December 04, 2003 11:00 pm
COLD WEATHER ARCHERY HAVEN: Archers zero in on targets 20 yards away on Monday night in La Grande's indoor range. ().
COLD WEATHER ARCHERY HAVEN: Archers zero in on targets 20 yards away on Monday night in La Grande's indoor range. ().

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Night time is now the right time for local archers to sharpen their skills.

An indoor archery range is again open in the basement of the Eagles Lodge. The well lit range is open to the public from 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. The range will remain open through early spring. Cost: $2 per person.

Those who have come regularly since the range opened for the season three weeks ago include Cory Miller, who recently moved to La Grande from Clatskanie.

The range is greatly appreciated by Miller. How much so?

"I probably would have built my own if this wasn't here,'' the archer said.

He even says that the range was a factor he considered before moving to La Grande.

Miller shoots year round but prefers not to shoot outdoors in the winter.

"It is physically hard,'' he said.

Shooting in cold weather is also hard on one's equipment. Miller noted that it is easy to lose arrows in the winter when shooting in freezing conditions. An arrow can get frozen in the target and become impossible to pull out without breaking, he said.

Miller practiced at the archery range Monday night with his wife, Debbie. The couple take advantage of the practice they get here to prepare for winter indoor archery tournaments. Practice is particularly important for indoor tournaments because there is little margin for error. Lack of wind and rain make for consistently higher scores.

"There are so many perfect scores (on indoor ranges), there is more pressure,'' he said.

La Grande's archery range is better suited for practicing for tournaments because archers can shoot at targets from 20 yards. This standard distance is used at many indoor archery tournaments, said Ron Babcock, president of the Grande Ronde Bowmen.

Until about three years ago the longest distance one could shoot at the La Grande range was 17 yards. The distance was expanded after a wall was torn out with the consent of the Eagles Lodge.

The indoor range has drawn up to 32 people on some evenings this year.

"The colder the weather is, the more people we have,'' Babcock said.

The range is supervised by a member of the Bowmen at all times. Archers shoot for about 10 minutes, then walk to the end of the range to withdraw their arrows.

To get to the range, enter the door on the southwest corner of the Eagles building. Walk down a flight of stairs to the basement and then turn right and travel about 50 feet to the entrance of the range.

Rick Williamson was among those who used the range Monday. Visiting La Grande from Arco, Idaho, he welcomed the chance to hone his skills.

"All archery ranges are good,'' he said.

George McDonald of Union was also at the range Monday.

"It's really convenient to be able to shoot inside. This is really a benefit,'' McDonald said.

One feature at the range is a paper tuner for testing bows. Archers shoot through a hanging sheet of paper into bales of hay. The tear in the paper reveals how straight the arrow is traveling. Adjustments in the archer's bow can be made based on the paper cuts, Babcock said.

La Grande's indoor range has been operated by the Bowmen in the same place since about 1988. The Bowmen have had an indoor range almost every winter for at least 40 years.

The club has also had ranges at the old National Guard Armory, in the basement of what today is the Oregon Trail Electric office building, the old gym next to La Grande Middle School and the 4-H building at the Union County Fairgrounds.