Members of the Grande Ronde Bowmen archery club are off to a strong start in 2017.

Fourteen members of the group took part in the State Indoor Championships in late February in Bend, the first leg of the Oregon Bowhunters Triple Crown. Four of the local archers came away with a state championship — Jake Hatley, Clayton Lowe, Susan Brudi and Cole Gomes.

“We had such a presence come down and such a presence walk away with first-place trophies,” said Hatley, the club president who won his first state title.

Hatley was the champion of the adult male freestyle division with a two-day score of 600 with 114 Xs, or bull’s-eyes. A perfect score is 600 with 120 Xs.

“That is what we call a five-spot. There’s five dots on the paper and you have five arrows,” Hatley said, describing the shoot. “The challenges with it are people, and how close people are to you.”

Hatley said the shooters, who are lined up 20 yards from the targets, are within about a foot of each competitor to their left and right.

Hatley said being that close can cause the nerves to creep in.

“We call it a mental game,” he said. “It’s all about being able to stay focused for 60 arrows (each day). It’s really a marathon of patience and concentration.”

Those beads of sweat can quickly multiply, especially in an environment where you can see if your fellow competitors are hitting their targets.

“If (somebody) is pounding the X, you know,” he said.

But GRB members have traditionally been able to overcome the nerves and pressure and have done well at the state shoots, a tradition which continued with the first shoot of the 2017 season.

Repetition is part of the reason for the sustained success, Hatley said. He said many of the archers are shooting throughout the season, whether to prepare for the shoots themselves or for archery hunting season in the fall.

Getting those reps can take various forms.

“One thing is we do a league. For eight weeks, we’re shooting com-petitively down at Alpine Archery the eight weeks prior to Indoor,” Hatley said. “We’re pretty dang dialed in.”

Being able to practice throughout the year, whether in a league setting or at various other events, is a big part of what has allowed Hatley, who is in just his second year of shooting, to win against people who have shot for decades.

“What it boils down to is I have the ability with my job to shoot more than anyone else,” he said. “That’s what wins it. He who shoots the most, most likely is going to win.”

Hatley, as noted earlier, wasn’t the only GRB winner at the Indoor event.

Lowe, who was formally recognized as the triple crown champion from last year at the 2017 opener, began his quest to repeat by winning the adult male bowhunter freestyle division in Bend. Lowe recorded a two-day score of 600, and connected on 108 of the possible 120 Xs.

Unlike Hatley, who won for the first time, it was Lowe’s third consecutive indoor title, and seventh state title overall.

“I’ve always really loved indoor shooting and what it can do for archers,” Lowe said. “It’s done a lot for me. It’s made me a better archer. It’s a mental marathon. It’s a lot of arrows — really have to keep your focus and make every shot your best.”

With regard to pressure, Lowe said it’s all self-inflicted.

“The only pressure you have is the pressure you put on yourself,” he said. “Part of the dance is relaxing, focusing on your shooting and letting the rest take care of itself.”

Susan Brudi won the title in the senior female freestyle division with a score of 590 and 54 Xs. And Cole Gomes brought home the fourth title for GRB, winning the young adult male bowhunter freestyle division with a score of 587 and 58 Xs for his first indoor championship.

In addition to the victories, Casey Lowe placed second in the adult female bowhunter freestyle division (585, 60 Xs). GRB also came away with three third-place finishes: John Appleton in the pro male freestyle (598, 97 Xs), Ron Babcock in the senior male freestyle (599, 100 Xs), and Brigham Phillips in the young adult male bowhunter freestyle (573, 40 Xs).

Also, Blake Schwabauer won a first-place pin for taking his flight within the young adult male bowhunter freestyle (525, 18 Xs).

Along with Clayton Lowe’s announced title in the 2016 triple crown, OBH also gave the championship awards to Anita Appleton in the adult female freestyle division, Casey Lowe in the adult female bowhunter freestyle division, and Babcock in the senior male freestyle division.

Clayton Lowe, Casey Lowe and Gomes also took part in the Northwest Sectional in March. Clayton Lowe and Gomes won their respective divisions with Lowe shooting a 600 with 111 Xs to win the adult male bowhunter freestyle, and Gomes turning in a 576 with 53 Xs to take the young adult male freestyle. Casey Lowe finished in second in the adult female bowhunter freestyle with 589 and 62 Xs.

“That was a pretty big deal being able to shoot against six states, Clayton Lowe said.

Lowe said his score was actually a personal best, which was important given the competition level at the sectional shoot.

“You expect the type of people to shoot in a sectional tournament to be top competitors,” he said.

The next competition will be the Mount Emily Safari Shoot April 29. Lowe encourages anyone interested in the sport to get involved.

“We’d love to see more people come and shoot,” he said.

For more information about the Safari Shoot or about GRB, call Hatley at 541-786-4581.