Two years ago, Reddin Handrahan had no idea he’d be in the thick of the sport of archery and aiming to compete on a national level.
But what started out as a backyard lark for the then 10-year-old led him to Cass’ Creek Archery Club in West Covehead, where he and three other relatively new Prince Edward Island archers are vying to qualify for the Canada Games in British Columbia in 2015.
“For Halloween, I wanted to be an archer so I got one of those cheaper compound bows . . . and started to shoot it. Then my dad found out about this range, so we came here and started to upgrade bows. It was amazing, I’ve got to say. At first with my little bow I could hit the target, but with this I can actually (aim accurately),” says Reddin, 12, who competes regionally now, along with his dad, Ian Handrahan, of Darlington.
They are also constant figures at the Cass’ Creek Archery Club, owned by longtime archer Duncan Crawford, who has worked tirelessly to bring the sport to P.E.I.
“To really put things in perspective, archery didn’t exist as a sport on P.E.I. two years ago. We had no competitive shooters, no centralized location, we had no sport body,” he says.
“To think that it’s a sport in every other province and territory, and it’s a Canada Games sport and it’s an Olympic sport — the current world champion is a Canadian — the fact that it wasn’t here was ‘How is that possible?’”
Things really fell into place in the last two years when the P.E.I. Archery Association (PEIAA) incorporated, with help from the P.E.I. Wildlife Conservation Fund, and Crawford built a new national competition level archery range adjacent to his outfitting and taxidermy business, Cass’ Creek Trading Post.
“(When I built it, I thought) ‘What am I thinking, I’m making it too big.’ Now we’re busting at the seams (on some days). It’s a byproduct of the success,” he laughs as the team of Canada Game hopefuls, Izzy Hogg and Anton Ong, 15, of Stratford and Adam Bernard, 15, Richmond, wrap up their Saturday noontime practice.
“I love the target practice, but honestly I just love going out and shooting (the foam 3-D targets in the woods) when I can,” says Reddin, who practises twice a week for next February’s Canada Games where he will be likely competing against archers as old as 21.
In the meantime, Reddin, his father and other Island archers are on a regional competition circuit where P.E.I. has been earning an impressive number of medals, despite being a relative newcomer to the sport.
“When we first started, there was no P.E.I. association at all. We had to go to New Brunswick to do anything (competition-wise),” Handrahan says.
“Duncan has got it going pretty well now. We’ve shot in one tournament here (on P.E.I.) so far and we’re going to have one every year. There’s a national shoot every March 3rd right across Canada. Now P.E.I. can have one. Everybody goes to their home club and shoots under the same rules.”
At 1 p.m. a new influx of people arrives for the weekly one-hour archery lesson sessions,
which Reddin and the rest of the merry Canada Games crew take in as well for the extra shooting time.
These classes are for newcomers to the sport and others wishing to improve their skills, whether it’s for competition, recreation or hunting.
Morgan Redmond, 12 and his brother Matthew, 10, of Lake Verde are the youngest archers in this day’s group.
Morgan, who is also into skeet shooting, has been into archery for a few months now because his uncle, who lives out west, is heavy into the big game hunting with archery. Matthew decided to give the sport a try, too, a few weeks ago and is back for another round.
“Morgan started off with a bow that he got at Canadian Tire and now that he’s got some more savings he’d like to upgrade. So Duncan’s going to look into it to see if he can find something that will last a little longer,” says his mother Paula Bruce-Redmond.
“I find that it’s given him something that challenges him and interests him, and I know where he is and what he’s doing,” she adds, laughing.
In addition to being internationally certified as a archery instructor/trainer and coach for the Canada Games program, Crawford is also provincial co-ordinator for the National Archery in the Schools program.
“(The program) is about 12 years old. It was created by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife as a means to get kids involved in the outdoors. Now there are more than 13 million students in the program,” he says.
The National Archery in the Schools program donated almost $30,000 of archery equipment to the P.E.I. Archery Association and the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation, which in turn presented the equipment to Souris Consolidated, Souris High School, Vernon River Consolidated, Colonel Gray, Kensington Intermediate and Ecole Evangeline in Wellington.
Last June, 17 Becoming Archery Instructors (BAIs) were certified to teach the program to students
“So far that’s been hugely successful. All the schools (that have the equipment) are using it,” Crawford says.
“The thing that the kids really love is they come out and they see the results immediately. And we have kids who have intellectual disabilities so it can be very much a self-directed sport. In the schools, the things that we hear are the kids who don’t necessarily want to participate in ball hockey or basketball are busting to do archery, because again it’s individual. We always try to incorporate a team component as well.”
It was at Ecole Evangeline that 11-year-old Kristen Arsenault of Wellington became enamoured with archery, even though she doesn’t get to take it until next year.
“I just thought it would be cool to be someone who shoots a bow and arrow. It was cool the first time I did it. Now I’m getting better I find. The first time I came I didn’t have my own bow and now I do,” she says.
“Whenever I’m going (on the long drive) home I usually talk about how sometimes I’m not getting really close to it and then sometimes I am, so I’m really excited. It’s always different every time I go home.”
National rifle championship winner Ian Hogg of Stratford got into the sport last summer after his 16-year-old daughter and Canada Games contender Izzy expressed an interest in archery after experiencing it in her school.
“I actually really enjoy it. It’s learning something. You get to the point when you’re at the top of the game . . . you (only) see tiny, tiny little changes. But with this, you try something new; you learn something new. It’s a huge growth from one week to the next,” he says.
“And it’s really nice to get involved with something with your child. It’s definitely a (great) parent/child sport.”
It’s also a lifetime sport, says Crawford.
“This is something that I’ve been doing since I was 11 years old in Nova Scotia, so I know how important it was to me to belong to a team like the Canada Games — to go and participate. I went to ’93 and ’97,” he adds.
“So it’s great that everything has come full circle now. I like to think that I’m inspiring kids to get involved with the sport. There are kids who just want to come out and shoot purely for recreation and fun, and that’s great, and there are kids who want to compete at a high level.
“Likewise we have adults who are now bow hunting, travelling off Island, we’re seeing all
levels and again we’re seeing a certain amount of success (competition-wise) and that’s very rewarding.”