Traditional school sports may not resonate with all youth — for those who find passion in drawing a bow and arrow — they’re in luck. Wasatch County School District offers Archery through physical education classes and an Archery Club. Archery is a skill that requires focus and discipline, something competing students know a lot about. In the past eight years, archers from Wasatch High and Rocky Mountain Middle School have collectively won eleven (WHS 5, RMM 6) state championship titles. That’s pretty impressive!
The district’s archery program begins in the 4th grade. In keeping with the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), students engage in after-school clubs where the sole focus is on archery and technique. Matthew Zierenberg, former long-time Archery instructor, said that despite the extra time away from home, Archery Club programs have made a profound difference in students’ confidence and help create social opportunities for them. These students come together several times every week to collectively refine their cleanest shots.
What sparks a student’s interest in shooting using a bow and arrow? You might be surprised to learn that for the majority it’s not hunting. Matthew has found that most of the youth in the program don’t come from hunting families and aren’t there to learn archery for bowhunting. Most of the students are there because they love the sport and it’s a lot of fun!
One dynamic unique to the district’s Archery Club is that students can become certified as peer instructors. Zierenberg said, to his knowledge, it has not been done anywhere else. With up to 300 students participating in archery each year, these student instructors have the opportunity to learn valuable leadership skills, as well as other character traits highlighted by Olympic Archers.
Wasatch School District also offers Scholastic 3D Archery (S3DA) and Olympic Archery in the Schools (OAD). Each program focuses on a different style of archery.
- NASP participants use one type of bow and one type of arrow, so the competition is based solely on technique shooting targets.
- S3DA employs compound bows, with sights and equipment more tuned to the archer shooting foam animals (3 dimensional) as well as standard targets. Ethical bowhunting and wildlife conservation.
- OAD has the young archer shooting from an Olympic recurve bow, the focus on archery and character development.
Peer instruction is a model of genuine sportsmanship also described by local competitive archer, Dustin Pyper (owner of Pyper Archery). At any level of archery competition, “If one competitor broke their bow, an opponent would lend his or her personal equipment to finish the tournament.” This is not a coerced or obligatory kindness. It is just how the archery community behaves and it plays into the daily actions of these young archers.
BOWHUNTERS ARE RECREATIONAL ARCHERY
Our iconic valley community is rooted in mountain life — connected to the virtuous people and natural world around us. Within that culture is a tradition of bowhunting. There was even a local archery shop, iBowhunt, that closed just a few years ago. Bowhunting is not competitive in the athletic sense; it is driven by a primordial desire to be part of the ecosystem. A bowhunter practices precision at the range. To keep up their skill many local bowhunters also shoot recreationally. For some this means taking practice shots on their property or that of a friend, but for most that’s not an option. For those wanting to practice on 3-dimensional foam animal targets set on a hiking trail, known as a 3D course, or participate in festivals or competitions, they would need to travel outside the valley. As of this writing, there is only one archery event that comes to Heber; the Timpanogos Archery Competition at the fairgrounds in mid-March. However, archers across the county are hoping that that is all about to change with the opening of an Archery range in Wasatch Mountain State Park.
THE PLACE TO SHOOT
Tracy See, Manager of Wasatch Mountain State Park, explained that a group of local archers came to her expressing their desires for a range. Tracy began to have a vision of what our state park could offer archers and went to work. Funding came from a series of state grants, with one of those derived through the Pittman-Roberston Act. With the generosity of a local contractor, Lance Epperson, the first phase of the range was completed in the spring of 2020.
There are currently six shooting lanes with adjustable distances and target bags. Archers can hang their bow before and after shots on racks between lanes. There are benches for friends, tables for equipment, and a specific target for shooting broadheads. Plans to expand with a 3D walking course will likely come to fruition this spring. In addition to standard targets, NASP certified targets are readily deployed so students can take advantage of the range according to NASP guidelines.
The range can be used by clubs and private instructors. If you look you might just find Dustin Pyper there offering tips to help you shoot better. He expressed that it is great to have a place to shoot. According to the Archery Trade Association, simply having a place to shoot increases the possibility of more interest in the sport. The association also reports steady growth in archery across the nation from all walks of life. Ranges and archery parks have been part of that growth. The growth transcends local businesses as well. Locally, there has been a strong demand for new bows from Pyper Archery, especially before and after archery hunting season, and around Christmas.
Pyper Archery in Heber opened for service and sales in August of 2020. Dustin Pyper is a seasoned archer, shooting on PSE Archery’s staff for the last 4 years and has been an avid archer for 24 years. He knows the ins-and-outs of bows. He spends a lot of time with his patrons helping them understand the dynamics of the bow and how that translates to shooting it.
With the new range come new opportunities for archery enthusiasts, bowhunters, students, and the community to come together and share their talents and ideas. Maybe, just maybe our community of archers will coalesce into an Archery Club or two — aside from the school clubs. Walking and shooting the 3D course will undoubtedly be a fun family hike. Parents might find themselves trying to keep up with their kids who are frequently practicing archery among their peers at school. Bowhunters and other archers will surely meet, while other individuals and groups may take up a bow for the first time. Who knows, maybe the Heber Valley will hold its own archery events.
One thing’s for sure — if we learn from the example of our local archery students — we’ll understand that shooting and competing together not only makes a difference in our skills but in the fellowship of our community.
GET THE GEAR
READY TO JOIN IN THE SPORT? Pyper Archery sells PSE bows, accessories, and service. Whether you are a bowhunter or a middle school archer, or just getting started, they can help: 435-640-1713.
SAVE THE DATE
May 8th, 2021 is National Archery Day. National Archery Day recognizes one of the oldest sports still in existence. Archery has been around since before 2800 BC when bows were being used for hunting and battle.
HOME ON THE RANGE
DID YOU KNOW WE HAVE A RANGE RIGHT HERE IN THE VALLEY? Wasatch Mountain State Park Archery range is located on the north side of Snake Creek Road, near the western reaches of the golf course. Info: 435-654-1791.