Archery range targets family-friendly atmosphere
Cape Breton’s first indoor archery facility offers fun activity in safe environment
IAN NATHANSON firstname.lastname@example.org @CBPost_Ian
FRENCH ROAD — For Cape Breton archery enthusiasts, often the only suitable place to work on one’s skills involves letting the arrows fly outdoors — and only if the weather allows for it.
“You generally have only a few weeks each year where it’s comfortable to shoot outside. Right now, it’s a nightmare with the black flies; before it was too cold and we had mosquitoes coming in,” said Joe Macholl, technician with Cape Breton Barn Archers near Gabarus.
That prompted Macholl and his archery enthusiast wife, Bridget Benz, to set up their own indoor facility — the first of its kind in Nova Scotia and, arguably, Atlantic Canada.
“I said to Joe, ‘It would be nice to have a roof over our head, a gravel pit and an (open space) to shoot (arrows) during the winter.’ And now we have that,” added Benz owner, coach and range safety officer of what has been affectionately dubbed as ‘The Barn.’
Nestled in the community of French Road — about 10 minutes south of Marion Bridge on Route 327 (the Gabarus Highway), Cape Breton Barn Archers — which held its grand opening on Sunday — offers a 100-by-24foot single-floor setup geared toward all levels, young and old, and especially families looking for a fun atmosphere while trying out or honing their bow-and-arrow skills.
Benz took up archery five years ago initially as a backyard hobby, then upped her skills once she found a club to join.
“I tried to find some activity I could do with my husband. I chose rifle and pistol shooting, and went to Halifax to this gun range, which also offered archery lessons. So Joe and I went for a lesson, and I just loved it,” said Benz.
“I bought a bow and some arrows, went in the garage not really knowing what I was doing at first. But I just kept at it.”
In 2018, Benz competed in her first tournament at Highland Bow & Arrow in Wreck Cove “as a beginner, but all the people there were friendly and relaxed, and it felt really good to be there.”
She and Macholl wanted to create a similar atmosphere with their new facility, where anyone interested in archery could not only learn or hone skills, but also have a place to socialize, Benz said.
“Plus, we wanted to have a place that was accessible seven days a week, because of a lot of people’s work schedules. Some clubs might only be open twice a week, just for club shooting,” she said.
Cape Breton Barn Archers teamed up with Louisbourgbased John’s Archery to provide training and support for all levels of archery — specifically, traditional archery, which just involves using a wooden bow, arrows and what he describes as an 11-step technique to ensure the safest use of all the equipment.
John Cann, coach at John’s Archery, said in watching everyone from beginning to pros, he has learned to notice the nuances each individual uses when approaching the sport.
“After you shoot three times with us, I set you up with a bow, the arrows and gear best suited for you,” Cann said. “And if I don’t know, then Bridget watches, my wife Karen watches … just to see how they look when the arrows are flying.”
Cann said what gives him the most satisfaction as coach is people coming away with smiles on their faces knowing the arrow have hit all the targets successfully.
“We had one seven-yearold girl come in and we tried as a group to find the right bow and arrows to match with her little draw,” he
said. “As soon as we did, she started hitting all the targets … and the smile that was on her face, it was just incredible.”
For more information on Cape Breton Barn Archers and to book an appointment, visit barnarchers.ca or their Facebook site.