A half-dozen 3D archery targets stood no chance against 30 or so members of the Albany County 4-H archery program.
On Thursday evening at High Plains Archery Club at the Lincoln Community Center, the brand new targets — among them a mountain lion, pronghorn, bear, wolf, elk and mule deer — were planted downrange. Soon they were peppered with arrows, while the hits kept coming from waves of archers. Arrows fanned from the bear’s belly like porcupine quills.
After an evening indoors to get them warmed up, the targets will be placed at the Albany County Fairgrounds to be used for competitions.
“Now we have the same targets as what they shoot at state, so we can be competitive there,” said Shawn Hayes, who leads the 4-H archery program.
The targets had better get used to their new life, because they aren’t going anywhere soon.
“These will last forever,” Hayes said.
The 3D targets were recently donated to the program by the Muley Fanatic Foundation. Jeff Geyer, project committee chair for the Southeast Wyoming Chapter, said at least 10 percent of the organization’s funds are used to support youth hunting. When Shawn Hayes and his wife, Ali, asked for help earlier this year, it was an easy decision, he said.
“They needed help because they hadn’t had targets in 12 years, so they were pretty shot up,” Geyer said.
Aspen Decker, 13 and a member of the 4-H program, agreed the club’s previous set of 3D targets were well-used, to say the least.
“The heads were falling off,” she said. “The turkey’s head was gone.”
Geyer said the club worked with Sportsman’s Warehouse and Rinehart Targets to get a good deal. 3D targets are made of dense foam and shaped like actual big game animals, with scoring rings located where a hunter would aim.
When Muley Fanatic members delivered the targets, they were greeted with a packed house of future hunters.
“We are all about youth,” Geyer said.
The primary mission of Muley Fanatic Foundation is to support mule deer conservation and management. For Geyer, mule deer are an iconic Wyoming species.
“In Wyoming, mule deer are everything,” he said. “That’s what everybody thinks of.”
But the club also works to support youth programs, because that’s where they’ll find the next generation of mule deer champions.
“Without the kiddos, we’ve got nothing,” he said.
The Southeast Wyoming Chapter is based in Cheyenne, but the chapter supports projects across this corner of state.
Geyer estimated that they’ve spent more than $120,000 during the last four years on projects in the Snowy Range and Sierra Madres.
“That’s where we all hunt,” he said.
The 4-H program, for archers from 8-18 years old, has almost 100 members. During a practice season that runs from February-July, they meet once a week to work on basics such stance, technique, safety and discipline.
Club members also compete at the county and state levels on indoor and outdoor ranges.
As he considered the idea of purchasing new targets and tried to figure out where the money might come from, Hayes said his first thought was to start organizing bake sales. Now, however, club members can spend time shooting instead of baking cookies.
“That’s a lot of bake sales,” he said. “It’s awesome what they’ve done for us.”