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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 13:18

Following the arrow: Bowed Up Outdoors expands offerings, serves growing archery community

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out frWalk into Bowed Up Outdoors, and the first thing you’ll notice is the friendly banter moving back and forth between customers seated at the stools in front of the gun counter and the staff on the other side of it. Then, your eyes will wander to the lineup of rifles hung on the wall behind the counter and travel past the rows of shooting accessories to the back wall, hung with a variety of bows — compound, recurve and long. An eight-lane indoor shooting range is hidden behind that wall, giving the Maggie Valley shop a claim to fame among counties west of Buncombe.

Over the coming weeks, though, the store will be expanding its offerings to cover even more territory, moving into the realms of fishing, camping and hiking. The goal? To give Haywood County a full-service outdoor supply shop. 

“A lot of outdoorsmen and the community has expressed to me that we need this type of store,” said Chad Muri, who co-owns the store with his wife and parents since they purchased it in April.  

In its first two-and-a-half years of business, the store had gone by the name of Bowed Up Archery. About two years ago, its inventory grew to include gun sales. Though he changed the name and would like to move more into the outdoor supply realm, Muri doesn’t see the store’s emphasis on hunting changing. 

That’s because, since its inception, archery and bow services have been Bowed Up’s flagship. The store sells a variety of recurve, compound and long bows, and they rent that equipment, too. Rental customers can then test their on-target skills at the store’s indoor range. It went from 16 lanes to eight to make way for camping and fishing inventory, but there’s still plenty of space to let the arrows fly. The store also offers shooting lessons, and a fulltime bow technician has a whole workshop at his disposal to set up new bows and fix up older ones. 

There’s a whole contingent of people who take advantage of those services. Some, like Muri and his store manager Keith Ledford, enjoy the hunting side of it. The quiet, the skill involved, and just the peacefulness of spending time outdoors all have their appeal. 

“It’s just a good time to be out, and I think bow hunting’s a little more challenging than a rifle,” Ledford said. 

With a bow, you’ve got to get closer to your target — inside 40 yards as opposed to 300 yards — and you’ve got to watch your aim more closely. Success, though, can give quite a feeling of satisfaction. 

And, there’s more time in which to achieve that feeling. While rifle season lasts for only three weeks, bow hunting is legal for more than three months out of every year. 

“If you enjoy hunting, you’ve got three-and-a-half months of hunting versus three weeks,” Muri said. 

Muri got himself a deer last year, and his family enjoyed plenty of venison dinners from it. But hunting isn’t the only application of archery. 

“A lot of times you can’t shoot a gun, but you can shoot a bow in the backyard,” Ledford said.  

 

Arcing interest 

Even if you never intend to buy a hunting license, shooting a bow can be just plain fun. Whether target shooting or going on a 3D shoot, the name of an event in which competitors try to hit the target on a variety of foam animals ranging from deer to dinosaurs, the challenge of achieving accuracy is becoming increasingly attractive, especially among students. 

“The biggest thing in Haywood County are these sportsman clubs in the schools,” Muri said. “If you are in middle school or high school, you can join a sportsman’s club that has archery and shooting, so it’s a great activity for the kids that aren’t the basketball, football players to have something to do to get them away from the computer.” 

When David Franklin took over as coach for the sportsman clubs at Pisgah High School and Canton Middle School five years ago, they were the only ones in the county. Then last year, Bethel Middle School got a team going, and by the time classes start up again in August, two more teams will be coming on board, with new clubs forming at Waynesville Middle School and Tuscola High School. 

“It’s gratifying to know that [we’re] being involved in something that’s going to build up and increase the interest, and not just in our schools but in other schools in Haywood County,” Franklin said.  

West of Haywood, Swain County also has teams for its middle and high schools, and Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva did have one until recently. Teams also exist in Graham, Clay and Cherokee counties. 

Sportsman clubs allow students to get experience in archery, rifle and trap shooting, as well as in hunter and orienteering skills. Then, the students have the chance to try out for the sportsman team. The top five students in each category make the team and earn the chance to travel for competitions.

Franklin’s team has seen some success, both in interest and in results. They’ve gotten two state championships in archery over the last two years, one for the middle school team in 2013 and another for the high school team in 2014, and though numbers ebb and flow each year, the trend has been an upward one. When Franklin first began coaching, his clubs had about a dozen members. Recently, sign-ups have been in the 40 to 60 range. 

And, an increasing number of those club members are female. 

“I think as far as getting more to come out, it takes a couple to come out and spread the word that, hey, this ain’t just a guy thing,’” Franklin said. “It takes a little bit of confidence, I think, on their side as far as making the team.”

Right now, the guy-to-girl ratio is about 80-20, but interest is on the rise. As, Franklin said, it should be. 

“There’s nothing as far as physically about it that gives the guys the advantage over the girls in any of these [events],” Franklin said. “It’s just a matter of lifting their confidence.” 

Confidence gets a lift when girls see their friends in the club, having fun; when they see other girls get their names in print for archery accolades; and also, when they watch movies featuring admirable female archers. Recently, movies such as “The Hunger Games” and “Brave.” 

As Karissa Black, who works at Bowed Up, said, “Everybody wants to be like Katniss from The Hunger Games.”

“That’s drawn a lot of customers to the traditional, the recurve and longbows,” Muri said. “That’s what you saw in the ‘Hunger Games’ was the traditional.” 

“It’s growing,” Ledford added. “It’s growing a whole lot and, I mean, the movies helped it some.”

Indeed, among the palette of brown and forest green that dominates the bow selection, a few brighter colors peek out. Most notably, some pinks and purples intended to target younger female archers. 

“There’s a lot of girls that shoot archery,” Ledford said. 

It’s not a cheap sport to get into, though. An entry-level bow will probably cost in the $300 to $400 range, with more expensive set-ups costing upwards of $2,000. That’s why, Franklin said, Bowed Up’s partnership with the school archery programs is so important. 

“It can get expensive, and it helps to have a local shop like that supporting you, giving you discounts on accessories and stuff like that,” Franklin said. “It helps kids out a lot.” 

Bowed Up gives young archers discounts on accessories and repair, and on lane shooting too, though the teams usually have their regular practices at school facilities. A regular grant from Friends of the NRA helps with those costs. 

The hope is that more and more youth will discover the satisfaction that comes from hitting a target dead-on. 

“They know that’s the future of their business,” he said. 

Muri concurs. Though his oldest son is, at age 10, too young to join a sportsman club, he’s already poised to join the future of archery. 

“I bring the kids down here on Saturdays,” Muri said. “My oldest son Isaac loves the bow shop. Loves to shoot the bow, interested in the type of people that come in. He has a great time.” 

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