Josh takes aim

Josh Magnotta draws the bow and prepares to shoot during the 30th annual Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous at Denton Hill State Park.

Last week at ETAR, Leon Stewart and Laura George from Stewart’s Archery graciously allowed me to borrow a bow with a handful of arrows so I could practice target shooting.

My only experience shooting bow and arrow came years ago, when I was attending Corning Community College. As part of my elective requirements, I took an archery course for half a credit. I remember enjoying the class, it turned out to be one of my favorite electives while I was at Corning.

But, there were limitations to what we were able to do as a class. For example, we only ever shot indoors, in the gymnasium. The class was only an hour long, so just when you started to get in a groove, time was up. I often wished that I had more time to shoot. With just a little more practice I knew I could hit the bulls-eye with regularity.

After I graduated from Corning, I continued my education in Mansfield and then began working. I didn’t shoot bow again until this weekend. As Mike Knefley guided me through the vendor tent, stopping here and there to look at bows and equipment, we came to Stewart’s Archery station. After a couple minutes talking about what bows are made out of and the differences between recurve and longbow, Leon asked if I had shot a bow before. I said that I had but that it was a long time ago. “Do you want to shoot?” he asked. I figured why not.

So, Leon hooked me up with an armguard and a glove. After a quick demonstration on how to hold, pull and release, he handed me a beautiful long bow and a handful of arrows.

There was a line of targets just behind Leon’s station. There was quite a crowd of archers already shooting, so I scouted out the line and found an open spot near the end. I didn’t want to be in the middle, I figured that’s where the good archers would be, the end would be best.

While the group went to collect their arrows, I took my spot near the end. There was one archer to my left, we would be shooting at the same target. I asked if he minded sharing his target and he replied, “I would be offended if you didn’t.”

Once all the archers returned with their arrows it was time to let fly. I set my right foot slightly forward, pulled the string back to my cheek and focused on the target. I exhaled slowly, then released. My arrow hurtled past the target and lodged into the ground a few yards beyond the target. I sighed and notched another arrow.

From my left I heard someone say, “You are holding the arrow too tight.” I looked over and the man with whom I was sharing a target stood with his bow propped against his shoulder. “You are squeezing your bow, relax your hand,” he said.

I adjusted my grip and turned to my left to double check. “Now, turn your bow slightly so you can see the target better,” he said. I rotated the bow and saw more of the target. Once again I focused on the target, this time when I released, the arrow whizzed through the air and stuck into the topmost edge of the target. Better, I thought. I did the same thing with the next arrow and this time it was even closer to the center of the target, hitting just outside the outermost circle. The last one missed the circle as well but again it was close.

I thanked my new friend.

Later in the day, I returned to the target course and Leon let me borrow a bow once again. I set up at the line and remembered what I learned from my first attempt. I focused on the target and relaxed. When I released, I knew the shot was good. I felt it. The arrow struck the target just on the outside of the bulls eye.

Inside I felt a thrill of excitement. The only thing I can think to compare it to, is an example Mike mentioned earlier in the day. “Shooting bow and arrow is kind of like throwing a baseball,” he said. I knew exactly what he meant now, because this was the same feeling I had when I would pitch. When I threw a perfect strike that just nicked the edge of the plate for a strike. This was the same feeling. I wanted more. I wanted to hit the bulls-eye. I know that I can, it will just take time and effort. That’s part of the fun, though, isn’t?

The journey is often just as rewarding as the destination.

Josh Magnotta is the sports reporter for the Wellsboro Gazette.