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Archerys popularity gives Renaissance sport a, well, renaissance
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Ethan Jones aims at a fiberglass deer target during an event this past weekend at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville. - photo by Tom Reed

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Dean Morris of the Gainesville Archery Club talks about the sport's interest in the area.

Ashley Alley Charity Shoot

When: 8:30 a.m. Sunday
Where: Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center Archery Range, 2125 Calvary Church Road, Gainesville
How much: Free for spectators
More info: Gainesville Archery Club

Brittnay Chandler has a pink bow in her hand, not in her hair, and that's OK with her.

The 9-year-old Eatonton girl, spending the day with her parents at the Gainesville Archery Club's shooting grounds in South Hall, wore a smile as she trekked the outdoor course firing at targets with her orange- and green-tipped arrows.

"My daddy got me into it and I started liking it," Brittnay said.

The ancient art form has a following among modern-day enthusiasts, people who are willing to spend as much as $2,000 for top-notch equipment.

One local group, the Gainesville Archery Club, started several decades ago with members meeting at Laurel Park in North Hall and shooting at paper targets.

Today, the group meets at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center Archery Range, at 2125 Calvary Church Road next to Chicopee Woods Elementary School and on property the group leases from the Hall County school system.

Interest in the sport among Hall County residents "is generally pretty good," said Dean Morris, a club officer who also maintains the group's Web site.

"When we hold a tournament, we average around 175 to 200 (people). That's probably some of the best (numbers) in the state, as far as archery clubs go."

On Sunday, people were streaming in for a qualifier for a state shoot set for June 20-21 at Pine Ridge Outdoors in Lyerly in Northwest Georgia near Alabama.

They warmed up by firing arrows at some targets in an open field near the parking lot, then headed down a trail into the woods. Archers visited several shooting "lanes," where they fired at targets at different distances and tucked among tall trees and bushes.

"The thing we like about being down here is it gives you a feeling like you're hunting," Morris said.

"What a lot of guys do is they'll take their bow, after hunting season, and put it in a closet and don't touch it again until the following summer. ... One of the reasons we do this is so you can keep your basic muscles in shooting condition."

Historically, archery was used for hunting and combat. It remains popular in hunting but faded in warfare with the development of guns and other long-range artillery.

Archerysearch.com is a Web site that can help those interested in the sport get started; it offers tips on equipment to buy and information on stores selling it.

The basic steps include having a safe place to shoot, safe and properly-sized equipment and a qualified teacher.

Many of today's bows are more sophisticated than the ones people envision, images perhaps forged by what they have seen in old movies. They consists of more than a tightened string, curved piece of wood and a notch where you place the arrow.

Archers can invest a lot of money into equipment, but start-up costs can be relatively cheap, beginning about $125 for a recurve bow.

Morris said many people enter the sport because of the fairly low costs.

"It's a cheap sport, once you've got everything you need," he said. "And one of the things about archery is it's diversified. You've got guys right out of high school ... then you've got guys in their mid 60s. It's just a sport that anybody can do."

And then there are women in their mid 20s, like Breanne Tinsley, 24, of Cumming.

She entered the sport because she loved to hunt and fish. She said she began practicing with a bow and arrow and found "it was a lot of fun."

Plus, others who follow the sport "are very nice and fun to be around," Tinsley said.

Brittnay said she likes the self-improvement aspect of the sport.

"I like it because I can get better and better at it," she said.

Morris said he is expecting a big turnout for the club's annual Ashley Alley Charity Shoot this Sunday at the archery range. The event is named after an archer who died four years ago in a construction accident,

The event, which is set to begin at 8:30 a.m., will benefit the National Archery in Schools Program.

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