SHERIDAN — More than a year ago, several indoor archery league competitors at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports felt the spirit of the Wyoming archery scene declining. They wanted to change that. Thus, the Wyoming Open Archery Shoot was born.
“We just decided, ‘Hey, this has got to happen,’” co-founder Dave Thompson said.
The tradition carried on after that first year. This past weekend, Rocky Mountain Discount Sports hosted 35 archers from around the region for the second annual Wyoming Open Archery Shoot.
Co-founders Thompson, Sam Boyles and Tom Bennet started talking with store staff about hosting it. Store management liked the idea, and it took off from there.
The co-founders also talked with archery ranges in Billings, Gillette and Casper, and discovered that the weekend of Dec. 16 and 17 was open on the area schedule.
The contest had six classes: championship, male and female freestyle, male and female bow hunter, and youth. This year’s competition saw an increase in total and local participants. Of the 24 archers last year, five hailed from the Sheridan area. Out of 35 people this year from Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, one-third call Sheridan home.
From the six class winners, five came from Wyoming and one — Abby Fauber, the women’s bow hunter champion — was from Sheridan. Nearly $3,000 worth of prizes were awarded over the weekend, including about $1,400 in cash. Door prizes included hunting knives, rangefinders, alcohol, binoculars and sunglasses.
The contest used a Vegas 300 round scoring format, where shooters aim at a paper bullseye target 20 feet away. A bow in the center of the target is worth 10 points, with decreasing scores farther away from the middle. Every competitor shot 30 arrows on Saturday and Sunday for a total of 60. With a maximum score of 10 per arrow, the highest possible score was 600.
Fifteen-year-old Sadie Tesch from South Dakota won the women’s freestyle class with a nearly-flawless 596 points, the top score from the weekend.
Thompson, who started competing in tournaments about six years ago, finished third in men’s freestyle with 588 points.
Gillette’s Jeremy Terhune won the champion class with 595 points. Terhune, an archery pro since 2010, said he travels about 30 weekends per year to various competitions. He competed in Pocatello, Idaho, last weekend and Salt Lake City two weekends ago. Terhune participated in last year’s Open Shoot in Sheridan and plans to return next year, as well.
Terhune said a quality archer has to possess a sense of calm. The close quarters at Rocky Mountain’s indoor range tested his state of relaxation, though. With 30 people standing mere feet away and watching his every move, the tension built.
“Nerves are a killer here,” Terhune said. “It’s such a small room, so it’s pretty easy to get worked up, because people can see what’s going on.”
Boyles agreed. Repeatedly shooting a paper target requires a unique focus.
“One of those type A, analytical mindsets,” Boyles said. “You would think it’d be really easy, guys shooting at that target every round, but it’s more challenging than one thinks.”
Archers of all ages and skill level took part in the competition. John Waterhouse, an archery technician at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, said that is part of the beauty of archery. Waterhouse has taught people ranging in age from three to 82.
One of the weekend highlights was a nine-year-old boy from Cheyenne who competed and surprised observers with his accuracy.
“Nobody thought he could shoot, then all of a sudden he’s pegging the target like there’s no tomorrow,” Waterhouse said.
The weekend went smoothly, but the founders hope to involve more women and youth in the future. They plan to host the competition during the third weekend in December for the foreseeable future and have it grow in number.
“Until all of us move away, or something bad happens, we’re going to try to continue to do this,” Boyles said.
At least in Sheridan, the Wyoming archery spirit remains alive.