Archery range encourages students

If anything good came out of the movie "Deliverance," it was the surge in the number of people who took up archery.

In the 1972 film, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty play businessmen who take on the rugged Georgia wilderness during a dangerous whitewater rafting adventure. The use of bows and arrows throughout it helped popularize the sport for men in the United States.

Back then, Clyde Hartsell was one of those guys. Hartsell grew up in Cabarrus County and bought his first bow around the time the movie came out. Since then, he's pulled back the string thousands of times. Now he hopes a new generation will do the same.

This month, Hartsell opened Boss Archery, a shooting range and pro shop for experienced archers and for people interested in learning the sport.

At his facility on Raceway Drive in Concord, old church pews line the walls of what was once an auto racing shop. Large, white straw bales with targets on them stare down shooters several feet away. To the side, an unusual grouping of animals watches.

"There's deer, turkey, wild boar, havalina. You mix it up," said Hartsell. "You get a little bored shooting at the same target all the time."

He's hoping more families will think of archery as an activity they can do together, and more schools will take a closer look at a sport that builds confidence and can lead to scholarship money for students who excel.

According to the National Archery Association, more than 20 colleges in the U.S. have archery teams. Several scholarships are offered through archery-affiliated organizations nationwide.

To get kids started, grants are often available to schools that want to launch a National Archery in the Schools program. The program teaches children, from fourth grade on, how to shoot, usually for physical education credit.

More than 8.8 million kids in more than 8,800 schools across the country have learned the sport through the popular program.

"You don't have to be the biggest kid to do it," said Hartsell, who taught his daughter Stephanie, now 39, to shoot when she was 14.

Stephanie, now a stay-at-home mom living in Atlanta, went on to become a four-time youth champion.

The sport is different today than when Hartsell started shooting.

"Back then, bow manufacturers did not build equipment for women or children," he said. "They were all for adult men."

If a woman or kid wanted to take up the sport, they would have to use a man's bow, which required more strength to hold and pull back on its string.

Hartsell's daughter learned to shoot on a man's bow, too, but eventually caught the eye of Browning Archery, a bow manufacturer that created a bow just for her.

"Stephanie was the youngest sponsored shooter in the industry," said Hartsell. "She actually had a contract with Browning Archery that paid her to shoot."

Hartsell would like to see more school-age children pick up the sport, and he's willing to teach them, just as he taught his daughter.

"I enjoy archery and working with kids," he said. "I'm actually more proud of coaching my daughter to a four-time national championship than I am of what I accomplished," said Hartsell, who has won hundreds of accolades himself in the sport. "I'm a much better coach than I am shooter."

Once they draw back that string and let go of that first arrow, he said, he knows many will be hooked.

"It's a sense of satisfaction when you can hit that target where you want to hit it," he said. "If you like it, it almost becomes an addiction."