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  • Ascending archers

    'Hunger Games' movies are fueling an explosion of interest in archery among teens
  • Mike Blaschka knows the next wave of archery enthusiasm is about to crest, and he's found a way to get right in front of it.
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    • Power of Katniss
      Here is the impact that Katniss Everdeen of "Hunger Games" has had on archery participation and demographics, according to USA Archery.
      • 65-percent increase in female membership since Nov...
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      Power of Katniss
      Here is the impact that Katniss Everdeen of "Hunger Games" has had on archery participation and demographics, according to USA Archery.

      • 65-percent increase in female membership since November 2012, when the first "Hunger Games" movie opened.
      • Youth members under age 18 increased 130 percent since November 2011.
      • The fastest growing age demographic within USA Archery is 18-34, which has increased 62 percent in the past 12 months.
      • 31 percent to 34 percent increase in national shooting events in the past 12 months. Youth divisions dominate the events, with the 15- to 17-year-old archers the single largest group.
  • Mike Blaschka knows the next wave of archery enthusiasm is about to crest, and he's found a way to get right in front of it.
    Before every showing of "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" at Tinseltown USA in Medford, moviegoers will see an advertisement for Blaschka's DewClaw Archery Supplies store in Medford, touting how easy it is to be like Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen.
    Katniss, archery and "Catching Fire" are hot.
    "We actually have an advertising campaign built around that movie," Blaschka says.
    "You really can't get that kind of advertising from anything else," he says.
    The archery industry, which was caught somewhat off-guard last year by the explosion of interest stemming from the first installment of the "Hunger Games" series, is ready to handle what representatives hope will be a similar groundswell of interest in the sport with the release of "Catching Fire."
    Shop owners such as Blaschka have had last week's opening of the movie circled on their calendars for a while now, and they expect another strong surge in what historically has been a secondary shooting sport in America.
    "It's been and continues to be a good boost for archery," Blaschka says. "It's encouraged a lot of young adults to try it."
    Last year's craze spurred more than a doubling in membership in USA Archery, reversing a decade-long decline in participation.
    "We're seeing unprecedented gains in the number of archers participating overall, and especially in the number of female archers," says Teresa Johnson, spokeswoman for Colorado-based USA Archery.
    In an effort to take advantage of the current uptick, the Archery Trade Association recently launched the sport's first-ever nationwide archery marketing campaign, called "Release Your Wild."
    In Medford, 17-year-old Emily Smith has been releasing arrows regularly as part of a 4-H Club, as well as on her own in her backyard the past four years.
    Like the movie heroine, Smith shoots a longbow, the traditional bow of English yore.
    "I'm interested in the English heritage, and we're English," Smith says. "It's such an amazing weapon."
    At the archery section of the White City shooting ranges, Smith takes aim at a target 20 yards away. Her bow, made of yew, requires a pull of 35 to 40 pounds to load, and the arrow slides between the bow and her left index finger.
    She's tried the mechanized compound bows that require far less strength to shoot, but prefers the traditional weapon.
    "I feel more connected to the target compared to the pulley system of a compound bow," she says.
    She shoots more on feel than by aiming.
    "With all the sites and gadgets on a compound bow, to me it's kind of like cheating instead of relying on a sixth sense," she says.
    Smith isn't a big fan of the Hunger Games movies, and she's read just one of the books.
    "I'm not that interested in kids killing each other," she says.
    But she is interested in kids learning archery from each other, including her.
    The South Medford High School senior is making her own bow and plans to teach a one-day class for 20 future archers this spring as her senior project at school.
    "I think the movie is going to be a good inspiration for some kids to try archery, especially longbows," Smith says.
    For newcomers, that's a good thing.
    "It's a very affordable way to get into archery, as compared to recurve (bows)," he says.
    For $40, a newcomer can buy a serviceable Fiberglas bow and enough arrows to shoot, Blaschka says.
    "For $130, you can have some pretty nice traditional equipment," he says.
    At the local Snowy Butte Archery Club, 40 kids pack the 4-H archery program that meets twice a month at the Medford Rifle and Pistol Club. There's a waiting list to get in, says Claire Thornton, one of the club's organizers.
    Snowy Butte members begin target shooting in October and already have started competitions, so it's not possible for newly inspired archers-to-be to jump into the sport through the club, Thornton says.
    "We're not too affected by the movie at the club level, but I definitely hear a lot of kids wanting to try it and do it at home," Thornton says.
    Archery insiders don't expect this trend to die down any time soon. "Hunger Games" sequels are scheduled for the next two holiday seasons.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MarkCFreeman
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