Archery Gaining Popularity in Central Texas
By Zacharia E. Washington
Employees at Archery Country, an archery store and training facility in Austin, noticed an increase in people requesting archery lessons and customers seeking archery equipment during 2021. “(Interest) is growing at a substantial rate,” said Jake Crocker, a technician at Archery Country.
People’s desire to provide their own meat and to get outside during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the influence of movies featuring archery and celebrities promoting the sport, fueled the increase in archery participation, Crocker said.
Analysts forecast the market for archery equipment will grow more than 8% through 2022, according to the magazine Shooting Industry.
Common styles of archery include target archery (indoor and outdoor) and hunting, usually referred to as bowhunting. Target archery remains more popular, but bowhunting is growing faster, said Taylor Rost, an archery technician and coach at Archery Country.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit full force in 2020, many have turned to archery, Crocker said. It is usually done away from people, allowing for social distancing..
Austinite Brant Oertli, a longtime bowhunter, got his son, Keegan Oertli, 10, involved in archery as soon as he could hold a bow. During the pandemic lockdown, archery provided an opportunity for Keegan Oertli to spend time outdoors.
Keegan said his dream is to become a legendary bowhunter. He participates in target archery and bowhunting and has already killed several large deer, he said.
Target archery typically involves using a bow to shoot arrows at a flat, round target. Keegan Oertli prefers 3D archery, where archers target three-dimensional animal decoys made out of plastic or foam, usually placed in a forest setting or indoor range.
Keegan’s birthday gift from his grandfather was his first compound bow — a complex bow that uses a levering system of cables and pulleys. Compound bows are widely used for hunting.
It is the type of bow that Austinite and podcaster Joe Rogan has discussed on his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
Rogan has made the sport more popular, Crocker said. Rogan, who has 11 million listeners, shares his bowhunting and archery experiences, on his podcast.
“Every year I schedule two elk hunts and assume I’m going to strike out,” Rogan said when discussing the difficulty of bowhunting on his podcast in 2018. “The last two years, I’ve been very lucky, and I got two elk each year.”
Movies have also made an impact on the popularity of archery and archery equipment sales, experts say. The protagonist of “The Hunger Games,” released in 2012, was a skilled archer. USA Archery says its membership and sales of archery equipment soared in the years after the movie was released.
“With an advertisement like (The Hunger Games), sports will take off,” said Lee Gregory, the Southern councilman for the National Field Archery Association. “When a bow and arrow is involved in advertisements, sales go up.”
More people are showing up to shoot, but archery is still a male-dominated sport. The number of female archers is increasing, though.
In the early 2000s, Texas A&M had a women-only archery varsity team, said Lorinda Cohen, archery coach at Texas A&M. Not enough colleges fielded varsity archery teams, and Texas A&M cut the team from varsity status in 2004, Cohen said.
Keegan Oertli’s sister, Camree Oertli, 7, has hopes of getting into the sport. Her father says she has to get a little stronger first, so she can bear the weight of most bows.
“I’m ready to start shooting now,” Camree Oertli said. “I want to be a bowhunter, just like my big brother.”