Practice makes perfect
Post Independent Contributor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“When you’re done practicing, practice some more.”
That’s the advice avid bow hunter and hunter education instructor Rob Matthews gives his students.
“Practicing gives the hunter a real respect for the animal and how to get a clean, ethical, effective harvest.”
For Matthews, that means making certain his skills are honed and his equipment is “tuned up,” which means shooting 60 to 100 arrows a day in the months leading up to archery season.
The new archery range at South Canyon, between Glenwood Springs and New Castle, offers bow hunters a place to practice seven days a week, from sunup to sundown.
Matthews, who has been bow hunting for more than 30 years, said the new range is a “good thing” for archery enthusiasts of all kinds, and commended the city of Glenwood Springs and its parks and recreation department, as well as the range’s chief backer and planner, Walter Krom, for pursuing and completing the project.
Although it has only been open for a couple weeks, the range is already getting plenty of traffic.
“I’ve been up there every day and every time I go there’s somebody there,” said Krom, a self-described “fierce bow hunter,” who has spent the last five years working on the archery range project. A dedicated archer, Krom has hunted elk, deer and bear with a bow for 51 years. He also teaches hunter education for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Concerned by the lack of a free, local range, he set out to find a solution. With grants from the Division of Wildlife and Friends of the National Rifle Association, in-kind donations from the city of Glenwood Springs, and a lot of volunteer help, Krom’s vision has come to pass.
“The need was pretty obvious,” Krom said. “A lot of people were doing their shooting in their backyards, or heading up into the national forest, setting up a target, and shooting from the road.”
The only other local public archery range local is near Aspen.
“I just thought there should be something in our end of the valley,” Krom said. “Everybody I’ve talked to is thrilled with it.”
“The people I’ve run into at the range in the last few weeks have been very positive about it. They stop on their way to work, or on their way home, to shoot.”
“The public range is great,” said Silt bow hunter Todd Hill. “It offers competition and camaraderie among friends.”
It also gives Hill the opportunity to practice at longer distances than he had access to in his backyard.
Krom said it’s a good thing for bow hunters from out of the area, too.
“It’s more convenient, good for practice, and good for out-of-state people coming through Colorado, whether they’re driving or they flew in,” Krom stated. “Sights tend to get knocked around during transportation.”
Matthews, who was just “rolling in” from a five-day archery hunt during the first weekend of the 2012 season, said he helped an out-of-state hunter during his hunt. The man had purchased a bow online, tested it only in camp, and then wound up lost. Matthews walked the man back to his ATV.
“I couldn’t believe this guy was out hunting,” Matthews said. “Archery takes a lot of skill and a lot of practice. It’s not the same as picking up a firearm with a 400-yard scope.”
For hunters like the one Matthews assisted – and local hunters who don’t belong to a private club – the public range in South Canyon is an ideal place to test their equipment, practice their skills, and even get some advice from other archers.
“Archery is an effective means of harvest, but it has to be done ethically and responsibly,” Matthews said. “If anything, this gives people a place to get in some real practice.”
Archers are asked to use only target tips, or practice tips, at the range, as the broadhead arrows used for hunting will “tear up the targets.” For the same reason, crossbows are prohibited at the range. Archers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult. The range rules are posted at the site.
“The targets will be out until November and put back up in April,” Krom said, in order to protect the targets from severe weather and make them last longer.
Non-hunting archery enthusiasts are also welcome to use the range for target practice. Krom is very excited about having the range available for youth involved in archery programs through their schools or recreation centers.
“Twenty-seven states have archery in schools now,” he said. “Kids who are enrolled, their attendance is higher, and their marks [grades] are higher.”
Future plans for the archery range include the addition of a graveled parking area and a shelter with a picnic table, as well as free archery lessons next spring.
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