Hundreds of bow hunters came to St. Maries Sunday to compete in a massive target-shoot that resembled a golf tournament played in camouflage.
The shooters contended with ankle-deep mud, unpredictable wind gusts and sporadic rain.
“They’ve been out here shooting when the snow’s coming down so hard they can’t see the targets,” said Mary Bowen of St. Maries. “The only thing that stops them is sub-zero conditions.”
The St. Joe Valley Archers sponsor the annual event, with groups of archers trekking through the Christmas Hill Recreation Area to shoot at lifelike foam animal targets.
“I just do it to get out,” said Bob Donovan, of Hayden Lake. His weapon of choice: a $600 high-tech bow, with pulleys, sights, a trigger mechanism and “hydraulic stabilizer.”
On the other end of the philosophical spectrum was Hari Heath of Santa, with his homemade bow. The knots in the locust wood were painstakingly rounded to prevent breaking. His arrows were handmade, from spruce.
“I think a lot of people hunt to get in tune with their essential nature,” Heath said. “Nothing is closer to that than killing an animal with a weapon you made yourself. It connects you with your ancestry.”
Club members spent Saturday setting up 40 of the lifelike targets, including elk, cougar, boar, wolf and bear. More than 370 archers shot, including some from as far away as Canada and Trout Creek, Mont. The vast majority of those shooting Sunday were hunters.
Bow-hunting “extends seasons; you get more opportunities to hunt,” said Pat McFadden, president of the club and a Benewah County magistrate judge.
“It’s more competitive, hunter-to-game,” said Paul Gerard of Spokane, who gave up rifle hunting in favor of a bow. He said he successfully hunts elk, bear, deer, coyote, bobcats, ducks and grouse with a bow.
“You’ve got to get a lot closer and quieter,” he said.
“It’s challenging, and it’s a lot safer,” said Donovan.
Sunday’s tournament resembled nothing more than a golf game, with groups of archers sauntering from target to target and tallying scores.
Even the banter sounded like a golf game.
As Lewiston’s Glen Hughes faced two deer targets, he paused.
“I feel intimidated,” he joked.
“Here. I’ll break the ice for you,” said John Thol of Moscow, stepping up and taking aim.
His arrow skittered harmlessly beyond the deer target.
“Thank you, John,” said Hughes. “Now I don’t feel bad at all.”