By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
o bugles or drums sounded at Spring Creek on Sunday.
It would have been fitting if they had, however, since Spring Creek became a mecca for archers.
The best and the brightest archers from throughout the Northwest came to Spring Creek, about 15 miles west of La Grande, to compete in an International Bowhunting Organization tournament.
Archers with dreams of reaching the top of the world showed up. This is the only Oregon tournament at which one can qualify for the IBO's World Championships in Snowshoe, W.Va.
A bowman who has already reached the top of the world, Dave Powers of Orofino, Idaho, was among the 150 archers who competed. Powers is a five-time IBO world champion.
"This is one of the prettiest places around,'' said Powers, who won world IBO titles in his age division in 1991, 1994, 1995, 1999 and 2000.
Powers also likes the Spring Creek course because it is easy to traverse.
"Other courses are often too swampy or steep,'' he said.
At Spring Creek, competitors, depending on what division they were in, fired at targets from 50 to 15 yards away.
The Spring Creek tournament was put on by the Grande Ronde Bowmen. The organization's members set up a course featuring 40 Styrofoam animal targets plus a 10-target warmup course. The targets on the courses included an alligator in Spring Creek, a deer, an elk, a cougar, a mountain goat, a wolverine, a buffalo, several bears and even a 5-foot-high dinosaur.
The animal targets were placed in sites where they would be normally found in nature.
Jason Lausen of Bozeman, Mont., joked that he was drawn to the Spring Creek tournament because of its alligator. He said other tournaments have alligators, but none like the one he saw on Sunday.
"It is unusual to have one in the middle of a creek,'' Lausen said.
The Spring Creek tournament is one of just three in the Northwest at which archers can qualify for the IBO world championships. The others were held earlier this spring near Lolo, Mont., and Spokane.
This is the third year in a row that Spring Creek has been the site of one of the Northwest's three IBO qualifying tournaments. It continues to draw highly rated archers not only because it is a world qualifier, but also due to its difficulty level.
"If it is an easy shoot they (the top bowmen) won't come,'' said Norm Paullus of the Grande Ronde Bowmen.
Jerry Morrison of Redmond said he is drawn to the tournament because he likes the atmosphere and the real-life feel of the course.
"There are a lot of good, friendly people. It is beautiful and it gives you a true-life hunting situation,'' Morrison said.
Harry Sharrard of Lewiston, Idaho, likes the course because it's easy to walk and is safe. He explained that the targets are set up so that if someone misses, the arrow won't fly far into the forest.
Rain and cold temperatures lowered the scores of some archers Sunday. The cold weather forced some archers to put on shooters' gloves, which when wet can inhibit clean releases, Paulus said.
COURSE MAY BE REVAMPED
The IBO tournament will probably be conducted at Spring Creek again next year. Members of the Grande Ronde Bowmen may completely revamp the course, Paullus said. They may do things such as change the incline targets. The present course has many targets that archers fire at uphill. Next year the course may be changed so that bowmen fire downhill.
Firing on inclines is particularly challenging because it's difficult to judge distances, Paulus said.
In addition to the Grande Ronde Bowmen, Sunday's tournament was put on with help from the U.S. Forest Service and the La Grande-Union County Chamber of Commerce.