See UPDATE at the bottom of this report: Young local bow hunter achieves a rare feat.
By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Ormiston family (pictured) is proof that bow hunting is a family sport: Casey, 11, and Hayden, 14, are third generation. They started when they were around five years old. Mum Donna is a relative late-comer but dad Damien learned it from his parents.
The four from Moranbah in Queensland are among 160 competitors in the Australian Nationals held on the sprawling 78 hectare grounds of the Dead Centre Bow Hunters, native bushland between Roe Creek and the southern flank of a pretty mountain range on the south-western edge of Alice Springs.
The area is dotted with targets at ground level, topped with bales stuffed with bubble wrap to stop arrows that fly a bit too high.
It’s a motley crew, aged from pre-teens to 80 years plus. One is shooting from a wheelchair adapted for the bush tracks cris-crossing the two shooting ranges.
Another competitor, Brett Paddison (pictured), from Maitland, NSW, lost the use of his right arm in a car accident 15 years ago. He pulls the string with his teeth.
Looking the part is paid a fair amount of attention: Young competitor Robert Rowe wears a Robin Hood hat.
One hunter has a quiver made from the skin of a goat he had brought down with his arrow.
Some members hunt live game, not in these nationals, and always feral animals.
Killing native animals is a strict no-no within the sport, says Shoot Director Trevor Pickett.
About a third of the competitors are women.
The equipment is equally diverse, ranging from “stick and string” long bows to sophisticated gadgets working with pulleys and springs, fitted with optical sights and lights indicating when the optimal tension is reached.
Prices range from $500 to $2500, “no more than a set of golf sticks, but we have more fun,” says one competitor.
There is an equivalent to a hole in one: Shooting your arrow into the back of another stuck in the bullseye.
A complex system of handicaps adjusts differences in age, equipment and skill.
The ranges can be varied infinitely, by moving the targets around. These comps use two ranges, one flat and the other taking in some of the hill.
Each range has 20 targets and each target – usually the image of a feral animal – has a centre zone (A), a bigger zone (B) and the whole animal (C). The maximum score is 400 – hitting “A” every time.
It is a sport that is as social as it is demanding: Competitors move around in groups of four or five, but a round takes about two hours to complete and there are usually two rounds a day, morning and afternoon.
There are events with three arrows per target, or just one. In some cases the distance to the target is constant, in others it varies, challenging the shooter’s ability to adjust.
The 35 degree weather doesn’t seem to faze anyone, but Mr Pickett, during the musters, urges the filling of water bottles.
The club’s facilities are simple but adequate – dongas and tin sheds, supplemented for the event with mobile loos. There’s lots of space for camping.
Locals bow hunters have set up camp with visitors who had travelled in caravans and motor homes from most Australian states for the 10 day event.
Most know each-other from earlier fixtures of the sport that has 7000 members nation-wide, making for jovial evenings around the campfire.
About half the competitors arrived by air.
“Many people comment that our shooting ranges are amongst the most picturesque in the country,” says local club member Ray Rowe, proud to show off “how good Alice Springs is at organising a national comp”.
PHOTOS from top: Lining up for a muster • Brett Paddison • Yarning before a round • Robert Rowe (Alice Springs) in Robin Hood look • Joshua Ford (Buluru, NSW) sports a Davy Crockett look • Young competitors • Shannon Hitchen (SA) kitted up for action •
Robert Rowe (pictured) was admitted to the Fellowship Robin Hood, when his arrow pierced the end of his competitor’s arrow, and ended up inside of it.
To achieve that feat is the equivalent of a hole in one in golf. To do it in a competition is rare, but to do it at a national titles is very special.
Robert gained first place in his division.
Now he is off to compete in the Lasseters Easter mountain biking in the Alice, doing two stages in the Easter Mini.