People You Meet at the Range, Part I

By Caleb Anderson, Contributor

I love the range. There’s one right by my house, and once or twice a week, I’ll go there after work, and hang out with some of the friends I’ve made there. It’s kind of like my own version of Cheers—that old show about a bar where “everybody knows your name.” It’s a great thing to do before I head home to the wife and kids (and it’s a lot better for me than going to the bar!).

There’s one thing I’ve noticed, though: some of the people I’ve met at the range… well, every time I go to a new range, I meet some similar people.

So it inspired me to write this post, about the folks you always meet at the range. You probably know a few of them—you might even be a few of them—because it seems like no matter what range I visit, I meet these folks.

They are:

The Gear Junkie

We all know this guy: he’s got every single piece of archery equipment imaginable. He’s got arrows from every manufacturer and bows from the newest annual product guide, which he somehow gets, every single year, even before your local outfitter has it. You need bow string wax? He’s got it, in 30 different varieties. He’s got crossbows, compounds, recurves, trad bows, bow sights, rangefinders, and stabilizers. He’s got it all.

The funny thing is, a lot of gear junkies have a hard time using all the equipment they’ve bought! Ever see a painting of a dragon on top of all that gold, and wonder, “What the heck does a dragon need with all that gold? What’s he gonna do—buy a boat?” Dragons are obsessed with gold for some reason, but why do they need it? What are they going to spend it on?

The Gear Junkie is the same way. They’ve got so much gear, it’s almost impossible to enjoy it all. My friend Carl and I were at the range, and this guy walked in with a Super Kodiak—one of the high-end Bear Archery bows—and I said, “Man! Look at that thing. It’s a beauty.” You should have seen it—it really was.

Carl nodded and said, “It sure it is. I have that bow.” And then he squinted his eyes and said, “I think I have it, anyway.”

Must be nice!

[OK, I’ll admit it: I’m a gear junkie. I buy gear just because it’s awesome. I’m not proud of it, but I can own up to it!]

The Future Olympic Archer

These folks have usually taken a lessor or two, discover they have some natural talent, and then realize: they’re headed for the Olympics! That’s right: they’re headed for the big time.

Most of these folks keep their aspirations to themselves, and think, "Hmmm... I'm really good at this," but there are a few who are a little bolder, and will tell you: they’re probably going to be among the best in the world.

I was at the range and I actually met a young woman in her twenties, who told me she had decided to "represent our country at the Olympics, probably the one in 2020. Maybe 2024, depending." I said, "That's awesome! Send me a postcard when you get there." Surprisingly, I haven't seen her at the range lately.

[By the way: “Future Olympic Archers” very often become “two-monthers,” aka people who are into archery for two months and then you never see them again. It doesn’t happen too often—it’s always wonderful to see how many people fall in love with archery—but it happens].

That sort of magical thinking is kind of understandable—when you’re new to archery, you 1) recognize pretty quickly that it’s a sport, and 2) also recognize that it’s not as popular as baseball or basketball or football, and you think to yourself, “There’s a smaller playing field; maybe I could rise to the top.” It’s kind of admirable, in a way, even if it is kind of silly.

We’re being snarky, but for some people, this actually happens! They find archery, find they’re really good at it, and that leads me to the next person you meet at the range:

That Irritating Little Kid Who is Way Too Good for His Age

Have you ever been at the range, having a great day, and some pre-teen strolls up next to you and starts laying down bullseyes one after the other? It’s a disorienting, and infuriating, experience. The Gods of Archery bequeathed this kid with extraordinary talent, and he’s too young to realize it. It’s just simply not fair.

There are a few of these kids at my range, who take to archery like a fish to water. It’s an amazing thing to see—they just get it in a way I never will. It’s inspiring, in a way, even if it does drive me crazy a little bit.

Disciples of Katniss

This has died a bit—the first Hunger Games book came out more than a decade ago, if you can believe it—but if you’re at any range in the United States, chances are pretty strong one of the females at the range is there because of Katniss Everdeen. She’s the modern-day patron saint of young adult archery for females, and you can always tell a Hunger Games fan because he or she, usually she, has a recurve bow, a mockingjay pin (you’d know it if you read the books, OK?), and a copy of Hunger Games hanging out of his or her, usually her, back pocket.

I kid, but let’s be real: archery owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Hunger Games series. It’s easy to dismiss as young adult literature, but it got a LOT of kids—and their parents—excited about the sport, and that’s wonderful. And, in my more honest moments, I’ll admit: the movies were awesome. They were! And Woody from Cheers one of them! I’ll deny I said that, though, so don’t bring it up again.

The Apocolyptian

Do you have a bug-out bag? MREs? 30 sacks of grain, sitting in the shed? If you do, well, you might be a survivalist. And, if you’re not, you’ve probably met a few survivalists at the range.

Survivalists can be an intense bunch, but they are great shooting partners. They’re not wasting their time on some hobby, shooting arrows to pass the time—they’re preparing for the lawless world after the global order collapses! Talk about motivation. If you want to increase your motivation to practice your form, convince yourself the world is ending. You’ll motivation will skyrocket, much like the nuclear warheads that are going to wipe up billions of folks over the Western Hemisphere.

Survivalists may be an easy to target to poke fun at, but for real—when the SHTF, these are the folks you want to know (but they know that too, and they’re prepared for your sorry butt coming around, post-apocalypse, begging for food and water. You should have been prepared!).

[I should probably mention—I’m not a full-on survivalist, but… well, I’m ready if and when the time comes!]

The Awkward First Date

This is actually a thing now, and if you see two young people next to you making small talk, they may be on an archery date. It’s actually a great idea, and because online dating sites allow people to reveal their hobbies and interests—you can mention archery, or bowhunting, or just about anything else in your profile—a date at the range can be a great for people who already are passionate about the sport.

I’m actually a big fan of the archery date, because it makes things interesting. Instead of going out to dinner, sitting across from the table, and basically interviewing each other, you get to actually do something. Plus, when you think about it, half the date is walking back and forth the target and retrieving arrows, so if things aren’t going well, you only have to talk half as much as you would if you were both standing still.

It would be fun if we saw some stock photos about archery dating—those would probably be wonderful.

The Guy Who’d Rather Be Hunting

Archery, like a lot of things, is actually a pretty broad practice, and it draws people from all walks of life: you’ve target archers, who love the endless, studious focus on form; meditative types, who grab bows when they want to unwind; and the historically-minded types, who use trad bows, and enjoy how bows have changed throughout the ages. Archery is incredible, because it brings all these people together.

And then you’ve got bowhunters. They may be standing next to you at the range, firing off arrows and enjoying themselves, but make no mistake: they’d rather be hunting.

It’s not hard to spot a bowhunter (even though they’re usually wearing camo), because they usually do the following things:

If you hand them a recurve, they’ll ask you, “What’s the weird curvy stick-looking thing?” and reach for their compound;

They only show up on 3-D night, and complain if you roll out a circular bullseye target;

If one of them gives you a lift home—and they’re generous folks, usually—they’ve got a bumper sticker on the back of their pickup that will proudly tell you, in capital letters, “I’D RATHER BE BOWHUNTING”; and

They’re talking to you, at all times, about bowhunting.

Believe it or not, most bowhunters have a hard time shooting game, because their non-stop talk about bowhunting scares all the animals away.

[OK, this is me, too. As I sit here typing this, I’d rather be bowhunting. I’m a lot of these guys, apparently.]

LEFTIES!

When a bunch of righties straddle up to the line and shoot, you’ll notice that they’re all pointing the same way when they shoot. When a bunch of righties get on the line, Person 1 is looking at the back of Person 2, Person 2 is looking at the back of Person 3, and so on, all the way down the line.

That’s the case, unless the person if front of you is a leftie. If that person is shooting left-handed, he’s facing you, for the entire time you’re there, in an awkward, silent staring contest. It’s agony, and I know this, because it happens every time I go to the range, because I am a leftie.

Here’s an idea for all you range owners out there: a leftie side of the range on the left, and a righty side on the right. That way, nobody has to endure that weird, silent face-off for an hour every they want to practice. It’s a great idea, and it won’t cost anything! People might complain, but that’s fine—people always complain. I’m begging you.

The Person Who Hasn’t Shot Since 1988

It’s a lot of fun shooting next to this person, because almost everything about archery has improved over the last 30 years: bows are better-tuned, scopes are more accurate, and arrows are much more consistently made. Returning to archery after a long lapse can be an undeniably fun time, because it is soooooo much easier than it used to be!

So if you end up next to one of these folks, enjoy yourself, because they are going to have a blast. They’re going to feel like super-heroes, and they’re going to say to you, “Did you see that! I just hit the target!” It’s awesome.

Encourage these folks—they’re the future of our sport!

More People to Come

If you noticed, I titled this as “Part I,” so if we get a few requests, I’ll write a “Part II” and discuss some of the other folks we know and love. Until then, thanks for reading! Enjoy the range!