BENTON — A local manufacturer hopes to help archers elevate their target shooting to new heights … like about 150 feet in the air.
Atlas Trap, a company that’s sold clay target throwers worldwide for many years, is producing a thrower that tosses 10-inch foam disks into the air for those with bows and arrows.
Their Apollo machine, which is named after the Greek god of archery, has been well-received since hitting the market about six weeks ago.
“It’s awesome and really addictive,” said Heath Getty, a professional exhibition target shooter from St. John. “One neat thing is that anybody will be able to do it and have a lot of fun.”
John Cero, Atlas vice president, got the idea of a flying archery target thrower in Colorado about three years ago.
At the time, a hunter education instructor was simply tossing an empty plastic bottle into the air while archers shot at it.
A little research showed Cero that shooting at aerial targets was growing in popularity and only one company was making a similar machine.
Getty said improvements in archery gear have made accuracy on still targets easier, to the point of eventually being boring.
“You eventually want to do something where you’re not just standing there doing the same thing over and over,” he said. “That’s what got me into shooting at flying targets.”
Several years ago he began shooting at traditional clay targets launched from commercial target throwers.
At the time he was also shooting vertically thrown foam disks, hand-tossed by a friend.
The Apollo holds about 15 targets and has a remote trigger that can be tripped by hand or foot.
At a rural field Tuesday morning, Getty, who uses Atlas machines in most of his demonstrations, stood about 30 yards from the thrower.
His arrows had over-sized feathers with a lot of twist so they don’t travel as far as regular target or hunting arrows.
After a little practice, Getty was probably hitting about one-third of the targets, which floated down slowly with his arrow through the foam.
Even the slightest variance in the wind made the targets jump or slide unexpectedly. The targets have even more variables when the thrower is set to send them bouncing across the ground like a rabbit.
Getty was shooting his super-speed compound bow. Cero thinks the throwers will be popular with those who enjoy shooting traditional recurve or longbows.
“It’s something where three or four guys can stand in a line and everybody shoots at a target,” he said. “That’s a lot of fun, and a lot of shooting.”
At about $3,500, the machines might be a bit pricey for personal use but Cero said a variety of organizations have shown interest.
Several have been purchased by state hunter education programs, to be used as something extra-fun at youth events
Ryan Barkdull, Diamond Archery owner, agreed with Cero and Getty that many archery clubs will probably purchase the throwers to put more fun in their target shoots.
He also thought they could be popular at events that draw those with little or no archery experience.
Barkdull plans on buying one of the throwers for special events through his business and maybe to rent out.
“You could furnish one of these and four or five recurves and a bunch of arrows and it would be a hit at a variety of parties,” he said. “And when it wasn’t (rented), we could shoot it ourselves. That’s a lot of fun.”