The one giving the orders is a big man. His commands are issued with an authority that leave no doubt as to who’s in charge.
“Ready on the line?”
The sound of arrows being solemnly withdrawn from their quivers is ominous.
The rasping sound of wood on wood as they are placed onto the string and drawn back against the bow is a whisper that belies the lethal, bristling potential.
“Fire when ready.”
The sound of bows unleashing their coiled energy is almost simultaneous with the sound of the deadly projectiles meeting their intended targets.
Shoopshoopshoopshoop THWOCK! THWOCK! THWOCK! THWOCK!
The violence ends as swiftly as it begins. The carnage is shocking, unsettling.
That little rubber beaver never stood a chance
“Clear?” The order is more of a question this time.
“Clear,” comes the reply, echoed up and down the line.
Arrows are retrieved – pulled from foam-cored target panels and rubber 3-D targets in the shape of small animals.
As arrows are re-quivered and the process about to start anew, I can’t help thinking this will be a long night for that little rubber beaver.
I fight the urge to call down to him, “Bucky? Talk to me, Bucky! For Gawd’s sake – run for it, man!”
Scott Anderson, 14, doesn’t share my concern. In fact, he’s kind of stoked that his arrow has again found Bucky’s rubber vital organs, “Kill shot,” he says with finality, a faint smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
Anderson was one of about 10 people from the Whitehorse Archery Club gathered in the Christ the King Elementary school gym on a recent Tuesday to work on their archery skills.
He was the only one, however, who could claim to have brought down a very non-rubber caribou and a live bear with his bow, for which he has earned two “silver buckles” from the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
Those are just two of his impressive archery credentials that include competing at the Canada Summer Games against archers more than seven years his senior.
Scott’s dad, Allen Anderson, is also there. As I have become accustomed during the many adventures I have been lucky to have for this column, Anderson Sr. makes me feel welcome and is happy to share his considerable knowledge and passion for the sport of archery.
“I got my first real bow when I was 16,” he points out. “Before that, we would make bows out of anything we could find – Sherwood hockey sticks made the best ones.”
The two Andersons seem relaxed, but focused. Few words are exchanged as they practise their craft, but it’s comforting to see father and son engaging in a shared, healthy activity.
I can’t help thinking that if every young person in the Yukon had some version of this kind-of relationship with at least one adult in their lives the risk of blisters and pulled muscles might start to outweigh the risks posed by inactivity and substance abuse.
Further evidence that archery is a great family activity is found down the line where young James Meredith and his Mom are taking aim, and Don Hardi gives tips to his son, Morgan Yuil.
“It’s good for your shoulder and back muscles, but archery is pretty moderate physical exercise,” Hardi confirms. “It has a lot more to do with the mind. The real benefit for kids is that it teaches them focus.”
Overseeing all this is Les Johns, President of the Whitehorse Archery Club (WAC) and a Level III certified archery coach. Between issuing the commands that keep everyone safe Johns provides mentoring to the newest members of all ages.
“When you draw it back hold it for a few seconds right at the front part of your cheek,” he advises Pamela Bangart, 57 and trying archery for her first time.
“Remember, after you let it go you gotta keep your arm there for a few seconds,” he reminds 12-year old Nathaniel Greenshields.
I can confirm that beginners are well taken care of by Johns and other senior members of the club. I had fun at my first archery experience and I’ll be back – with my little brother in tow.
There’s something about the raw, elegant power, the speed with which the arrow jumps off the bow, and the resounding “THWOCK!” when it finds the target that is deeply satisfying.
I just hope Bucky can find it in his little rubber internal organs to forgive me.
The Whitehorse Archery Club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 pm at Christ the King Elementary School. During the summer they move outdoors to the range on Grey Mountain Road.
Beginners welcome. Equipment provided. For more info call Les Johns at 667-7349.
Got a suggestion for an active pursuit that could be profiled in this column? Are you staying fit in some unique way? Drop Ian Parker a line about it at firstname.lastname@example.org