If you look closely, you can see three arrows in the yellow bullseye area.


Papago Archery Association hits the target 

Picture it: Halloween 2012. Most girls were getting dressed in outfits involving crazy wigs or feather boas, going out as Catwoman, Cruella de Vil or Katniss from Hunger Games.

Not me. Nope, I waited until the last minute, ran to the K-Mart, and decided that I would transform into Robin Hood that year. Unfortunately, the costume wasn’t realistic, which meant I didn’t get to cart around a bow and a quiver of arrows – but that’s okay because I tried something even better (and in a more comfortable outfit) for this month’s Things We Tried column.

The Papago Archery Association is located on the northwest corner of 64th St. and McDowell Road in Phoenix. I had no idea the range was there until I received an email from an Arcadia resident, a PAA member who participated in the Papago 900 Spring Shoot in April, suggesting that I take a lesson. 

The PAA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization sanctioned by the United States Archery Association and an Arizona Bowhunter and Field Archery Association member. 

The program was established in 2003 and is one of 16 archery clubs in the Valley alone. President Kevin Ikegami, along with seven other board members, is responsible for making sure the club runs smoothly. He leads the coaching side and has been a member of PAA for around nine years, but he’s been shooting since he was just a mere seven years old. 

“I got competitive in the late-90s when I won my first national competition,” he said. 

After college, Kevin headed to Ukraine with the Peace Corps for a little over two years. When he returned to the United States in 2013, Hunger Games had just hit the silver screen.

“That movie just exploded the popularity of the sport. One thing led to another, and I started coaching more and got involved with Papago, and here we are. We started with half a dozen members, and now there are over a hundred,” he said. 

PAA offers beginner classes, private lessons and junior Olympic archery development courses. If you become a member, you can get access to all of the equipment, opportunities to join tournaments and more. 

After learning about the association, I knew I had to try it. I trekked to the range on a sunny afternoon and met up with Kevin for my first instruction in archery. 

First, we went over some basic rules: don’t walk downrange when people are shooting, wait for everyone to stop shooting before getting your arrows, don’t run, and carry arrows with two hands when walking back to your lane. Next, it was time to shoot. 

For this lesson, I used a recurve bow, which is lighter and sized to my height. Kevin explained that it’s important to focus on your stance: I stood square to the target – you have to be consistent here to align your shots. 

Your shoulders should stay in a straight line to support the bow’s weight. The upper body should form a T when you’re ready to let go of the string.

One of the most fundamental pieces of archery is finding the “anchor point,” where the hand holding the bowing rests when it’s drawn back to your face. For beginners, the anchor point is usually when the index finger of the draw hand meets the corner of the mouth – something I had to keep reminding myself of. Kevin explained it as holding my cheekbone between my index finger and thumb – the index and two middle fingers hold the string in position. 

Depending on your dominant hand, you have to close your opposite eye – another thing that I struggled to remember and why my arrow flew to the left of the target a few times. Targets are positioned 70 meters away from where archers are shooting. 

Since this was my first time, Kevin moved my target to 10 meters – or a little over 30 feet – away. Once I got my positioning ready, I let fly, and what a rush! I was able to shoot multiple times during my hour-long lesson and even hit three arrows in the yellow bullseye area. I felt like a real-life Robin Hood!

“Archery is easy to get into,” Kevin told me. “It’s not a physically determined ‘genetic-lottery’ type of sport like others. Anyone can do it.” 

“I fell in love with the sport when Hunger Games first came out,” archer Max Soldevere told me. “My aunt was reading them to me and we both thought archery was so cool because of how Katniss was portrayed in the books.” 

The next day Max came across the Papago Archery Association and signed up for a starter lesson. 

“I had bounced between various club sports; baseball, basketball, soccer, you name it. But something about the immense learning curve and discipline of archery intrigued me and kept me shooting all these years later,” Max said. He competed in the Papago 900 Spring Tournament in April and placed second in the Junior Male Olympic Recurve Division. 

The tournament hosted archers from as far as Nogales and Tucson – 40 people participated, the youngest being 7 years old, and the oldest? 100-year-old Charlie Johnson, who won gold in his category. Michale “Mikie” Kolb was the overall winner, with a top score of 877 points. 

Papago Archery is right in Arcadia’s backyard. All ages and levels are welcome, which means you can feel like Robin Hood – or Katniss – too!