Think bowling, but with a deadly weapon.
“This really is like a bowling league,” said Ron Thompson. “Except we hurl sharp things that fly.”
Since 1987, the locally owned Goods for the Woods outdoor retailer in Durango, located in Bodo Industrial Park in Durango, has been providing outdoorsmen and women with all their firearm and archery needs.
The store, since its inception, has been owned by a mother and son team, Jane Gustafson and Seth Taylor. The duo even decided to branch out this past year, opening a shop in Cortez.
But when the doors close and lights go down around 6:30 p.m. after the working day is done in Durango, the store transforms into a sort of bowling alley for bow hunters.
“There was just a need for it,” Gustafson said. “It’s really fun, and it’s good therapy if you’ve had a stressful day at work. You come here and shoot. It’s relaxing to me.”
Since Goods for the Woods moved to its current location 16 years ago at 307 South Camino Del Rio, near the Office Depot shopping center, the store has offered an after-hours archery club for hunting aficionados.
Sign-ups are usually held around September, with the league getting into swing after Thanksgiving. For 15 weeks, a stiff but good-natured competition lasts until winners are announced at the end of March.
“Archery is a growing sport, for sure,” Gustafson said. “And this is something for them to do in the winter.”
This year, the league had to expand to four nights a week – as opposed to the typical three nights – given the number of people who signed up. More than 100 competitors participate in both the Durango and Cortez leagues, Gustafson said.
Ages and skill levels are across the board.
Mikayla Cassady is one of the youngest bow hunters in the league, though she’s probably more advanced than the average shooter. The 11-year-old started hunting when she was 8, and now competes in more than 20 outdoor and indoor tournaments a year.
Mikayla holds records for her age bracket in both Colorado and New Mexico, she said.
“I like that I get to travel around and compete with a lot of kids my age,” she said. “My dad’s been shooting a long time.”
Mikayla’s father, Jason, said he’s been hunting since 1998, and then started getting involved in the massive and competitive world of target archery, which he has taken part in all over the country.
Jason and his family traveled this winter to Las Vegas to compete in the largest archery tournament, which draws more than 5,000 archers. Taking part in the Goods for the Woods league is a good way to keep skills up, he said.
“It keeps you sharp and allows you to work on your form,” Jason said. “And gets you ready for the next tournament.”
Bill Wolvin, an avid elk hunter who uses a traditional bow, may be considered a rookie in the league, but he’s no novice in bow hunting. He’s been an archer since 1969.
“I liked the challenge of being outside and chasing critters around,” he said. “And not always killing them, but enjoying being out there with them.”
More than anything, the league is a good place for hunters to come together in the winter, socialize, share stories, talk about gear, keep their skills sharp and prepare for the next hunt.
Even after the winners are declared, everyone in the league wins with an end-of-the-year barbecue.
“It’s just a fun way to practice in the winter,” Thompson said. “Although one year, I got a trophy.”