Paul McAlister, center, and Lonnie Pickel, right, practice at the Clovis Bowhunter’s range north of Ned Houk Park. In the summer the Clovis Bowhunters practice at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays. Staff photo: John Eisel
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
For someone not used to firing an arrow, the pressure bulges in the collar bone, biceps and the finger joints where the string is pulled back. Ideally the goal is to lock on a target using neon tags on the bow. The higher the tag, the closer the target.
However, when it’s a pain to pull the line back, a good guess will do.
“It gets easier,” said Lonnie Pickel, postmaster at Texico. He was joined by Paul McAlister and D.E. Wall, who were more than happy to let a stranger try out a few shots.
Every Thursday evening during the summer, the trio from Clovis practice at the Clovis Bowhunters’ range just north of Ned Houk Memorial Park, a few miles north of Clovis.
Pickle started bowhunting close to 20 years ago because everyone who applied for bowhunting licenses got them. Most of the 65 to 70 people involved with the Clovis Bowhunters are hunters, according to president David Sanders, with about 30 who regularly shoot.
“It keeps everybody shooting,” said Paul Pratt, who runs Hole in the Wall Archery in Clovis. “You’re practicing distance so when hunting season comes you don’t have to think about it at all.”
The field is rife with paper targets from birds to small mammals to bears, and the bowhunters shoot from 10 feet away to 50 or 60, depending on the size. Placed next to the paper targets, which are attached to bails of hay, are large golden styrofoam animal targets that have large chunks blasted out.
Clovis hosted a nighttime tournament on Saturday, using flashlights to pinpoint the targets, and Portales hosts competitions as well.
Tournaments are scattered throughout the state and nation. Sanders’ 13-year-old son, Ryan, has gotten so good he has a sponsorship deal and is aiming for college scholarship from the National Field Archers Association to help pay for equipment.
Bows start at $50 but can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on quality. A typical hunting rifle starts at a few hundred dollars new, and ammunition can’t be reused.
The whizz and dampened thunking sound an arrow makes is also a lot less jarring than gunpowder.
“With bowhunting, it’s a lot more peaceful,” said Pratt, who added bowhunters have much more space to themselves than firearm hunters. “There might not be anybody else there.”
The lack of noise helps the bowhunters, who have to sneak up on an animal to get a good shot, unlike with rifles.
“You go out with a rifle from 200 yards away and it’s as good as gone,” said David Sanders, president of the Clovis Bowhunters.
The hunters talked about closing within a body length of some of the animals out in the field.
“It’s an accomplishment to get that close to one,” said Pratt. “You feel more accomplished when you do shoot something.”