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October 30, 2014

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An archers’ paradise in the desert mountains

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Steve Marcus

Justics Lavin, 8, lets an arrow fly at the Las Vegas Archers Spring Mountain Range near Mountain Springs Sunday, July 20, 2014. Jeremy Beard is at right.

Russell Freeman sits back on a bench where the noise of carbon arrows sticking into a target 60 yards away after traveling close to 200 mph sounds like a faint thump.

Las Vegas Archers

Jeremy Beard, president of the Las Vegas Archers, takes aim at the Las Vegas Archers Spring Mountain Range near Mountain Springs Sunday, July 20, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Price breakdown

The cost of bows and arrows varies as much as the trajectory of a novice archer’s shots. There are hundreds of options for equipment and customization.

“Your cost is whatever you want to put into it,” veteran archer Don Snipes said. “It depends. There’s no set amount of money.”

Snipes and buddy Tom Fuller, however, offered the following approximation prices for a beginner:

• Bow: $120

• Arrows: $150 for a dozen

• Las Vegas Archers membership: $128 per year

Where to shoot

The biggest indoor archery championship in the world takes place annually at the beginning of the year at South Point as part of the National Field Archery Association’s World Archery Festival.

The Las Vegas Archers conducts a major event, the Silver Dollar Shoot, every September. But those two competitive tournaments are far from the only outings where local shooters can test their skills. Here are three spots within the valley where archers can shoot:

• Impact Archery Indoor Range: 6323 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas

• Clark County Outdoor Archery Range: 6800 E. Russell Road, Las Vegas

• Pacific Archery Indoor Range: 4084 Schiff Drive, Las Vegas

The 39-year-old stays silent for several minutes, enjoying a serene breeze and surveying the 180 acres atop the summit of Mountain Springs that make up the Las Vegas Archers’ shooting range.

“What we have up here is pretty special,” Freeman says slowly in his Southern drawl a few minutes later. “The people (who) use the range don’t realize how lucky we are to have this.”

Twenty miles west of the valley and 3,000 feet higher rests an archer’s paradise. The local club has presided over the sprawling space, which includes two 28-target courses and a 3-D animal range to go with the practice area, for nearly 40 years.

By all accounts, it’s rare to find that many amenities in a single location.

“I’ve been all around the nation, and no regular, local place has anything on this,” said Jeremy Beard, 43. “It’s not even close. No one has access to something like this.”

Beard, the freshly appointed club president, and Freeman, the secretary, are two of the newer members of the Las Vegas Archers.

Beard joined six years ago after moving to Las Vegas from Laredo, Texas, where he worked as a Border Patrol agent. He was drawn into spot shooting as a way to become a better hunter. Freeman, an Anheuser-Busch employee, arrived at the end of the last year when he came to town from North Carolina to be closer to his newborn daughter.

The bulk of the club’s roster is older, identifying themselves as lifetime members after spending decades with frequent trips to the range. Tom Fuller, a 58-year-old retired police officer, also found archery through hunting in 1985.

“What drew me was the camping, camaraderie and people you meet,” Fuller said. “Once you meet them, you want to make sure you go back to see them. They look forward to seeing you. It’s a nice little family.”

To Beard and Freeman, the new focus is on growing the family. Membership has dipped below 100, and the club struggles to retain younger patrons.

Members are starting to take a more active role in promoting the club at archery spots around Las Vegas, especially to youths. Beard brings his 8-year-old son to the range frequently. Freeman teaches the sport to his girlfriend’s 8-year-old daughter.

Freeman sees it as a rite of passage after he first set sights on a bow and arrow at age 8 and started getting direction from experienced archers in his native North Carolina.

“I didn’t have a father, so the guys at the range who took me shooting were a big influence,” Freeman said. “If you get kids into any sport, it keeps them out of trouble. Archery kept me out of trouble. And it’s a lot like golf — anyone can play together.”

Don Snipes, a retiree and one of the Las Vegas Archers’ longest-tenured members, had a similar background to Freeman. He started shooting while growing up in San Diego.

It was the first sport where he felt a combination of proficiency and enjoyment.

“I’ve loved it ever since,” Snipes said. “I’m not overly competitive nature wise, but it’s just something in my blood.”

Through the years, Snipes has spent countless days on Highway 160, trekking toward the range, though not as much Freeman recently. Freeman has been a fixture on the premises the past seven months.

On his first weekend, Freeman accomplished what Beard thought was impossible and shot through every course at the range in one day. He wanted to take advantage of the wide variety of options.

“I was exhausted because you shoot four arrows at every target,” Freeman said. “But I couldn’t pick one over the other. There are just so many ways to get out here and shoot arrows. Most places can’t afford that much, so that’s what people really like once they get out here and try it.”

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