceiling in my garage or staring at my bows.
I’m not kidding. I’ll be out there and I had this little toy Nerf gun, sometimes I’ll just shoot little cups. Something like a brainstorm and I’m like, “I’m not coming inside until I have an archery idea.” I just have to think about it and think about random things I use like a hair tie. I was like, “Okay, I can try to pin a hair tie.” I could try to pin even better and that kind of thing.
It’s like writer’s block, but times a billion because you also not only have to come up with the idea but then you have to build the idea in the case of rotating targets or things that launch things. Then not only do you have to build it and get it ready and set up, then you got to shoot it.
Tubefilter: How much time goes into the average video for you behind the scenes altogether?
Jennifer Delaney: Just editing or are you talking about from start to finish?
Tubefilter: Yes, from start to finish.
Jennifer Delaney: If we take away the concept of coming up with the idea from start of building a target to shooting it, to breaking everything down, to then editing it, depending on the target, I would say building itself can take anywhere from an hour to four hours. The other day, I built a target, that took three and a half hours, and I shot it on my first hit. I was excited but furious.
Editing took another two hours. I was like, “All right, done and done with this one, checking this off the list.” It varies. It’s hard to quantify but it’s a great question.
Tubefilter: Do you have anybody working with you behind the scenes?
Jennifer Delaney: I wish. My husband, he does help out. Like the other day, I literally just mounted a new light in the garage. I was free fletching and I just could not see despite all the lights, so I have plugged in and stuff. He’ll help me with things or building targets and stuff, but in terms of assistance, no, The goal is maybe one day. The goal is long-term. The goal one day is to get more space, more land. I’m limited to what I can do. Again, suburbs of Texas, I don’t think they’d really be happy with the idea of a flaming arrow flying to the target.
One day is land, maybe opening some archery range, if you will, with some staff and of course, the video editor because that would be my number one. That’d be my number one. I hate spending three or four hours editing videos. It’s so tedious. It’s aggressive.
Tubefilter: Yes, I understand. You mentioned doing your own fletching, and obviously that’s part of your brand–“freedom and feathers.” Can you talk a little bit about the DIY work behind being an archer?
Jennifer Delaney: Absolutely. I think it’s actually one of the most overlooked aspects of archery. Gear maintenance, gear setup, gear care. At the end of the day, I’m very hard on my equipment just because I’m not shooting at paper targets, I’m shooting at glass or plastic or wood or whatever it is that I’m doing, and of course, my backstop. Well, I love it. There are bolts that hold things together, so if I ever hit a bolt, 50/50 on whether or not the shafts cracked. In terms of maintenance, I found it very cost-affordable. If the arrow shot itself, the base is not splintered, I use carbon arrows mostly. Then what I’ll do is I’ll just scrape off the fletching and I’ll re-fletch it, which means just adding new feathers to it.
I really like the neon yellow just because I feel like it’s bright enough and I can find it anywhere my backstop on the grass. Sometimes if I’m doing something that’s a bit more distant, it’ll go into the dirt depending on where my target is, and it’s easy to find it if it’s yellow. Gear maintenance, getting your bow strong, rewaxing, restringing, adding silencers, adding limb dampeners, making sure the brace height is correct, making sure there’s no cutting off, there’s so much stuff that goes into archery that I’ve had to learn just from YouTube and experience. It’s insane.
Tubefilter: I really feel like a lot of people don’t understand that. That’s interesting.
Jennifer Delaney: I wish it was as simple as just grabbing a bow and walking outside, but literally just gear alone, it probably takes me 30 minutes to make sure everything is good and golden before I can even begin to think about what I’m shooting for the day.
Tubefilter: Yes, got you. You seem pretty dedicated to your full-time job. Have you thought about doing this full-time?
Jennifer Delaney: One day, perhaps with the new monetization policies on YouTube and how things go, archery might be a possibility, but in the meantime, I do love my M&A job.
Tubefilter: Got it. Okay. I think I really don’t talk to very many people who still have their full-time day job while doing this. That’s just an interesting perspective to have.
Jennifer Delaney: I think I’m very lucky in the sense that I’ve been able to buy a house. I have everything set up, but for my career in archery, specifically, one day, I would need more space, more land, and that in itself is another cost. Land maintenance, getting everything set up again out there, a house, that would just be a whole process in and of itself, which right now, it’s great the archering income I’m making. It’s just not quite where it needs to be yet.
Tubefilter: Do you mind if I ask how much a bow is?
Jennifer Delaney: Oh, sure. I haven’t counted, but I feel like I have…16 recurve bows? Three long bows and two compounds. I have to let the world know it’s very, very affordable to get into archery. There are so many different options available depending on what you’re looking for. You can get a really cheap bow on Amazon with a fairly name-brand for $100.
The bow itself, you can even get package deals. One of the more popular bows is the Samick Sage. I think that’s $150 or so. The bow that I always recommend to folks, which is literally my go-to bow these days is the Cairn by 3Rivers Archery. I feel like it’s a little bit narrower at the base, the handle if you will, which makes it good, especially for ladies or kids because it’s interchangeable in size. That bow I think is around the same, maybe $150, $160. My most expensive recurve bow is the Bear Grizzly, which is a one-piece, I think it’s around $500 maybe $600, and then my most expensive longbow is just over $1,000. That’s the Tomahawk.
Tubefilter: What is the advantage of having so many different bows?
Jennifer Delaney: That’s a great question. The advantage of having so many different bows for me is because when I wake up and I have some time to shoot, I never quite know what I want to do yet. If I want to do something a bit more versatile, moving, throwing stuff, I want more of a lightweight bow. I’m going to get one defaulting to probably my Bear Grizzly, a one-piece bow, or even one of my Mongolian bows. Something lighter in nature. If I want maybe to do something more distance, with a bit more power, I’m going to be defaulting to my Cairn bow by 3Rivers Archery.
Also at the end of the day, a bow is a bow when it comes to a recurve. In a way a long bow, that does take a little bit different, slight difference of a skillset. When I got into archery and I started really practicing and putting my time and effort into it, I realized that it’s really easy to get very comfortable with one piece of equipment, but there’s so many versatile and various types of bows out there. If I were ever in a situation where I went somewhere and there was a bow, I would want to be comfortable enough to shoot it because that was something I would love to do. I love doing archery.
I just wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, it’s a collection. I love all of my bows. I shoot with them as much as I can and depending on what I’m doing, the variety gives me an opportunity to try different types of shots, different types of methods, different types of drills, and an out experience and it’s fun.
Tubefilter: Very cool. Got it. Do you have any goals or plans that you’re looking forward to?
Jennifer Delaney: Perfect. Goals and plans, my husband and I, our dream is really just to own land. He would like 20 acres for hunting purposes. For me, I really would like, for archery specifically, five acres would be plenty, but might as well go big or go home. We’re hoping my family and his family, we all live in the DFW area, so nothing too, too far away. We’d love to look into Red River County perhaps which is maybe two hours I believe from the DFW metroplex. It’s just been a challenge with the way things are, but we’re always keeping our eyes open and trying to save, which is extra income from archery goes a long way.
Tubefilter: Is there anything else you wanted to touch on? Anything else you feel like people should know about you?
Jennifer Delaney: I think the only thing is that archery as a whole is such a great sport. The past year or two specifically, it’s been amazing to see the interest rise and just grow so exponentially. I just want everyone to know that you’re never too old to get into it. If you can go to your local archery clubs, research them, they’re always having classes, you can do privates. If you need to go to the route that I did and YouTube it, just be careful, and use all these proper safety measures. It’s a great sport and it’s very challenging and it’s awesome that you can do it solo or you can do it in group settings.
It just makes me so excited seeing all the kids getting into it these days. High schools and middle schools are having– In Texas, they’re actually adding archery to their curriculum. I’m like, I wish that had existed when I was younger. That would’ve been awesome. That was in… but that’s all then really. It’s just a great sport and I highly recommend it. If you are on the fence and you want to get into it, my suggestion to you is do it.
Tubefilter: Perfect. Oh, I did want to ask–do you do competition at all?
Jennifer Delaney: Funny, the first competition I ever did was a national competition for Mountain Men: Ultimate Marksman, which was a great experience in competition. When I tell you I’ve looked into it so many times, I’m even registered…I do USA Archery’s paper targets, I do drills with the paper targets and I love it. Maybe one day, maybe this year, maybe next year, I’ll dabble with it. In terms of my passion, I’m not doing this to compete, per se. I did it with the History Channel and that Mountain Men competition just because I wanted to see the comparison to other archers in the world how I do. I was extremely nervous but I was very surprised and very excited knowing that I could hold my own.
I do it because I love it and it’s something that I enjoy. I know my style. I actually spoke with the co-host, named Mark Romano. He was telling me how my style that I’m doing archery for, he’s like, “Did you have any lessons?” I’m like, “No.” He’s like, “You’re completely self-taught?” “Yes.” He’s like, “Your style is very much an adaptation from the Native American children, as well as–” don’t quote this part. He’s like, “Something ninja.” I’m like, “You’re saying I’m a ninja?”
He laughed. He’s like, “I’m saying that your style is completely adapted to you and it’s not going to be found in any textbook because what you’re doing is instinctive shooting that it’s clear and you’ve adapted your style over the years based on what you found to work best for you.” That’s another piece too about competing. I might within the future, but for now, I’m just enjoying, I want to be the best that I can possibly be. If I hit four out of five arrows, that’s not good enough for me because I want to hit five out of five.
Tubefilter: I will say, having learned what your job is, this makes total sense. It’s totally the perfectionism, high-level operating.
Jennifer Delaney: It’s insane. I know I’m never going to be perfect, but still. Sometimes I’ll read the comments on my videos, and in the influencer and creative world, there’s always going to be negativity and I cannot let it get me down, which is also why I don’t really look at it too much. I always want to try to engage with my followers, I should say. I try to take a look at them and respond to some or at least post a video if someone who has said, “Hey, shoot this. This will be awesome.”
When I see the negativity saying, “Well, it only took her a million tries.” I’m like, “No. No, it did not. It maybe took me 15, 20 minutes.” That’s the mentality too. I’m proving to myself, but also silently, because I’ll never respond to it. It will only take me this long because I put this much practice in.
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