Those 3-D archery shoots retired law enforcement officer Les Conner jump-started a couple of years ago are now growing in leaps and bounds.
The dramatic spurt is due to the addition, as sponsors, of the Town of Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department and Tonto Rim Sports Club. Also, the Mogollon Sporting Association has pitched in to purchase 14 new targets.
The first tournament to be held under the new sponsors is “Shoot for the Rim” July 17 on the TRSC Jim Jones Shooting Range, located south of Payson and 1.8 miles east of Beeline on FR 208.
Mary McMullen, the town’s trails and outdoor recreation coordinator, calls the upcoming tournament, a “new and exciting outdoor recreation program” and says the new sponsors are “eager to put this and future archery tournaments on in our community to offer more opportunities for youth in Payson to shoot their bows.”
Conner contends that attracting the younger set to the sport is key to the future of archery.
“We need those young shooters — it’s vital,” he said.
McMullen also says the MSA’s purchase of the new 3-D targets will “enable us to offer two different, 14-target courses for the one-day tournament.”
Newcomers will find the tournament unique in that archers, instead of shooting stationary at bull’s-eye targets, walk an outdoor course firing arrows at McKenzie life-sized 3-D foam targets of bear, deer and mountain lions.
3-D archery is a spin off of field archery that is popular among hunters because it re-creates a hunting environment with competitors shooting from unmarked distances.
Although one of the goals is hunting practice, hunting broad heads are not used because they would tear up the foam targets. Normal target or field tips are commonly used.
For the upcoming tournament, participants will compete in one of four age groups and in four separate classes based on bow types and sight.
The age groups are: Adult (18-years-plus), Youth (14-17 years), Cub (9-13 years) and Pee Wee (8 and under).
The classes include:
• Open — Archers may use any bow, sight or stabilizer.
• Release — Entrants can use any bow but with fixed pins, no scopes, a 12-inch maximum stabilizers and any release.
• Fingers — Requirements include any bows, fixed pins, no scopes, 12-inch maximum stabilizers and shooting with fingers.
• Traditional — Any recurve or longbow with no sights.
Registration fees before July 1 are $15 for adults, $10 for youth, $25 per family and shooters under 14 years are free. After July 1, all the fees increase by $5.
On the day of the tournament, registration opens at 7 a.m. and scores must be turned in by 2 p.m.
McMullen is hoping the youngsters who participated in past National Archery in the Schools programs take advantage of this new tournament opportunity to practice in the field what they learned indoors.
Conner’s commitment to children learning the sport prompted him to take the training qualifying him as a schools archery instructor.
The last 3-D shoot to be held at TRSC, which was before the new sponsors joined in, was held Aug. 9, 2009.
That event had 26 adults and 15 children participating — the largest turnout in the two years Conner has sponsored the shoots.
The nice-sized crowd spurred hope in Conner that the tournament could be a regular event in the Rim Country as he envisioned when he started the 3-D shoots.
Among those who shined in the Aug. 9 tournament were Larry McNeeley in the men’s division, Rachel Brundage among the women, Jared Noah in the cubs division and Dylan Justice among youth boys.
Conner is hoping those winners will again participate at the next shoot.
The 3-D targets the MSA purchased will not just be used at the tournament.
“They will be utilized hopefully in the fall for a new program called Explore Bowhunting, that teaches participants how to bow hunt and about hunting and being in the outdoors in general,” McMullen said.
For more information about the tournament, call Conner at (928) 472-7443. Registration forms are available at: www.paysonparks.com.