ELIZABETHTON — With less than two months left until bow season starts, the new indoor archery range at H&S Hunting is sure to get some use. Besides an escape from the sweltering heat, the cool, inside area is a great place for beginners to learn and experts to fine-tune their bows.
Co-owners Mike Manuel and Howard Craft started H&S Hunting about 10 years ago and continue to tweak their business to fit the needs of customers. With the popularity of archery growing to include children and women, Manuel and Howard saw it as a possibility for additional income.
“Along with people just coming in to shoot or people who want to try out different bows, it gives them a real good opportunity,” Manuel said. “Instead of shooting at a little target, they can come in and not be afraid to shoot.”
People can practice from a 25-yard shot distance and there are eight lanes available for shots at both dot and three-dimensional targets. Because the range is in a temperature-controlled environment, archers are able to perfect their technique and become more comfortable with new equipment, Manuel said. Since bow hunting season is fast approaching, the indoor archery range will also provide a place for much needed preparation.
“It’s challenging to be successful at bow hunting,” Manuel said. “Your heart is racing and you’re trying to be still and not let the game see you. When you pull it off, it’s very gratifying. Everyone needs to experience it.”
Today’s compound bows are much more sophisticated than the original recurve bows of yesterday, although some still enjoy the advanced skill it requires. The new bows are easier to control and the inner workings like the rear and front sights, plus the trigger, resemble that of a gun.
“I used to vibrate all over after I shot,” Manuel said. “Now, it’s so smooth.”
Compound users also have an advantage when it comes to hunting because they can shoot game between 30-40 yards away, whereas recurve users must wait until the desired shot is 15-20 yards away.
“It really works on your nerves,” Manuel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a doe or a mature buck. When you harvest it with a bow, you’ve accomplished something. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other.”
Before hunters are faced with outside distractions like movement, scent and aiming at the right angle, they have to develop a technique that they can rely on. Manuel says it can take years for people to be successful. The indoor range provides a chance for people to get closer to that desired harvest by practicing without all the outside influences.
In anticipation of the new season, which begins Sept. 24, H&S Hunting has stocked up on new bows, but Manuel says they also see a lot of business from those who want to tune up their existing equipment.
“People will give up certain things, but hunting and fishing is not one they give up easy,” he said. “Sometimes they may have to wait until the last minute to buy it, but it seems like they always come through.”
The addition of the range allows the shop to appeal to customers as more of a one-stop-shop for bows. Even those who are interested solely in the archery aspect rather than the hunting are able to try out different add-ons right there in the store.
As usage of the indoor archery range continues to grow, Manuel said they look to form leagues for tournament shooting, offer classes for young archers and allow groups to reserve the range.
“We’ve got a lot of things in the works,” Manuel said. “In this economy you do anything to keep your head above water. This didn’t cost us a lot of money, but it was a lot of work. We figure if we can just bring in a little extra income through this, it’s going to do nothing but help us.”
H&S Hunting is located on 430 E. E St. in Elizabethton. The range is currently open during normal operating hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. A 30-minute shoot costs $6 and bows are available to rent.