Archery finds an audience

A growing number of Juneau enthusiasts try their hand at an ancient sport

Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2004

Nick Yurko fell in love with bows and arrows at age 15 in Ohio.

"The bow hunting season started two weeks before the gun season. You got more opportunity in the woods," said Yurko, 62. "Because of deer hunting, I was expelled from school for three days. The principal didn't allow us to go hunting but I got a big buck and that was on the front page of the newspaper."

Yurko loves archery and bow hunting so much that he has been on safari twice in Africa. His living room has four animal heads and his family room eight. His wife, Martha, said their 7-year-old granddaughter suggested that they buy a bigger house with more walls so Yurko can hang all his trophies.

While he isn't out there shooting animals, Yurko practices shooting in his yards and the shooting ranges of Juneau Archery Club. The club has 150 members and sees a steady increase.

"Some people like to hunt. Some people like to compete and other shoot as a sport," said Mike Weske, who belongs to the Bowobtoo League. Bowobtoo means "becoming one with our bows, too."

Archery evolved as practice for hunting and battle skills in ancient times, but people's interest in the sport never fades.

According to the book Archery by Wayne McKinney, it is impossible to document when man started using bows and arrows. From artifacts such as arrow points and tools believed to have been used in making tackle, it is generally agreed that man started using crude archery tackle around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.

Range hours

The shooting range opens Monday through Friday from 6 to 8:25 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday are league nights while the rest of the week is open for shooting. Friday is kids' night. Call (907) 789-4287 for more information.

Archery trivia

England's Charles II fostered archery as a sport, establishing in 1673 the world's oldest continuous archery tournament, the Ancient Scorton Arrow Contest.


A heathen bow hunter named Hubert had been exposed to Christianity in vain. But when he was on a hunt one Good Friday in the forest of Ardennes, France, a stag appeared to him with the apparition of a shining crucifix between its antlers. At the same time, he heard a warning voice. Hubert was converted, entered the church and became a bishop. He died in 727. Saint Hubert's Day is Nov. 3.

Source: "Archery: From Gold to Big Game" by Keith C. Schuyler

Archery is the national sport in Bhutan, a small country in Asia between China and India. The only Olympians it has ever sent have been archers. Bhutan's traditional bow and arrow is crafted from bamboo. Pheasant is the preferred tail feather and is affixed with fish skin glue.

Source: CIA: The World Fact Book, and the Sacramento Bee

Neroli Fairhall of New Zealand made Olympic history in 1984 by being the first athlete in a wheelchair that competed in a regular Olympics. She finished 35th in the Los Angeles Games. When asked if she had an advantage shooting from a seated position, she once replied, "I don't know. I've never shot standing up."


Bows of greater age have not been found because wood deteriorates rapidly. The oldest extant bows dated back to 2,000 B.C. in the drier climate of the Nile River Valley.

In 1900, archery became an official event in the modern Olympics in Paris. International rules had not been developed and each host country used its own format, causing confusion. Because of the lack of uniform international rules, archery was eliminated from the Olympic program after 1920 and did not reappear until the 1972 Games in Munich, Germany.

In Juneau, the archery club has promoted the sport by offering programs year-round. People can shoot at an outdoor range at Montana Creek from April to October and at an indoor range at Mendenhall Mall in the winter.

"We have to move indoors in the winter because the targets at our outdoor range are frozen," Weske said. "We don't do much decoration at the indoor range. If we put things up, we will just shoot them."

Weske said archery is good for children.

"They learn eye and hand coordination. They learn to concentrate. They learn discipline. We don't allow horse play here," Weske said. Children who shoot a balloon can get a piece of candy.

Weske himself started bow hunting at age 25. "When you go bow hunting, you have to be very close to the animals. You can feel your heart and the adrenalin rush," Weske said.

In the Mendenhall range, bow hunters practice with their compound bows. Compound bows are more efficient than traditional bows with their built-in pulleys and cables. Although they are designed according to the principles of early hunting bows, modern bows use laminates, fiberglass, Dacron and carbon. They are also equipped with sights and stabilizers.

"Get your stand. Draw back. Release" Weske said while an arrow zoomed to a target. "Right in the bull's eye."

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