Visitors gathering near the Blackwell Traditional Archers’ tent to try out an Atlatls, the bow’s predecessor.
This past weekend on August 4, 2018, the annual archery open house at the Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, Illinois commenced. Blackwell has one of the best outdoor archery ranges in the area, and perhaps the state. It features a beginners range, an Olympic range going out to 90 meters, and a 3D target range for hunters. And this past weekend, hundreds of visitors came to be introduced to the sport.
Only two ranges were occupied for the event. At the beginners range, the DuPage Forest Preserve District had brought many learner bows for all comers to try for the first time. All one had to do was sign a waiver and you were able to loose two arrows at a target no further than 10 meters. It’s not much, but it’s does give one a taste of the art. Moving down to the Olympic range, there were several booths along the way. There were some from the Forest Preserve District, one from the Warrenville Police Department, one from Nock and Feather, an archery shop from Aurora, and one from our own Blackwell Traditional Archery group that was manned by several of our older members. When you reached the Olympic range, the actual Olympic lane was also set up to be a beginners’ lane but further down that was the proper tent of the Blackwell Traditional Archers.
It was here that we had various traditional archery tackle on display from everyone from the group. There were some unstrung English longbows and American Indian bows, a glass case filled with antique and modern reproduction arrowheads, and some introductory books on the topic. On the actual bow racks, we had several types of traditional Asiatic bows from group members that we were freely demonstrating with. And the most exciting portion was trying out the Atlatl or spear thrower. It was the predecessor of the bow and it was available for attendants to come and try their hand with. All of the atlatls and many of the bows on the desk inside the tent belong to one Dan McGehee, who actually hand made almost all of them. He is also notably the president of the Blackwell Traditional Archery group as well.
A view of the display inside the BTA tent.
Dan McGehee, on the right, gives a quick overview on the use of the Atlatl to two attendants, one of which is our very own Jay Purrazzo.
Jay hurls an atlatl!
Perforated armor and shield from a heavy longbow.
Dan is pulling a 110 pound longbow and loosing a heavy arrow against the armor.
The Blackwell Traditional Archers usually travels to archery clubs across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin just to have fun with shooting traditional archery equipment. Sometimes we are asked to demonstrate said equipment at events setup by those clubs. And soon, we will be bringing that knowledge to Fountaindale Public Library. On September 10th starting at 7pm, myself and some other Blackwell Traditional Archery members will be presenting the history of archery. It will give you a chance to learn about this storied art, have your questions answered and to meet us in person! I hope to see you readers there!
The author and a fellow archer drawing and loosing their arrows at a long range target.
Yours truly in the middle, a friend on the left, and Jay Purrazzo on the right.