Taking aim

Published in the Argus Observer January 14, 2015.

In the well-known fairy tale, accomplished archer, Robin Hood, uses his bow to win the competition and the heart of his beloved princess. In the real world, archers from all around the Western Treasure Valley have the opportunity to showcase their own skills at the Indianhead Bowhunters Archery Range in Weiser, and perhaps make a few friends along the way.

Indianhead Bowhunters is a 60-year-old hunting club with 120 members that hosts tournaments year-round for adults and kids alike, as well as educational classes for those who would like to master the skill of archery.

“Everybody here typically hunts,” said outgoing club president, Craig Doan, “We have people coming to the range from Cambridge all the way to Vale.”

During the hunting season, members of the club compete against each other for titles like Bowhunter of the Year.

“Points are given out for every animal,” Doan explained, “then everyone is recognized at our annual banquet.”

The 7,000 square foot indoor range has been in the club’s current location at 265 East Commercial Street in Weiser for 12 years and is the only indoor archery range in Southwest Idaho, according to Doan. It is a place to practice during the off-season as well as the site for many different types of tournaments.

“The tournament going on right now is indoors and uses paper targets,” Doan explained. “We start our 3D indoor tournament in February.”

The Winter League Tournament, which ends on January 29, is a seven week tournament where archers compete with one another for a meat trophy. Handicaps are based on three games in which competitors shoot a total of 60 arrows at targets. Points are given according to where the arrows land on the target and competitors are required to shoot six out of the seven weeks.

“It’s like a bowling league,” Doan said. “We’re right across from the bowling alley and sometimes we have more people and sometimes they have more people.”

The adult paper target tournament is currently held on Thursday nights. The club also has an indoor kids’ league, which runs during the adult paper target tournament on Monday nights and currently has less than 20 participants. Kids as young as five are invited to participate.

“Usually they start between the ages of five and seven,” Doan explained. “They can start as soon as they can pull back the bow.”

In the adult league, 30 competitors take turns at the line to provide enough space for accurate shooting. While they’re waiting for their next turn, archers mingle together.

“I’ve made lots of new friends here,” said Darwin DeCroo, a 20-year club member from Payette, “When I first started, I spent a lot of time getting skunked. Like any sport, it takes practice.”

DeCroo now has many of his kills showcased on the walls of the range and is a regular at the tournaments. Though he hasn’t counted up all of his displayed kills, DeCroo can put his name on the majority of heads that decorate the walls.

“I have over 70 heads at home,” Doan said, “Darwin exceeds that.”

Both men, along with the other members of the club, have brought down bears, wild hogs, moose and a variety of other animals with their bows.

While everyone has a great time at the paper target tournament, both Doan and DeCroo said the upcoming 3D indoor tournament is more popular.

“We get four times the amount of people showing up for the 3D tournament,” Doan explained. “It’s a ten week handicap league.”

During the 3D indoor tournament, the archery range is transformed into an artificial forest complete with trees and 20 different targets ranging in size from ground squirrels to moose. Every week the targets are rearranged to make the tournament more challenging as it progresses.

“Nobody clears the course,” DeCroo explained.

The 3D tournament runs from February 12 to April 23 and will take place on Thursday nights at 6 p.m. After the tournament ends in April, the club moves its targets outside where they do trail shoots.

“We go through the forest service and make a trail. It’s about a mile or a mile and a half,” Doan said. “We put 40 to 45 targets out and you shoot at a target for a score.”

The club hosts three trail shoots a year, which run for two days complete with BBQ lunches and camping. The first is held in March at Steck Park in Weiser, followed by the Gum Tree Shoot which is held in June in Cambridge. The third tournament is the Mill Creek Moose Shoot, which is held in May in Cambridge.

“The tournaments are fun, family events,” DeCroo said. “There are lots of good people.”

The indoor tournaments generally cost $5 per night to enter and the trail shoots range from $15 to $60, depending upon the event and the level of participation. Those interested in participating can find out more information online at www.idahoarchery.com.

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