The first rain of the season has washed the summer dust from the air, and a cool, clean aroma of pine-fir forest envelops this mid-October morning in Butte Falls. At the bottom edge of a broad meadow sits a gazebo with a sign that reads "Beekman Ridge Archery."
A collection of targets rests 25 to 50 yards away, but you won't see the classic brightly colored bullseye anywhere. Each target, shaped like a game animal, pops up and disappears without warning.
A benefit shoot to fight breast cancer will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 27-28, at Beekman Ridge Archery, 15580 Butte Falls Highway, in Butte Falls.
All raffle proceeds and $5 from each entry will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Free on-site camping will be available for contestants. For information, call 541-951-5581 or 541-601-4784.
To learn more about Beekman Ridge Archery, see www.beekmanridgearchery.com.
Welcome to 3-D archery.
"The guys have to pull an arrow and shoot, pull an arrow and shoot," says Mike Stritenberg. "It's really kind of fun. They (targets) stay up for five seconds then they go down and another one pops up. It's a novelty shoot."
Mike, wife Liz and son Scott created this facility in 2010 on their 100-acre property in response to Scott's excitement over 3-D shooting competitions he had attended.
The centerpiece of this archery range is a pair of trails in the woods with 43 targets between them. For $12.50 you can shoot a round on one range or $20 for both. Like the pop-up range, the forest trails feature 3-D animal targets.
On the ground in front of each is a row of four colored PVC markers. The closest to the target is the white, indicating the location for peewees to stand. Farther back is green, for children 4 to 12 years old. Next comes the yellow for those shooting traditional bows (and young adults with compound bows). Farthest away is red for adult compound-bow shooters.
Think of this sport as a golf course where the goal is to put an arrow in a target, not a ball in the cup. The targets are 15 to 75 yards away. A word of caution: you get only one shot each. All the targets are par one.
Local bow hunters have embraced this form of archery, especially during the hunting off-season when they're looking to stay sharp using something other than a bullseye target.
"We've had 700 unique visitors in 21/2; years," says Mike. "Many of those are repeat customers."
Competitions are especially popular at Beekman Ridge Archery. Seven shoots are on the 2012 calendar. It took less than two years for the Oregon Bow Hunters Association to take notice.
"We hosted the state 3-D shoot this year," says Mike. "Over two days, we had 200 shooters from all over the state."
In the competitions, each shooter must keep a scorecard and abide by a set of rules, which includes a ban on range finders, tools that allow sights on compound bows an unfair advantage over those who don't have them.
"We have our fun shoots like our Father's Day shoot when many families come out here to shoot," says Liz. "I thought it was going to be a total guy thing, but we've got some really good women shooters."
Archery was the most viewed Olympic sport this year, according to NBC-TV executives. The sport's popularity got a huge boost after moviegoers saw teenage heroine Katniss Everdeen shoot an apple out of a hog's mouth in the screen version of the novel "Hunger Games."
This impact was felt locally, as well. Customers at Beekman Ridge Archery, as well as at local sportsman's retail stores, have seen a boost in archery-related sales, according to the Stritenbergs.
Butte Falls hunters Tsen Freeman and Kenn Biando are honing their skills on this Saturday morning using compound bows. Biando has been rifle hunting for the past year and claims to be rusty with a bow. Freeman is keeping sharp during the weeks between the year's two bow-hunting seasons.
"My favorite target out there is the bear with the steel around it," says Freeman. "You have to make it through this little hole or it will break your arrow."
According to the Stritenbergs, the sound of an arrow striking steel can be heard at their house a quarter-mile away. During today's practice round, both Freeman and Biando hit the target and avoid the embarrassment of breaking their arrows. The area in front of the target is lined with nearly 100 arrows, tips in the ground, ghosts of hunters past.
Back at the pop-up range, Mike Stritenberg points to a life-size Bigfoot target, 150 yards away in the center of the meadow. On Bigfoot's belly is an orange circle the size of a plum. From the gazebo, it's nearly invisible to the naked eye.
For a dollar, you get three arrows and three shots at hitting the circle. If you nail the target, you win half the pot of money, which consists of the dollars paid by other shooters who failed to hit the elusive beast. The remaining money starts the next pot.
Very few shooters have hit Bigfoot's orange spot. One of them was Tsen Freeman.
"I just hold steady," says Freeman. "It's so far out there that any mess back here is really going to pay you out there. I wait until the wind dies down, I don't try to shoot through the wind."
If there's anything harder than spotting Bigfoot in the wild, it's shooting him at Beekman Ridge Archery range.
Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at email@example.com