LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Many bowhunters pour over the sharpness of their broadheads, the look of their arrows and the conditions of their bows. Some new locations provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offer year-round opportunities to keep the rust off and keep your shooting form as deadly as the equipment you’ll be using this deer season.
According to Curtis Gray, program coordinator for the AGFC’s Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program, the AGFC maintains 16 archery ranges at AGFC-managed locations. Some are known-distance ranges with bag targets provided, and others are 3D ranges with a complement of realistic big-game animal targets to test archers and teach them shot placement for hunting.
“A lot of my job is working with youth to get them involved in shooting a bow at targets, but we also try to help them make the transition to hunting and 3D archery is a great way to do that,” Gray said. “These ranges are great for anyone who’s looking for a place to shoot and enjoy the challenge of archery.”
The biggest and best of the AGFC’s archery ranges is at the Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range in Mayflower. In addition to three lanes of bag targets set at 20, 30 and 40 yards, the range has more than 20 pre-set 3D targets to challenge archers with everything from a 3D alligator to a lumbering moose. The range also has a 15-foot tall shooting platform where archers can shoot multiple targets and see how the arrow will fly when shooting from their treestand.
“The archery range is free, we just ask people to drop by the clubhouse and check in so we know someone is using it,” said Grant Tomlin, assistant chief of the AGFC Education Division. “You can come into the clubhouse to cool off, watch a show or two and even buy your hunting and fishing license using our on-site licensing system.”
Every AGFC nature center and education center also has 3D archery targets available to shoot for free. Visitors can check in with the staff at the center to shoot a variety of targets ranging from the whitetails and wild turkey you’re likely to see in Arkansas to exotic animals from other countries.
“We just updated (Potlatch Conservation Education Center at) Cooks Lake and Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Education Center with 25 new targets,” Gray said. “Each center asks that you call ahead to make sure the targets are available and to check in when you arrive, but all of our ranges are free to the public.”
The AGFC manages other archery ranges composed of bag-style field targets at many wildlife management areas and in cooperation with some city parks and recreation agencies. The goal is to enable anyone who wants to shoot the opportunity within an hour’s drive.
Gray says bowhunters should also be sure to give their equipment a good inspection before heading out to the stand. Most bowhunters rely on modern compound bows to ensure their aim is true, and they sometimes need some minor tweaking to get everything dialed in.
“It’s always a good idea to drop by your local bow shop before the season to make sure everything is running smoothly,” Gray said. “I can do some minor things with my bow at home, but I have one guy who I’ve been taking my bow to for years that can make sure everything is running perfectly.”
That inspection also goes for the hunter’s treestand and safety harness. Ratchet straps and tethers can deteriorate over time, especially if stored outside or left on a tree. Welds on metal stands also can become stressed and compromise over time if the stand is left in the woods.
“With it being so hot, a lot of hunters don’t want to get out before the season to check things out, or are afraid they’ll mess up their best hunting location by visiting it too often,” Gray said. “Ideally, you don’t want to leave a stand out to the elements that long, but if you have one out there like that, you really need to make sure the straps attaching it to the tree are in good condition.”