Opening night at the range

By Dick Mason, The Observer November 08, 2010 11:51 am
Chris Dudley, the 6-foot-11 ex-NBA basketball player who narrowly missed being elected Oregon’s next governor this week, would consider ducking if he walked into this indoor archery range.

The range, in the basement of the Eagles Lodge, has a ceiling between 7 and 7 1/2 feet high. Dudley could easily touch it by barely raising an arm over his head.

Tall visitors might not like the low ceiling, but it is a slam dunk with most archers. The ceiling, filled with fluorescent lights, provides near-perfect illumination for archers.

“The closer lights are to the floor the more they reflect off it. When lights are higher less light reaches ground level,’’ said Norm Paullus of the Grande Ronde Bowmen.

The range’s excellent lighting makes it easier for archers to see their targets and the optics in their scopes.

The use of scopes is among the things Paullus discussed Tuesday at the Eagles indoor archery range. Tuesday was opening night at the range, the first time it has been available to the public for practice shoots in the 2010-11 fall-winter season. The range will be open from 7 to 9 p.m. almost every Tuesday and Thursday from now through the end of March.

This is at least the 12th consecutive year the Grande Ronde Bowmen have operated the indoor range at the Eagles Lodge. Sessions sometimes draw more than a dozen people. Archers come to hone their skills but also to free themselves of stresses that have built up during the day.

“All you are thinking about is shooting. Whatever went on during the day should not enter your mind,’’ Paullus said.

The enjoyment of archery is not all that helps people relax. So does a good mix of harassment and good-natured joking.

Stress reduction is but one benefit of using the range. Archers can cite a quiver full of other pluses. A major one is that shooting indoors is much better for skill development than practicing outdoors when the weather is bad. The reason is that people firing outdoors in inclement weather will alter their technique, something that can arrest skill development..

“Being indoors allows you to learn to control form. Seventy percent of archery is consistent form,’’ Paullus said.

Injury prevention is another incentive for practicing indoors when the weather is bad. Jerry Gibson of the Grande Ronde Bowmen explained that one is more likely to pull a muscle in an arm or shoulder while firing a bow in cold weather. He noted that your body core may be warm from walking while outdoors but not necessarily your shoulders, making them vulnerable to injury when firing a bow.

At all Eagles indoor range sessions, archers shoot for about 10 minutes. Firing is halted to allow people to walk to the end of the range to pull arrows from their targets. The range is supervised by a member of the Bowmen at all times. Supervisors review the rules of the range and give safety tips to newcomers.

Many of the Grande Ronde Bowmen members who supervise the sessions have National Field Archery Association trainer certification. They are among nine or 10 certified trainers with the the Grande Ronde Bowmen. The trainers are willing to open the indoor range an hour early to provide special instruction for youths age 14 and under, Paullus said.

The Grande Ronde Bowmen had their indoor range at a number of sites before moving it to the Eagles Lodge more than a decade ago. The sites include the old National Guard Armory, the basement of what is today the Oregon Trail Electric building, the La Grande Middle  School annex gym and the 4-H building at the Union County Fairgrounds.

The Bowmen’s indoor range can be reached via the door on the southeast corner of the Eagles Lodge. Walk down a flight of stairs to the basement floor and then turn right and walk less than 50 feet to the entrance of the range.

The cost of participating in shoots is $2. Archers who participate in shoots from now through Nov. 22 will have their names entered in separate drawings for a turkey and a ham that will be given away by the Grande Ronde Bowmen.