MAYFLOWER — The summer sun is beating down, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors without working up too much of a sweat. A visit to one of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s many archery ranges may be just the outdoor excitement you’re looking for this summer, and it’s a great way to keep your skills sharp for archery deer season, which opens Sept. 26.
While many ranges are available throughout the state, the AGFC’s Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range in Mayflower boasts one of the best experiences for beginning archers as well as those who are more advanced in the sport. Grant Tomlin, assistant chief of the AGFC Education Division says the free range is very popular with people and sees a lot of return customers.
“It’s completely free, we just ask people to come to the clubhouse and check-in so we know someone’s using it,” Tomlin said. “We really worked hard to put together a well-rounded experience with the range without a ton of walking between targets so people could focus on shooting.”
Three lanes of bag targets at known distances let archers sight in bows and practice their skills with standard bullseye-style shooting, but the real treat is the impressive 20-target 3D archery course right next to the range clubhouse. Aspiring bowhunters can take aim at a variety of targets from turkey and furbearers to a life-sized moose and even an alligator target. Plenty of deer targets are available to offer shots at Arkansas’s most pursued big-game animal, and a special 20-foot shooting tower gives archers a hunting-season perspective on a group of targets.
Lori Monday, a regional educator for the AGFC in central Arkansas who is a bowhunting enthusiast, featured the Mayflower range in a recent post to the AGFC’s virtual nature center, www.agfcnaturecenter.com/lessons-with-lori-archery-range.
With all of the AGFC’s nature and education centers and shooting ranges reopened, visitors are encouraged to bring their archery equipment and take a quick tour of the exhibits and informational displays when the heat finally sends them to a shaded location to cool down.
“Masks are required while in our nature centers or other areas where social distancing is not possible, but as long as people maintain adequate distance from each other, you can enjoy the open air of the ranges without wearing one,” Tomlin said. “Just like the shooting ranges, we do ask people to come in and check in with us so we know how many people are using the range.”
Even in areas of the state where a nature center, education center or AGFC-owned shooting range is not available, there are still opportunities for bowhunters, thanks to an expanded archery range program developed by Curtis Gray, the AGFC’s Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program.
“In all, we have 16 ranges across the state for archers to enjoy,” Gray said. “Some are bag targets, some are 3D targets, and all of them are free to use.”
Arkansans who are looking to get started in archery also may find some helpful information by joining a bowhunting club. Dozens of clubs exist throughout the state, many of which hold shoots on a regular basis to share information and enjoy friendly competition. The Arkansas Bowhunters Association, the organization that partners with the AGFC on urban deer hunts throughout the state, hosts competitive tournaments and maintains a list of bowhunting clubs with contact information for each at their website www.arkansasbowhunters.org.