EATON — Preble County is a hunting and farming community, with many people participating in the annual ritual of hunting. Bow hunting is popular in Preble County, enjoying a hunting season on deer which begins in September and ends early February of each year.
There are also organizations which promote archery in hunting, as a sport, and as a recreation. The National Archery in the Schools Program, or NASP, is one such organization. NASP programs are held at Tri-County North, where Ben Mangan coaches middle school students.
The program helps introduce and promote the sport in the schools. Started in 2001 in Kentucky, the program is now nationwide in over 30 states. NASP works with numerous wildlife conservation agencies who feel today’s children lack an appreciation for outdoor skills and activities.
“The program has completed three full years now,” Mangan said recently. “It is actually part of the curriculum for every (student) to participate in. There are some amazing kids here. It doesn’t cost the kids anything and they can come compete. If they qualify, they can compete in Columbus for the Arnold Fitness Expo Classic which is the state tournament. Our 4th-6th graders shoot against high school kids and they do pretty well.
Mangan would like to see more participation. “I would like to see the other schools in the county join in and do this as a club sport,” he said. “It’s more fun to face off against different other people instead of shooting against each other over and over. We here at North get about 50 kids per practice — half of them are the 3rd graders who are allowed to join the program. I was very impressed with how many kids show up consistently. We start in November and shoot through winter.”
Archery can be a year-round sport if an archer wishes it to be.
According to Andy Oney, owner of AO Archery in Germantown, a large number of residents enjoy the challenges that archery brings to them. In addition, many also enjoy archery as a sport and recreational activity, with competitive shoots held all over the nation. Archery has been a part of human society for thousands of years. The bow and the arrow have been used for hunting, warfare and sport.
Archery is similar to firearms, but tends to be much less expensive in the long run than gun hunting or competitive gun shooting. When a person buys the bow, arrows and equipment, they are pretty much set with regard to costs. Gun shooting is much more expensive, because ammunition and shooting fees at the clubs are higher, the shop owner noted. Target bow shooters’ equipment can get a bit more expensive because they use their equipment more for 3-D and competitive shooting.
In addition, archery doesn’t suffer so many restrictive law regulations. Even though there are safety regulations imposed by the government on archery, they are still not as strict as with firearms. There are a small number of pro archery shop owners, who cater more to hunters, but they also work equally well with target shooters. Almost all independent pro shops keep a range open so hunters can stay sharp and work their muscles for hunting.
Many pro archers and pro shop owners, such as Oscar Abner in Liberty, Indiana, agree that the popularity of archery has suffered in recent years because of the economy. As with so many other activities, archery is not an inexpensive sport or hobby. Local shop owners are in constant competition against the “big box companies” and the internet. Because of this, many small family pro shops have closed their doors to the big name companies. Despite this, archery remains strong, according to the owners.
Oney provided one perspective on archery.
“I turned my hobby into a job,” he said. “I enjoyed it as a kid and couple of buddies of mine talked me into it and used archery to hunt. Once I got into shooting 3-D targets, I got addicted to it. At the time, I worked at GM and they shut my plant down so I started this before they fully shut the plant down. This was supposed to be part time, but it turned into full time for 9 years.”
“In the past, the more you give to the customer, the more you get out of them,” Oney said. “Some of the problems with modern archery come from the competition from Walmart and buying bows online. Someone thinks they save money from buying online for say $300 or $400 a bow, but they lose money when they have to bring that bow to a specialty pro shop for repairs when they could have bought that bow from a specialist who could have given them a better deal for repairs on a bow purchased there. People buy these bows that are not fit for that shooter, used with no warranties, and so on. They want us to fix a bow for free and we can’t afford to do that. When you buy online or from these (other) places, they can’t fix your bows or send them to the manufacturers.
“There are just not enough archery shops around because we can’t afford it,” Oney added. “There used to be about nine pro shops within the immediate area, but now there are just three.”
The best way to get started in archery is at a pro shop. Other entities,like the Boy Scouts, offer archery during summer camps which offer base instruction and above all else, safety instruction.
Archery competitions can be seen on television now. Saturday mornings normally offer bow hunting shows on ESPN and sometimes on local channels as well. But for decades, the best exposure of archery has been in Hollywood. Many movies have portrayed a hero who uses the bow. Ever since Errol Flynn’s role as Robin Hood many decades ago, a large number of movies have inadvertently promoted archery. Notable examples are Sylvester Stallone’s use of the bow in the second Rambo movie. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy portrayed elves such as Legolas using the bow in fantastic ways. The year 2012 alone saw the release of three movies which included archery: Avengers, Disney’s Brave, and The Hunger Games. Both Oney and Abner said the last two movies have promoted the sport for women, and many young women have taken to archery thanks in part to these two movies alone.
In Liberty, Indiana, Frames Outdoor offers a shooting range and archery accessories. Mike Frames is the owner of Frames Outdoor, but Oscar Abner runs the archery section.
“I’ve been in archery all my life,” said Abner. “I have a full range of accessories here and services. We have an indoor range. You can come in and shoot up the 35 yards inside the building, even for 3D targets. We have some top television personalities come in to set up seminars and help promote the sport. We sell just about any kind of bow you’d like: compounds, crossbows, traditional bows and takedowns. If we don’t have it here, we can get it for you. If you buy bow from here, we offer free instruction and also offer services such as cutting arrows and fine tuning bows.”
Competitive archery is pretty strong, according to Abner. “Field archery and 3D archery have suffered a bit over the past few years,” he said. “The problem for many people is that they don’t make archery a year-round hobby or sport. But target archery is just huge. Lots of shows are on television and it’s something you can watch.”
“Hunting is everywhere,” Abner added. “Ohio has allowed crossbows for many years, Indiana just opened up the use of crossbows about four years ago. We get a lot of people here from the surrounding counties, especially from Preble County. The big box stores sell bows, but they don’t have shooting facilities. That’s what makes the difference. Once a bow is put together, we can tune up and fix any kind of bow. And people can shoot here.
“The future of archery is in the kids. We just had an uncle here a moment ago who invested in buying his son and nephew brand new bows. They came in, tested the bows, had them fine-tuned, cut the arrows down to proper lengths, and now the sport has new blood involved. NASP is a program that gets kids involved and it’s very important for archery. Archery is hard to be a stand-alone business.”
Places such as AO Archery and Frames Outdoor are the closest professional archery shops to Preble County. However, information can be found from a number of sources. Archeryretailers.com updates information on where to find archery supplies sold in America, as does Archery Shooters Association Federation, and Archery Report. The National Field Archery Association is the governing body which regulates competitive target and field archery events around the nation. Others of note are USA Archery, which represents the country in Olympic and other international competition, and the Ohio Archery Association and the Ohio Bowhunters Association, which keep track of local and state hunting and target news and regulations.
Those who are into hunting must obtain a hunting license. Hunting season starts around early September and ends roughly at the end of December, depending on the type of animal hunted. Target and 3D field shooting is offered at numerous conservation clubs and at events at other locations, including Hueston Woods and the Twin Valley Rod & Gun Club.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH