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THE GREAT OUTDOORS / GETTING ACTIVE BY LAND

Archers' Aim Is to Remain on Target

Entire family can participate in this ancient sport, and the cost is reasonable.

June 26, 1996|GEOFF BILAU | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

They navigate along a dusty path, stepping over tall, prickly brush, making sure to stay clear of the occasional poison oak.

They tell stories about past adventures, commiserate about the price of gasoline--but mostly just enjoy a day under the dry summer sun.

Rugged outdoorsmen? Not exactly.

They're archery enthusiasts, and this particular group ranges from a retired construction worker from Germany to a 26-year-old sales representative for a medical supply firm. They walk a shooting course seemingly as remote as the back hills, though actually it's only about 400 yards off Irvine Boulevard in Lake Forest.

But they are drawn together by a common passion they find difficult to explain.

"I don't know," said Werner Reither, 65, a self-professed "full-time archer" since his retirement. "It's just that bow. When you draw it back, it becomes a part of you."

Archery has evolved from wood to plastic, to aluminum, to carbon. Despite the technological advances, however, the principle of the bow and arrow remains as simple as ever. And man's attempt to master it continues.

Which is what attracted Bobby Ferguson of Fountain Valley to the sport.

"It's consistently a challenge," he said. "You're not going to be great right from the start. These guys have been shooting for 20 years and they're still working on it."

Ferguson started at the suggestion of his father-in-law, Paul Torres, and they come to the range together regularly.

As a family sport, archery is widely overlooked by people who don't shoot, said Chuck Shaw, vice president of the El Toro Archers, one of two archery associations that draws members from Orange County.

Shaw said archery can be great, relatively inexpensive fun for a family. About 30 of the club's 197 members are women, and about 25 are children.

"It's an opportunity to take the entire family somewhere outdoors, on almost a golf course-like setting, and get some fresh air," he said. "And as a sport, it can be as competitive as you want it to be, so everyone can enjoy themselves."

The El Toro Archers started in 1976. Their home range is across from El Toro Marine Base, and board member Bruce Johnson calls it "one of the best kept secrets for not trying to keep it one."

Membership fees are $60 a year for an individual and $90 for a family.

The club maintains the 200-acre shooting range along Borrego Wash, featuring a practice range and a 28-target course, on which shooters move from target to target. They host novelty shoots, conventional target tournaments and a 3-D shoot, with 42 life-size three-dimensional targets. Hunting live animals is not permitted at the range.

Another club, Oranco Bowman, draws about half of its 150-family members from Orange County, though its range is located off Highway 71, behind Prado Dam in Riverside County.

For those just getting started, Reither suggests borrowing equipment and getting a feel for the sport before investing a great deal of money.

There are public practice ranges at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley and Santiago Park in Santa Ana. Reither also recommends lessons, but says advice is easy to find at any range.

"Archers are nice people," he said. "When a stranger trying something new comes out, everyone is quick to try and help."

When purchasing equipment, one can spend as little as $40 or more than $1,000 on a bow alone.

Jeff Ponzio of FS Arrows, a retail and mail order archery shop in Tustin, recommends a recurve bow for beginners. A compound bow, which uses wheels and pulleys, is more powerful, but much more expensive. Ponzio says a quality recurve bow can be purchased for $150 to $200.

Aluminum shaft arrows are sold by the dozen and range in price from about $20 to $200.

That is, essentially, all that is needed to get started, though numerous accessories, including quivers, finger tabs, bow sights and arm guards, are available.

Ponzio said the ideal archer dedicates enough time to learn the skill and doesn't let equipment sit in the garage for long stretches.

Other than that, Ponzio said, good archers can come from any background.

"All people expect they'll see in here are, you know, rednecks," Ponzio said. "But we see guys pulling up here in new Mercedes Benzes."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Starting Costs

Here are some estimated costs for a beginning archer:

* Falcon recurve, $169.95

* Aluminum shaft arrows, $20 a dozen

* Tube quiver, $5.50

* Arm guard, $5.65

* Shooting glove, $15.95

* Burlap target, $20-50

* Bow case, from $19.95

SOURCE: FS Arrows in Tustin

Their Aim Is True

There are four ranges in Orange County where target

archery is offered:

* High Tech Archery (indoor)

9872 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim

(714) 636-7476

* Mile Square Park, Fountain Valley

15-20 targets

* Santiago Park, Santa Ana/Orange

3-4 bails

* El Toro Range (must be member of El Toro Archers club or guest)

8 practice targets, 28 field targets

WHOM TO CALL

* El Toro Archers: contact Pat Johnson, president, at (714) 458-8055, or Chuck Shaw, vice president, at (714) 960-7554.

Membership fees are $60 a year for individuals, $90 for a family.

* Oranco Bowman: contact Terry Adams at (714) 639-2299.

Membership fees are $33 a year for each family, plus $20 for state and $20 for national association dues.

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