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SHERIDAN — Wyoming’s bow hunting season for game is a small blip on the calendar that’s still months away, but for a small faction of Sheridan sportsmen, archery is a year-round calling. For hunters looking to bypass bullets in exchange for the more technical demands of a bow hunt, keeping archery skills polished pays off not only via a successful hunt in the fall, but with the immediate benefits of mental discipline.
“Usually, it’s a month or so before September that you see all the archers around here come out,” said Archery Technician Dave Thompson. “You find out who the die-hard archers are by how many times they come out this time of the year.”
Thompson works full time at Sheridan’s newest indoor archery range, Wildcat Archery, which is located approximately one mile out of town past the Information Center on East Fifth Street.
While Sheridan has had an indoor range located within Rocky Mountain Discount Sports that, according to owner Ron Lee, fields as many as 200 shooters per month, the new range features a longer potential range and variety of targets. Within its first month of opening, Wildcat already has sold about 50 new memberships.
Aside from the rush of adrenaline that accompanies a successful hunt, the sport of archery becomes its own event for many of Sheridan’s sportsmen. While the primary motivation for many shooters is ultimately to be successful at the moment of truth when an animal is in their sights during open season, some delve into the deeper intricacies and science of target shooting.
“The only reason I got into the target archery side is because it makes me a better hunter,” Thompson said.
In a target bow competition or league, top shooters measure their accuracy and satisfaction of a shot by mere millimeters. Sporting shooters are also known to have a different setup than a traditional hunter, which might include a stand or different sight equipment, and their goal is to achieve a steady shooting performance after hairsplitting, detailed adjustments.
“The target side of shooting is more technical than the hunting side,” Thompson explained. “It’s about how accurate you can be.”
Thompson said target archery is the ideal introduction to the sport for newcomers and young sportsmen.
“When kids start with good habits, they’re going to keep going with good habits,” he said, adding that archery can also serve as a secondary skill to teach life skills and discipline.
“Ninety percent of archery is in the mind,” Thompson said. “The easy part is shooting the bow.”
Even if an archer has no intention of ever taking down an animal, the concentration, discipline and physical ability involved can translate into a plethora of life endeavors. On top of that, it’s fun.
“From what I’ve figured out in research I’ve done is the number one related sport to archery is golf,” said Thompson. “You have to breathe right, there’s your stance, and a lot of the other things you have to do are the same.”
While a deer hunter probably won’t be carrying the extra bells and whistles a target shooter would on a shooting setup, the practice can pay off in confidence and ability when hunting season rolls around.
“In archery hunting, it’s crucial people become extremely proficient to place their arrow where they want it to get a quick, human kill of the animal,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Information Specialist Bud Stewart. “It’s no different than hunting with a rifle.”
While the concept of proficiency for ethical hunting is akin to that of hunting with a rifle, Thompson said part of the thrill in bow hunting is that it takes more skill and dedication to hunt with a bow. “It’s easy to pull a trigger, but it takes years of practice to use a bow,” he said.
A hunter in a position to take an ethical shot with a bow likely isn’t a mere hobbyist of archery. Together with true dedication to the sport and art of shooting arrows, bow season is now any other month of the year.