By Moira Blazi
The Libby archery Club has been around since the fifties. “It was Tom DeShazer and his family who started the club,” said Rich Hjort, current board president .
“Tom had an archery shop, and there was a large following for archery back then,” Hjort said. “They held big competitions in Libby, bringing in folks from five states and two Canadian provinces.”
In the early seventies, the club became inactive, but in 1978, longtime archery enthusiast, Rich Hjort put an ad in the paper to inquire if anyone was interested in starting an archery club. Over 20 people came to meet at a bank, including the DeShazers, who informed the newly-formed group that there was already $500 left in the kitty from the old, now defunct group. They used it to buy targets, and they were off.
Every spring the club holds two trail target shooting competitions out in the flowering, green woods. This year, the traditional shoot, which is limited to traditional long bows, and typically draws about 200 participants, was held the weekend of May 5 at Fawn Creek Campground on the raging, snow-fed Fisher River.
The club also held the 3-D shoot, which includes all types of hand-held, manual bows. This year, about 100 folks, came out to the verdant green woods, some from as far away as Alford, British Columbia, Moses Lake, Washington, and eastern Montana.
In the large, vibrant meadow at the campground the club sets up practice targets of hard foam bison, bear and elk figurines. This is no ordinary competition though, because out in the woods, along three separate loops, covering three to four miles, the Libby Archery Club set up over 100 different targets. Some were as simple and natural as a doe and fawn drinking at the creek, or moose, bear and elk. But the club endeavors to make it fun so there were bats, bison, gophers, dinosaurs, a sasquatch and jackalope, moving alligators in the clear Montana creek bed, and even flying zombies.
Raven Porter and Teighler Parker won first and second place in the girls compound bow category. Photo by Moira Blazi, The Montanian
Competitors got points for hitting anything with the “vitals” area counting more, and the bullseye garnering top points. The archers kept track of their own points, and the entire competition was run on an honor system.
The Montanian visited the camp during midafternoon on Sunday, just as the last of the competitors were coming in from the target loops.
Ruth Miller and Jordyn Fredenberg were making their way through the course. Strangers just minutes before, the archers shot at foam animal figures and other targets set up along the trail. “The Libby Archery club did a fantastic job with this course,” said Miller. “One of the great things about this is that you can fall in with a group and bond with them and become friends,” she added, smiling at her new friend, 16 year-old Frenenburg. Both Miller and Fredenburg use a traditional longbow. This was Miller’s fifth year at the shoot and Frenenburg’s second. “I like it because it’s simple, easy and fun,” she told the Montanian, adding that her dad and brothers are avid bowhunters.
Back along the trail, done shooting for the day, Zachary Fisher and Jacob Thramer were taking their dogs for a dip in the creek. Both boys are 15 and experienced archers. “I find hunting with a bow more rewarding, anybody can pick up a rifle,” Fisher said, “and it’s a great excuse to get out in the woods.”
Thramer started shooting arrows when he was three and last year he was about 12 feet from a big elk. He told the Montanian. “It’s quite an experience to be that close to a bull elk,” he said.
Down at camp, volunteers were busy giving out trophies for numerous categories and age groups. In the girls’ compound bow category, winners Raven Porter, age 9, and Teighler Parker, age 8 proudly displayed their first and second place plaques as campers began gathering up chairs and coolers to hit the road.
“The Libby archery club used to have a practice range set up in the bowling alley, but we had to shut it down due to lack of support,” said Terri Kelly, longtime member. Our membership is down to about 20 right now, and it’s a lot of work to stage these shoots.”
The club also offers free classes to church and local groups, and, with the help of Libby Sports Center, has helped maintain bows and donated six dozen arrows, new strings and finger tabs to Libby High school. “Most of our members are also involved in bowhunters education classes as well,” Kelly added. “we work hard to make it all very family friendly.”
For more info about the Libby archery club, find them on Facebook
Jordyn Fredenburg aims at a 3-D deer target during this year’s Libby Archery Club shoot. Photo by Moira Blazi, The Montanian.