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How to find a place to practice Archery

We are very fortunate in Toronto to have a local archery range that is free for the public to use. But most places across Canada do not have a free public archery range - not even Burnaby, which charges a membership fee for people to use the range, and requires people to pass an accuracy test before allowing them to have a membership. (This means that those beginners that fail the accuracy test are not allowed to become members, thus discouraging beginners from joining the Burnaby Archery Club in the first place. The test is easy for anyone who has had archery lessons to pass, but to those people who have never shot a bow before it would be near impossible.)

But let us pretend for a moment that you live somewhere that doesn't have a local archery range. How do you find a place to practice?

Well, first lets determine where do you live?

#1. Cabin in the woods?

Easy. Make your own archery range in your backyard, facing away from any roads, walking paths, bicycle trails, or rivers/lakes. Because who wants to go swimming to find that arrow you shot poorly?

Note - I recommend making a cardboard archery target like the one shown further below.

#2. Farm?

Easy. Make your own archery range next to the proverbial corn field, again facing away from anything or anyone that could be damaged or hurt, and facing away from anything that could cause you to lose arrows.

#3. Suburbia?

Now we are getting into a tricky area. You will need to check local laws regarding shooting in your backyard, but basically the idea comes down to the issue of "Reckless Endangerment". If you take precautions to do what you are doing safely - in a manner which shows you have shown due diligence to prevent yourself from injuring neighbours or damaging their properties, then you can practice in your backyard. However some cities and towns have by-laws prohibiting the firing of firearms within city limits, often combined with laws against throwing knives, throwing axes, throwing spears, bows, crossbows, etc. Thus it is extremely important you consult local by-laws first, before doing something which you could get you fined or imprisoned.

Note - I am going to rant a bit below. Pay attention and I shall get to my point.

Discus golf courses are dangerous. Getting hit in the head by one of those could cause brain damage and even kill a passerby, and yet they proliferate with little knowledge about the dangers of people sometimes ignoring safety precautions. Discus Golf is a lawsuit waiting to happen and it is mind-boggling that cities have set up these in high traffic parks where people could easily be hurt and killed. A discus, unlike frisbee, are quite heavy and getting hit with one is like being hit with a sling bullet (which killed Goliath according to the whole David and Goliath story). In ancient Greece the discus was used as a weapon of war for killing their enemies, and was known for its unpredictable nature of hitting innocent bystanders.

I would argue therefore that any park that allows Discus Golf has clearly made allowances for the dangers posed by people throwing them around, and thus could easily apply the same principle to archery - which is infinitely more accurate to shoot. Thus it is entirely feasible that it is just a matter of convincing the local town council / city council to install an archery range in a safe location in a local park. After all, if they are allowing people to throw discus around (which are random discs of death), certainly they could allow archery which is way more accurate and less likely to kill bystanders. Everyone knows archery is potentially dangerous. I would argue that the lack of knowledge bystanders have about the dangers of discus makes them much more dangerous.

Last year I got in a heated argument with the organizer of a discus golf tournament who was ignoring various safety rules that had been set in place to make the discus golf course safer. He stated that the event had insurance. I argued that insurance doesn't cover "Reckless Endangerment", which includes prison time. You can have all the insurance you want, but that doesn't cover prison time for not following the safety rules and doing things you know to be reckless.

There you go. Rant over.

Now in light of that, I am going to discourage you from shooting a bow in your backyard. Yes, technically you can do it - if the local laws allow. But what if a local kid sees you shooting in the backyard and thinks it is okay for them to do it too? And then they shoot and accidentally kill their little brother/sister. So yeah, rather than have that guilt on your conscience, just shoot some place safer instead.

I do however have a solution. Shoot inside a garage or an empty basement instead. Clear the space of any breakables, make a target out of stacks of cardboard, don't let random kids or pets walk into the firing range. Good. Feel safe? Yes. Good. Keep it that way.

#4. Condo or Apartment Building?

There is basically no safe place in a condo or apartment building where you can practice archery. It isn't just a matter of other people, it is a matter of damaging the walls / breaking your arrows on hard walls. Even if the building superintendent found you an empty storage room in the basement next to the parking lot, after breaking all your arrows on the concrete walls you would be looking for a place to shoot that doesn't break your arrows so easily.

Which brings us to the topic of college and university archery clubs. Many colleges have archery clubs, and they sometimes allow non students to become members and use their facilities. Even if you are not a student, you might still be able to get access to their facilities by becoming a community member or signing up for a proverbial bird course just so you are technically a student.

eg. Ryerson University in Toronto allows people to get a Ryerson Community Member card which allows you to get a membership at the Ryerson Gyms. Ryerson also operates an archery club. For more details check out their Facebook page.

#5. Anything I Missed?

The following suggestions are basically for all of the above.
  • Find other archers and open your own club, which might mean renting a facility so you have a place to practice in.
  • Find a store that sells archery equipment that is willing to open an archery range and charge people $10 per hour to use their private range. ($10 per hour is the standard rate for most private archery ranges.) The store could even sell cold drinks to thirsty archers to make even more money and will make oodles off archers who keep buying more archery equipment.
  • Find an archery tag facility near you and ask if they have off hours when their facility isn't used for archery tag and whether you can rent it during non-peak times.
  • Make once per week trips to an archery range that is further away, but well worth the drive.
  • Find a location in the countryside where you can practice (eg. on the family farm of a relative) and visit there once per week. Alternatively you could rent a small space on someone's farm one day per week and make a small archery range there.
  • Live near a desert? Good. Deserts a great open spaces where you can have lots of fun doing archery and the land is usually owned by the government.

Actor William Shatner doing Archery in the Desert

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