On a hot summer day at the very back of Elm Creek Park Reserve, advanced archers take aim at a target.
"First shooters, come to the front of the line with your bows on your toes," calls out instructor Dan Fjell. "Take your time, watch your feet, and watch your hips."
Fjell's advanced class of 16 archers includes 10-14 year olds who have had archery instruction before. He's not concerned if the students hit the bullseye each time, but more concentrated on if students are using the correct form. "We're really trying to teach kids proper shooting technique. Bad habits learned at a young age are hard to fix," said Fjell.
Archery camps through Three Rivers Park District filled up quickly this year. Most camps are now full. Many of the advanced archers say they wanted to continue perfecting their skill.
"I just enjoy it. It's a fun activity and a fun sport," said Collan Simmons, 13, from Brooklyn Park. He is a bowhunter and has been shooting a bow since he was six. "I feel that hunting with a bow is much more sporty than just a gun."
In the group of boy scouts and bow hunters, Anna Trace was actually suprised to learn she would be the only girl participating.
"I like that it's a mind game," said Anna Trace, 12, from Rogers. Trace already completed one archery camp where she was the only girl shooting. "I was expecting more girls just because of "The Hunger Games," but I guess more girls would've done the beginner class."
Heroines like Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games" and heroes like Hawkeye in "The Avengers" have put the sport of archery in the limelight. Archery enthusiasts judge form and accuracy on internet blogs and in archery publications.
Fjell says not every student is influenced by Hollywood's recent obsession with archery, but he's seen the movies mentioned during classes more than once.
"A lot of large school groups yell 'I am Katniss' when shooting," said Fjell. "But they are having a great time with it, and if that's what creates interest in archery, then that's fantastic."
The young advanced archers are convinced archery is more than just a passing fad. Instead, they hope people enjoy the challenge of the sport.
"You really just compete against yourself. You don't have to compete against someone else," said Anna Trace.
Want to try?
Three Rivers Park District offers several programs and family events this fall to meet the need of beginner and learning archers. Check out the complete list here.
If you do participate in a Three Rivers Park District program, the park provides all of the equipment needed. If you have your own gear and want to shoot, the range at Elm Creek is open year.
Shannon Slatton, reporting
July 23, 2012