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San Juan Archers club has provided a venue for sportsmen to compete and practice since the 1950s


FARMINGTON — As a 59-year-old archer, Jim Shackelford said he often finds himself competing in the sport against a familiar foe: his 18-year-old self.

The Farmington man grew up shooting and competed in archery events through high school before he put down his bow as an adult.

Now, decades later, Shackelford has picked up his childhood passion in retirement. And, he said, he can't help but compare his archery skills today to those of his teenage self.

"I'm doing more to compete against me when I was 18 than anything else," he said.

So far, Shackelford is stacking up well, even on a national stage. In September, he will represent the U.S. in the World Field Archery competition in Australia.

He's also one of a handful of professional archers who belong to the local archery group San Juan Archers. The club, which has been around for roughly 60 years, includes 60 to 120 members, depending on the year. Members vary in skill level, age, shooting styles and bows.

Shackelford uses a traditional bow — much like the ones commonly portrayed in most films — and shoots at paper targets.

When San Juan Archers was established in the 1950s, the group's archery range included only paper targets. The range, located in the Glade Run Recreation Area, has since expanded to include 3D shooting, which refers to shooting at model animal targets. Today, the targets include elks, snakes, wolverines and dinosaurs.

This diversification was necessary to grow the club's membership, said the group's vice president, Shane Hess.

“A lot of people went away from (paper) target shooting,” he said.

Because many San Juan County residents are avid hunters, they prefer shooting at the animal targets, Hess said.

The two kinds of targets present different challenges, Hess said. For example, an archer gets a single shot at a 3D target, while most paper targets allow up to four arrows.

Ultimately, no matter which target archers prefer, the club members are unified by a love of the sport.

“It’s a sport that you can do all your life,” Shackelford said.

This was demonstrated at the annual Chokecherry 3D Shoot on Saturday at the club's field range at Chokecherry Canyon. Children as young as 4-year-old Nate Castillo participated in the event.

Nate's family belongs to an archery group called the Eagle Mesa Archery Group and traveled from their home in Torreon, a community southwest of Cuba, to participate in the Farmington competition.

Watching other archers inspired Nate to pick up the bow when he was 2 years old.

"We just gave him the tools, and he did the rest himself," said the boy's father, Brandon Castillo.

While some archers get their start at an early age, others transition to the sport from first shooting firearms.

Brian Crochet, president of  San Juan Archers, learned to shoot a rifle as a child and added archery to his repertoire later in life. He said the difference between the two is primarily distance. A rifle allows a hunter to shoot an animal that is far away, while, with a bow, the hunter usually has to be about 50 or 60 yards from the animal.

And that means bow-and-arrow hunters have to sneak up on the animal, adding an extra challenge to the endeavor.

"That's what bow hunting is all about," Crochet said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

If you go

What: San Juan Archers

When: Group meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

Where: Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St.

More info: Call Brian Crochet at 505-215-0476.

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