Archery is becoming more popular in NDFARGO — Gears begin turning inside his head while pondering the right approach. When Odin Helgerson has it all figured out, he lets go with the hopes of hitting the target.
By: Ryan S. Clark, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — Gears begin turning inside his head while pondering the right approach. When Odin Helgerson has it all figured out, he lets go with the hopes of hitting the target.
No. This is not Helgerson’s approach to archery, but how to answer questions about it.
“I just ask people what do they have in mind,” said the 50-year-old Helgerson, who lives in Fargo. “Depending on what they indicate is where I take the conversation.”
The way Helgerson explains it, there’s more to archery than using a bow and arrow to hit a target. Archery is a sport that requires precision, timing and accuracy.
It is a sport that has certainly found a place in North Dakota.
Bowhunting licenses in North Dakota have seen an increase since 2007, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The state sold 20,399 licenses, marking the fourth consecutive year it has sold at least 20,000.
“There is a balance of those who are in it,” said Steve Goroski, vice president of the North Dakota Bowhunters Association. “There are those who hunt and those who shoot targets, and they are into those 110 percent.”
Goroski, who lives in Bismarck, said his home club has a state-of-the-art range that can be used in winter. It is one of a few clubs that serve either as a compliment or alternative to shooting outdoors.
“Just the physical and mental challenges of it all,” Goroski said, when asked why he continues to remained involved with the sport. “I just think it is a good way to challenge yourself in something you constantly practice to get good at.”
Fargo Park District recreation director Clay Whittlesey has ties to archery that go back a long way.
“It is just a really good hobby,” said Whittlesey, who has been with the city for 22 years. “I started when I was at camp and came back to it when I was 19. Then I got involved with it again in my 40s, and now it is a passion and it is something you can do for the rest of your life.”
Whittlesey said the park district began offering archery about eight years ago. It was part of a program to educate area youth on conservation. Since then, hundreds of youth, he said, have come through the program.
“It is one of those great sports like golf when once you do it, you do it your whole life,” he said. “Men, women, children, it doesn’t matter. The equipment is so adjustable and interchangeable.”
One type of archery is target shooting, which includes 3-D model targets of animals or paper target that feature the familiar rings and bull’s-eye.
“I think it offers a lot of flexibility, and you don’t have to be a hunter or a target archer to enjoy it,” Goroski said. “You have all these aspects and it is entirely up to you.”
Helgerson, who is a member of the Sandhills Archery Club in West Fargo, said his club is all volunteers. He said they like hosting events to recruit future archers, including those with physical disabilities.
“We had a member here who was quadriplegic,” Helgerson said. “We also had a member who was paraplegic too, and they both enjoyed the sport a lot.”
Helgerson reinforced how safe archery is.
“I actually asked a doctor about the most common injury that occurs,” he said. “He cited it was people getting poked in the eye by sticks while walking in the dark.”
Archery has provided a lifetime of memories for Goroski, Helgerson and Whittlesey. But very few of those memories are related to Olympic archery.
“Sadly to say,” a hesitant Goroski said, “I don’t know if I have ever seen Olympic archery televised.”
Archery isn’t exactly one of the Olympiad’s glamour sports but strides are being made. The BBC recently reported that archery’s average viewing audience was in the top 10 of the 28 sports during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Archery made its first Olympic appearance in 1900 and after the 1920 Games, it disappeared only to return in 1972.
Since its return, South Korea has won 16 gold medals and 30 overall to the USA’s 14 and 28 overall.
Helgerson said Olympic-style archery is different than the more common forms of archery that are applied.
“It is how they draw and how they anchor,” Helgerson said. “They have to be very precise to pull the string back at a certain distance, every time.”
Helgerson said he and fellow club members have discussed Olympic archery and how it could gain more of a following. They believe that if there was an Olympic-based figure, there would be more of an interest to teach or at least try Olympic archery.
“Say there is an Olympic coach in town and they did a 3-D shoot and even if they did (target) shoots, but in this case, let’s say they shot a bear,” he said. “If people saw them shoot the bow and they were very precise, they might wonder if they could try it.”