The arrow struck the target with a satisfying thwack, landing just inside a blue circle worth 20 points. Not bad for someone who, up until an hour ago, had never used a bow.
Some weeks ago, I began noticing promotions for the new Hunger Games movie, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In promo images, Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Katniss Everdeen, stares steely eyed down the shaft of an arrow. The first installment of the series highlighted how the character’s skill with a bow and arrow not only fed her family for years but was one of the reasons she won the fictional Games. That movie’s oft-flying arrows ignited an interest in archery among women everywhere, including my two daughters and me.
That oft-flying arrows in The Hunger Games ignited an interest in archery among women everywhere, including my two daughters and me.
During a three-day stay at Hyatt Lost Pines Resort, I finally had the chance to do something about it, just before the second Hunger Games movie comes out. One of the resort’s many activity offerings: a one-hour archery class.
I showed up at the activity desk in the spacious lobby and was taken by golf cart to a grassy hill overlooking the golf course in one direction and thick woods in the other. In front of the woods and down a slight slope, a cluster of targets looked small and far away. Instructor Luis Fernandez promised I would hit the target before the end of class.
Skeptical, I filled out the requisite paperwork. Luis went over safety instructions, then introduced me to a red compound bow. Compound bows use pulleys and cables to make it easier to pull the string taut. Doing so still takes a bit of upper body strength, though, and first-timers may have sore arms after class.
With Luis’s detailed, step-by-step instructions, I managed to make my first arrow fly, and, while it didn’t hit the target, it came close. He watched me prepare for the next shot and, when it barely missed the target, too, was able to tell me exactly what I needed to do differently.
When I signed up, I had no expectation of hitting anything, at least not on purpose.
I stood facing an imaginary line perpendicular to the target, placed an arrow on the horizontal bow, lifted it vertically toward the target in my outstretched left arm, turned my head to face the target, pulled the string back with my right hand until my thumb rested next to my lips, bent my left arm slightly and lined up a notch in the bow (not the arrow itself) with the target. “Up just a little,” Luis said, “and remember not to move after you release the arrow.”
I held my breath, released, and the arrow hit the target. Not in a spot that earned any extra points, but I felt pretty good about just finally hitting something. We retrieved my arrows and repeated the process, and that round I missed only once.
Then it was time for a competition with the two other people in the class. We fired all our arrows and totaled up points. Then we rotated to other targets, some farther away and some smaller. I continued to miss altogether occasionally, but each time, Luis was able to tell me what I did wrong — usually I wasn’t bending my left elbow slightly or was moving just as I released the arrow.
When all was said and done, I had the highest point total. Okay, I was only first out of three, and earned nothing other than bragging rights, but still. When I signed up, I had no expectation of hitting anything, at least not on purpose.
I was able to take my shots standing still — unlike Jennifer Lawrence’s movie character, who seems to fire most of her arrows rapidly and while on the run or under attack. That can’t be easy.
It bears noting that I was able to take my shots standing still, with all the time in the world to release my arrows — unlike Lawrence’s movie character, who seems to fire most of her arrows rapidly and while on the run or under attack. That can’t be easy.
Lawrence makes it look that way, though. That may be due to the fact that she was trained for her Hunger Games role by five-time Olympian archer Khatuna Lorig, who ranks second in the United States. Lorig also offers classes for non-movie stars, from beginner to advanced levels, in Los Angeles.
Fortunately, would-be Austin archers don’t have to travel that far; in addition to the class at Lost Pines, the Austin Junior Olympic Archery Development Archers, or JOAD Archers, offers adult and intro classes at its Manchaca range. Students at the University of Texas can take a beginning archery course and join the UT Archery Club.
Archery also figured prominently in the Lord of the Rings movies, with Orlando Bloom’s elf character, Legolas, skillfully wielding a bow, and in Game of Thrones and Robin Hood movies, among others. Actress Geena Davis didn’t play an archer but is one, qualifying as a semifinalist for the 2000 US Olympic team.
You still have time to fling a few arrows before you see Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which opens in theaters November 22. I plan to catch it at the Bob Bullock Museum IMAX, the better to check out nuances of Katniss Everdeen’s archery skills.