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Home arrow Opinion arrow KEEPING WITH TRADITION


LAYING A FOUNDATION: Mark Penninger of the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers gives advice to a youth during a fun shoot at the Union County Fairgrounds Saturday. ().
LAYING A FOUNDATION: Mark Penninger of the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers gives advice to a youth during a fun shoot at the Union County Fairgrounds Saturday. ().

Story and photos by Dick Mason of The Observer

The pull of tradition.

An increasing number of young people in Northeast Oregon may soon be feeling this.


Look no further than the quiver of the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers. The archery club is introducing an increasing number of youths to traditional archery through a variety of programs. A major program was run last weekend when the club conducted an indoor family fun shoot at the Union County Fairgrounds.

The two-day event drew about 60 people, at least half of which were age 16 and under. All of the youths received instruction on the use of traditional bows.

It was a gratifying experience for instructors such as Tom McReynolds of Union. He noted that the shooting form of some young archers improved dramatically in just hours.

McReynolds said he focuses on three things when providing instruction — the proper angle of the bow in relation to the target, proper grip of the bow handle; and developing a consistent anchor point to always draw back to. An anchor point can be something like a thumb on one's ear or a nose on a bowstring.

Several youngsters at the fun shoot who had never shot before did not need a lot of coaching because their form proved to be near perfect.

"Some kids have a natural ability to fire a projectile,'' McReynolds said.

Young archers will ultimately learn about more than just proper technique when they get involved in traditional archery.

McReynolds noted that people who learn to shoot traditional bows become instinctive shooters who rely more on their hand-eye coordination. Hand-eye coordination is not as critical when using compound bows because many have sights.

Another benefit is that young archers are more likely to develop an interest in history because they are using the same weapons people relied on long ago.

"Shooting a recurve or long bow helps you appreciate past history,'' McReynolds said.

Many people in traditional archery make their own equipment and McReynolds is encouraging young people to do this. At last weekend's fun shoot he had a booth set up where he demonstrated how people can make their own quivers and bows and other equipment for traditional archery. He gave people some idea of the challenges faced by their forefathers.

"We try to get them to appreciate the past by experiencing the past,'' McReynolds said.

Safety was emphasized throughout the shoot.

The importance of never pointing a bow and arrow at someone was mentioned frequently. It is easy to make the innocent mistake of pointing at


"Often people don't realize that they are pointing at someone,'' said George McDonald of the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers.

A mistake people of all ages often make is walking with an arrow in their hand or in a bow. Penninger said this is one of the most dangerous things an archer can do

"If you slip and fall you can stab yourself,'' Penninger said.

Penninger used a personal experience to make his point. Several years ago he was pursuing a black-tailed deer in Western Oregon. He was carrying the arrow in his hand. He slipped and while falling the arrow's broadhead cut Penninger just a quarter inch from his eye.

"Another quarter of an inch and I would have lost my sight in that eye,'' Penninger said.

Last weekend's fun shoot was sponsored Traditional Bowhunter Magazine' of Emmett , Idaho, and Compton Traditional Bowhunters.'

The fun shoot is just one of many things the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers is doing to promote archery among youths. The club is now in the process of establishing an indoor range at an old greenhouse in Island City. The range will be used for activities aimed at getting youths involved in traditional archery. It is scheduled to open in April.

The Eagle Cap Traditional Archers recently became a part of the La Grande Rifle and Pistol Club. It will soon establish a traditional archery range at the club, which is about two miles of Hilgard State Park.

The range will provide a place where families can practice the sport of traditional archery.

Traditional archery is a sport whose secrets are best passed down through generations by word of mouth, Penninger said. He said traditions like gardening, farming and home canning are also passed on this way. One can also learn these arts through reading but it is better if it is done via word of mouth, he said.

"A great deal of the fine points (of traditional archery) are best passed on this way,'' Penninger said.

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