For seven decades, a Fresno archery group has been a staple for Valley families who come together to enjoy the sport.
The Fresno Field Archers (known as the Fresno Target Archers until 1956), own a hidden gem in the Sierra foothills — a 37-acre range in Dunlap, 45 miles east of Fresno.
The range, which will host the annual Gene Foster Traditional Rendezvous on Saturday and Sunday, is laid out among rolling hills, boulders, overgrown brush and trees to provide a near-perfect environment for bowhunters.
But the bowhunters don't actually hunt, at least the Fresno Field Archers don't.
The range features 60 targets across two courses — red and white — at distances of 20 to 100 yards.
The Bee caught up with president Darwin Rhodes and longtime member Keith Neal about their upcoming shoot, the science behind archery and what the sport means to families.
Question: What can people expect at the Gene Foster Traditional Rendezvous?
Rhodes: The Gene Foster shoot is an all-traditional shoot that features 3D animal targets from unmarked distances. The targets are anywhere between 30 to 100 yards away, over gorges and through trees. We have a variety of contests that test competitors' accuracy and speed. We'll have moving and pop-up targets and dozens of vendors, leather workers and people who enjoy the sport.
Neal: It's a family event. Friday nights we'll have a Dutch Oven Cookoff and people will bring out different meals. We'll have arrow and bow-making contests. Musicians will go into the clubhouse. Some families will camp out there. It's a real fun time. It's almost like a carnival.
When is the range open?
Rhodes: Members have full access to the range whenever they want. We have a clubhouse with a kitchen, BBQ pit, showers, restrooms and you can camp on the grounds, too.
How much are memberships and what do they include?
Rhodes: Families can buy a one-year membership for the entire family for $50. A single one-year membership is $35. They are "working" memberships, meaning they have to be involved in Fresno Field Archers. They have to attend at least three monthly events, three meetings, three club shoots a year, and work at least one of the major shoots. Membership includes full access to the range and its facilities whenever you'd like.
What brings families to join the Fresno Field Archers?
Neal: The range aspect is amazing. I don't know anywhere else in the Valley you can pay $50 a year and can camp, shoot, and, if you want, compete. It's a great activity for the whole family. My wife, Laura, shoots, and so do my two sons. That's what makes it so enjoyable. It's something we can do together.
What kinds of bows do people shoot with?
Rhodes: I use a compound bow but there are also traditional bows. Compounds are more advanced and use cables and pulleys to shoot the arrow.
Neal: I use the traditional equipment. It's the equivalent to fly-fishing to the angler; it's just one of those things you're drawn to. We make our own drawstrings, arrows and bows. Either way, if it's modern equipment or traditional, it's no easy task shooting an arrow.
What is the challenge in shooting an arrow?
Rhodes: Hunting is too easy. Archery is a mind game. It's 80% mental and 20% physical. People think it's easy like "The Hunger Games," but it's a lot harder than it seems in the movies. Regardless, your worst day at the range will always be better than your best day at work.
Neal: It's tougher than it looks. Once you pick it up, it's fun. It's one of those things where you're always trying to get better and it always gets you up. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work.
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