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MailTribune.com
  • Centershot

    Archery has been booming in popularity since the "Hunger Games," and options abound in Southern Oregon
  • Camping, hunting, fishing " — the memories of a childhood spent outdoors with his family come rushing back to Mike Blaschka. Strolling through Dewclaw Archery in Medford, which he owns with his wife, Kelly, Blaschka can't help but recall one special day as a 16-year-old when a friend invited him to go bowhunting.
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    • Learn more about archery
      Supplies, lessons, archery leagues
      Dewclaw Archery, 541-772-1896, dewclawarchery.com, in Medford
      Southern Oregon Archery, 541-664-3310, www.southernoregonarchery.com, in Central Point
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      Learn more about archery
      Supplies, lessons, archery leagues

      Dewclaw Archery, 541-772-1896, dewclawarchery.com, in Medford

      Southern Oregon Archery, 541-664-3310, www.southernoregonarchery.com, in Central Point

      Skookum Ridge Bowhunting Supply, 541-560-4118, in Prospect

      Clubs

      Rogue Valley Archers, 541-890-3394, roguevalleyarchers.com

      Ranges

      Beekman Ridge Archery, 541-951-5581, beekmanridgearchery.com, 15580 Butte Falls Highway, Eagle Point

      Josephine County Sportsman Association gun range, 541-476-2040, jcsa-gunrange.com, 7407 Highland Avenue, Grants Pass

      Jackson County Sports Park, 6900 Kershaw Road, White City.
  • Camping, hunting, fishing " — the memories of a childhood spent outdoors with his family come rushing back to Mike Blaschka. Strolling through Dewclaw Archery in Medford, which he owns with his wife, Kelly, Blaschka can't help but recall one special day as a 16-year-old when a friend invited him to go bowhunting.
    As someone who had grown up hunting with a rifle, Blaschka welcomed the opportunity — and that experience made a lasting impression.
    "I just went, 'You're kidding me, this is awesome,' " Blaschka, now 48, says of his first venture into archery. "I was sold, it was that quick."
    On that trip, Blaschka went from being the first person in his family to pick up a bow to someone who couldn't dream of hunting any other way.
    "The appeal to me was the intimacy of the experience," he says. "With a rifle, I'm looking through a scope and I could take game at 200 yards. ... I'm not even a part of their universe. But I've shot an elk from me to you, literally, so just that interaction and the challenge of getting inside their protective envelope is a lot more of a challenge. When you are able to get close enough for a shot with archery tackle, you've accomplished something, because a deer or an elk " they are 24/7 survivors. They've got bears and cougars and wolves and everything trying to get them, so they are always on their alert."
    It's that challenge, that ability to get close enough for a shot that ultimately proves satisfying for an archer, Blaschka says.
    "Regardless of whether you get the shot or take the animal, it doesn't matter," he says. "Archers as a general rule are people where even our failures are something that we talk about, like, 'I got so close and I shot right over it, but I was 15 yards away.'
    "Whether I take an animal or whether I get a shot, just the whole part of the interaction out there is incredible," adds Blaschka. "We get out there, and we call them and talk to them, and when you have an 800-pound bull elk that's bugling back at you and you're close enough that you feel it in your chest as it kind of reverberates through you, I can't compare it to anything else. It's just incredible adrenaline."
    Blaschka turned that passion into a successful business at Dewclaw Archery, established in 1978 at 2722 W. Main St., Medford. His sons Michael and Matt are among the staff.
    "They didn't have to wait until they were 16 to get involved in archery," Blaschka says.
    A great thing about archery is that anyone can do it, he adds. Getting kids started around 5 years old is not uncommon, and he knows active shooters in their 70s.
    "That's one of the appealing things ... you don't have to be athletic, you don't have to be strong," he says. "A lot of ladies are better shooters than guys, because they're a little more detail-oriented and don't have the big macho chip on their shoulder of, 'Oh, I know how to do this.' "
    While the majority of archers he sees in Southern Oregon are bowhunters, there's a growing contingent of recreational archers who enjoy the meditative benefits of shooting, he says.
    "We've seen the recreational segment of our customer base increase over the last eight years," he says. "It's satisfying in a lot of ways to shoot an arrow and have it strike your target, and there's people who go out and they shoot every day just for the act of shooting and never with any intention that they're going to go in the field and pursue game."
    Equipment ranges from the traditional long bow or recurve bow to state-of-the-art compound bows, which have more range and accuracy.
    As with any endeavor, people can go in for a penny or in for a pound when it comes to equipment, but Blaschka says an average spender can be fully equipped with a traditional bow setup for about $200 and on the compound side for about $500. That includes the bow, arrows, targets, arm guard and shooting glove and the proper fitting and training.
    "The average person would be proficient enough to go out and enjoy the sport on their own after two lessons. The bows may look intimidating, but it's still a fairly simple process where you're drawing a string, lining it up and letting go," says Blaschka.
    "Where most people struggle, especially if they try to pick it up on their own, is that archery is all about being physically consistent," he explains. "That's how we instruct from the outset. This is about being consistent. It's not about strength or being a good shot. If you can be consistent and physically train your body to perform the same thing each time you draw the string, your arrows are going to end up right in the bull's-eye."
    Archery has grown in recent years, thanks in part to the popular "Hunger Games" books and movies, and the equipment has improved greatly to provide a more satisfying experience.
    "Equipment, at least on the compound side, has changed dramatically in the last 10 years," says Blaschka. "Bows are made to be very adjustable so a 5-year-old could start shooting one and keep shooting it until they're 20 or even 50. They don't have to ever change a bow if they don't want to, whereas 10 years ago that wasn't the case."
    Lessons can be arranged through the city of Medford and at local stores, including Southern Oregon Archery, 226 E. Pine St., Central Point, and Skookum Ridge Bowhunting Supply, 43043 Highway 62, Prospect.
    Indoor ranges at Dewclaw Archery and Southern Oregon Archery offer indoor league competitions, as well as individual lessons and equipment repair services.
    Outdoor shooting options include Beekman Ridge Archery near Butte Falls, while the Ashland Archers club uses a range at the Ashland Gun Club, 555 Emigrant Creek Road. The Rogue Valley Archers club uses a range at the Josephine County Sports Park, 7407 Highland Ave., Grants Pass, and there's an archery range at the Jackson County Sports Park, 6900 Kershaw Road, White City.
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