Archery finds following again with help of Hollywood
There were the early mornings in the forest with Gale, slipping quietly through the trees, pursuing a squirrel or a wild dog or, on a truly good day, a deer.
In those moments, when Katniss Everdeen whips an arrow from its sheath and sends it sailing, she is a wonder: strong and capable and unbroken by circumstance.
But it’s during the bloody Hunger Games that her archery skills make her one of the coolest girls in literature and film. They save her, and they blacken the eye of an oppressive government. Katniss is defined, in part, by her bow and arrows, so for a young reader who feels a connection with her ...
Which is why Kira Curtis, 13, and her mother, Heather O’Brien, were at Red Rock Archery on a recent Thursday. Kira was fulfilling a wish of several years to learn how to shoot.
She’s among a newly hatched group of adolescent archery enthusiasts, inspired in part by the March release of “The Hunger Games” film, based on Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel.
“We’ve had quite a bit of interest,” said Gabe Lucero, owner of Red Rock Archery in Clifton. “I think one weekend we had seven girls in here shooting that were 12 to 16 years old, and I think it’s because of the movies.”
Archery has long received bumps in popularity from films, other popular culture and the Summer Olympics, said George Tekmitchov, senior recurve engineer and international technical advisor for Easton Archery.
“What we have seen is a significant increase in sales for our starter bows sold under our Fuse brand,” Tekmitchov said. “They’re generally more affordable, simple recurve bows.
“Of course, some of this is lost in the fact that every four years, we get a bump from the Olympic games.”
The Summer Olympics begin July 27 in London and may deepen this newfound teenage interest in archery, but really, thank “The Hunger Games.”
“There’s been a big buzz about it within the archery industry,” Tekmitchov said.
And while some may acquire it as a temporary hobby, this genesis of interest in archery may lead to lifelong shooters, said Gale Taylor, owner of Grand Mesa Archery in Cedaredge.
“I look at kids who got into (archery) because of 4-H, and a lot of them are still doing it and will probably do it their whole lives,” Taylor said. “So, hopefully the kids who got into it because of the movie will stick with it.”
Duke Taylor, owner of Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods in Grand Junction, said he sees people shoot at the Gene Taylor’s archery range who began as kids and now are bringing their children and grandchildren to shoot.
According to the Archery Trade Association and the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, about 9 million people in the U.S. shoot archery every year, including target archery and bowhunting.
“It’s an individual sport that you can do on your own, it doesn’t cost much to get into, it gets you outdoors,” Duke Taylor said. “All you need’s six or a dozen arrows, and you could use a real simple bow, like an old-fashioned recurve, and you could shoot at a tree or hay bales. It’s just a real simple thing to start.”
Which might explain why parents are enthusiastic about their kids getting into archery, Lucero said: It’s a sport that can be done any time and almost anywhere. Plus, it’s enjoying a popular culture renaissance.
In addition to “The Hunger Games,” archery has benefitted from the character Hawkeye in “The Avengers,” whose weapon of choice was a bow and arrow; Disney/Pixar’s “Brave” and the bow-carrying heroine, Merida; and the upcoming Batman film “The Dark Knight,” in which Batman has a bow and arrows among his arsenal.
And within the past 10 years, there have been “The Lord of the Ring” films, featuring the expert elf archer Legolas, and several Robin Hood adaptations. Bows and arrows feature in “Game of Thrones,” and the worlds of anime and manga are full of characters that excel at archery.
So, the appeal for teenagers becomes obvious: “They think it’s cool,” Duke Taylor said.
Don Bolton, who teaches beginning archers at Red Rock Archery, said archery is a sport that can be learned quickly and makes teenagers feel empowered.
And, for people like Kira Curtis, it’s a way to connect with beloved characters.
“I can relate to (Katniss),” she said. “I think we have pretty close personalities. If she were real, we’d be friends.”
For an eighth-grade English assignment, she and her classmates hosted an Academy Awards for books, and Kira played Katniss to receive “The Hunger Games” awards.
“I was being stalked by sixth-graders after that,” she said, laughing. “They thought I was Katniss.”
So, with Kira’s natural interest in sports — softball, volleyball, basketball, swimming and hiking — archery seemed like a good fit. O’Brien was glad to see Kira not only taking up the sport, but emulating such an admirable character.
“She’s not into the silly, la-la, foo-foo stuff,” O’Brien said. “Katniss is such a strong female lead, so I’m thrilled Kira wants to get into archery like her.”
They bought a bow and some arrows, and Bolton taught her the basics: how to hold the bow, how to situate the arrow, how to stand, how to aim. Within an hour, she was hitting targets 25 yards away.
She pulled back the string of her new recurve bow, sighted downrange and let the arrow fly.