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NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett Travis T-Bone Turner of the Georgia-based cable TV hunting show, “Michael Waddell’s Bone Collector,” drew a crowd Monday during a league archery shoot at The Bone Shed, Ottawa. The Bone Shed is the indoor archery range at The Bone Collector archery store, warehouse and headquarters at 4200 MBL Drive off Dayton Road east of Route 23. Shooting at 30 targets in the 3-D range, Turner racked up a score of 296 out of a possible 300 (like in bowling), hitting 28 out of 30 bull’s-eyes.
NewsTribune photos/Craig Sterrett Ed Burash practices for hunting and archery competition in the 30-yard range in Time On The Water Outdoors, Spring Valley. Indoor archery leagues are gaining in popularity in the Illinois Valley and the northern states, and are near their peak for attendance in mid-winter between deer hunting and spring hunting seasons.
The end of hunting season no longer means the end of shooting season for archery fanatics.
In fact, when the bow season for deer ends, two relatively new indoor archery ranges in the Illinois Valley start to fill up. Like bowling alleys, the 30-yard indoor range at Time On the Water Outdoors in Spring Valley and the large indoor range at The Bone Shed in Ottawa are used at various hours of the day both for recreation and practice and league competition.
And the competitors showing up are all ages.
On Sunday in Ottawa, Gary Balzarini of Oglesby brought three members of a Boy Scouts of America Venturing Crew (ages 14-20, boys and girls, young men and women) to the range for a portion of the Marshall-Putnam Sportsman’s Club’s youth shooting sports program. He also is trying to set up a rifle shooting league but a recent run on guns and ammo nationwide during an ongoing gun-control scare and controversy has made .22-caliber bullets scarce. The club in Wenona has shooting and archery ranges outside, but the indoor facilities in Ottawa and Spring Valley open up a new opportunity, according to Balzarini.
On Monday in Ottawa, dozens of archers came to The Bone Shed for a league and to see cable TV personality Travis “T-Bone” Turner hit 28 out of 30 bull’s-eyes.
Sunday in Spring Valley, a half dozen people were firing at round targets, paper deer and coyote photos at 20 and 15 yards away. And Feb. 22-24, Spring Valley will have a 3-D target shoot, including upward shots and downward shots at varying distances.
Mike Liss of La Salle shoots each week in a paper-target league in Spring Valley and also each week in a league in Ottawa with 3-D targets — more than two dozen three-dimensional deer, raccoons, skunks, boars, etc. In the paper-target league, competitors usually take 20 shots from 20 yards and 10 from 30 yards. Like in bowling, a score of 300 is perfect, for placing all shots within a 10-point location and none in an eight-point ring or 5-point ring, and no misses.
Until the ranges in Spring Valley and Ottawa opened, Liss had shot for a while at a facility in Princeton that has since closed. Archers from the Illinois Valley were driving to Chillicothe and Peoria for several years.
“Now they’ve got two really good options,” said Phil Sheppard, who was hanging out at the Spring Valley shop Sunday with “bow tech” Jerry Bennett.
More than 50 people participate in the paper-target leagues in Spring Valley and more than 100 each week show up to shoot. In Ottawa, Tim Kitts hosts daytime and evening shooting hours (shorter hours on Sundays) to accommodate archers’ schedules. He said some do shift work and need flexibility for times to shoot for competition.
“It’s huge. We’ve got 103 people every week,” Kitts said last week. For the 3-D range, he regularly changes the heights and positioning of the various fake-animal targets.
“We set them up different every week so there’s a challenge,” Kitts said. The short, smooth-pulling compound bows made today come with several features to assist with accuracy and steadiness.
“They’ve come a long way from the stick and string I taught (my children) on,” said Ed M. Burash while watching his son, Ed B. Burash practice in Spring Valley after making some alterations to a bow.
He said he taught all his sons to shoot simple bows with no sights; they shot by feel, firing at apples he would hang from a clothesline. “Now they’re high-tech,” the elder Burash said.
The Burashes and Liss all hunted for deer this season and had success. Liss bagged two, the elder Burash got one during shotgun season and Ed B. Burash killed five, and was able to share much of the meat with family. Liss said the indoor ranges are great at this time of year, “especially if it’s warm and you can’t ice fish.”