LEBANON — Kathy Newton helps 6-year-old Ashley Goodenough of Albany with her bow.
“You’re going to pull it as hard as you can and you’re going to have your arm nice and straight,” instructs Newton. “Have you ever shot a bow before?”
“No,” Ashley says.
“How exciting for you. I’m going to help you. You’re going to put three fingers under, just like that and drop your pinkie. Put the bow on the riser and hold on real tight.”
When I say release, drop your fingers. OK? ... Release.
The arrow goes left of the hay bales with the targets.
“Whoops,” says Newton, who continues instructing. “So you want to hold the bow a little bit closer to you. Can you do that?
Ashley takes aim and releases again, this time hitting a hay bale and just missing a balloon.
“Oh, wow, you came really close, didn’t you,” Newton praises.
Ashley takes one more shot and the arrow nearly hits her previous mark.
She smiles, and Newton gives her a medal.
Ashley is one of about 50 kids who turn out this sunny Saturday, July 21, for the third annual Wapiti Bowmen Youth Open House at the club’s 42-acre range off Richardson Gap Road north of Lebanon.
Newton and her husband, Rich, both of Albany, are 25-year members of the archery and bowhunting club. They enjoy instructing kids.
Archery, says Rich, “is really good for hand-eye coordination. It’s a discipline. It’s a lot like golf. It can be frustrating.
“For kids, it’s a fun thing, and it’s a really good family activity. We’ve seen a lot of families out here over the years, and they’ve become our friends.”
Another young archer, Andrew Richardson, 8, has come out with his grandfather, Gordon Wilson. They live in Stayton, and Gordon, a bowhunter, read about the youth open house in the newspaper.
“I thought he’d be ready for something like this,” Gordon says.
Most of the kids at the open house are either trying out bows and arrows for the first time or they’re relative newcomers to archery.
When 10-year-old Mason Davis of Lebanon starts shooting, the adults standing nearby take notice, myself included.
Mason hits balloons and other targets with ease. With the London Games looming, I’m wondering if I’m looking at a future Olympian.
“It’s fun,” says Mason, who started target practicing when he was 5 and got a brand-new compound bow for his birthday June 24.
Kids get introduction to the sport at annual Wapiti Bowmen Youth Open House
His grandad, Don Sansone, brought him to the open house. His archery teacher is his stepdad, Spencer Farrell of Lebanon.
“We have a whole range — 25 yards — in our backyard,” says Farrell, a Wapiti Bowmen member, who also took up archery at an early age.
“I think you start learning self-discipline and accomplishment, he says. “The earlier, the better.”
But things are different now than when Farrell, who is 38, was learning how to shoot.
“We didn’t have form — the way you follow through,” he says. “As technology has progressed, the kids now have the opportunity to shoot better bows and more accurate bows than they had in the past.”
Next year, Mason plans to enter his first big competition — the State Indoor Championships.
“He’s better than me at that age,” Farrell says. “He’s a really good shot.”
A family-oriented club
Harold McCraven stops by the Wapiti Bowmen range to watch the kids take target practice.
McCraven, president of the club and an active member since 1967, chats with his grandchildren Danielle Guillot, 14, and Dawnae Guillot, 15, who are visiting from Montana, and Adrian Kast, 7, and Casey Kast, 5, both of Sweet Home.
Adrian and Casey both have taken shot at targets. “It’s pretty nice,” says Adrian, who hit two balloons.
McCraven loves to talk about the club and its 42-acre wooded site. It has a 14-target field and a new 14-target field is under construction, he says. The club holds five major shoots a year, including one this past weekend.
McCraven also talks about the camping available to members. And on this day his wife, Fran, a two-time Oregon State women’s bowhunting champion, is operating the well-equipped concession stand. Hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and chips and pop are available to the kids, parents and grandparents who have turned out.
“We’re a family-oriented club,” McCraven says. “We like families with kids.”
That was certainly evident at the youth open house.