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Taking Aim at Molokai Archery Tournament

 

Top to bottom, Kahe, age 12, Kekai, 7, and Christian, 4, compete in the Molokai Bowhunters Archery Club tournament. Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

Molokai Bowhunters Archery Club hit its mark last Saturday as members hosted their 20th annual state tournament at the Kalae Bow Range. The event attracts more than 50 shooters from around the state and mainland each year.

The range consists of more than 10 acres of wooded, hilly terrain, with trails leading to marked targets of varying distances. Shooters compete in a variety of categories based on their bow type, such as freestyle, traditional or bowhunter. It’s an activity for all ages — one of the day’s youngest shooters was 4 years old, while the master seniors category featured archers age 70 and up.

Nelson Rapanot was one of the club’s founders more than 30 years ago and still continues to organize the annual shoots.

“I feel an obligation to carry on the tradition,” he said. “This is the only game in town.”

The tournament is a sanctioned shoot by the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) — one of about half a dozen sanctioned competitions around the state each year. The fact that it’s sanctioned means it attracts shooters from around the state and even the mainland to participate and use it to build their resume, said Rapanot. An accomplished resume means sponsorship for some shooters.

A sanctioned event also means a lot of rules, and after the morning pule and before the horn sounded the start of the shoot, organizers reviewed a laundry list of rules and scorekeeping guidelines competitors had to follow.

One of the Molokai tournament’s highest profile shooters last Saturday was 19-year-old Alexis Ruiz of Arizona. She’s the Junior World Champion and U.S. women’s national record holder in compound archery.

“I don’t do this type of shooting [normally],” she said, adding she shoots on a field or indoor range for practice and competition. “This is fun. I like the hills and trees.”

Rapanot said she’s not alone in liking Molokai’s range.

“They look forward to our shoot every year,” he said of the off-island shooters. “I think we have the most unique range [in terms of size and terrain.]”

NFAA State Director George Kong said another thing that attracts so many archers to Molokai are “the good people over here.” He said shooters pay their own way to visit the island and participate in the event each year.

There’s a lot of prep work involved in hosting the tournament, from maintaining the acreage and target bails to organizing the all important meal after the event, according to Rapanot. They have the same menu each year and it’s something off-island participants look forward to, he said: kole, deer meat and dear meat chili.

Of the 50 to 60 shooters who participate in the annual event, only a handful are from Molokai.

At one time, Rapanot said the Molokai Bowhunters Archery Club had more than 40 members. Now, there’re only about 15 active. New members are always welcome, he said.

Left to right, Brianna Dudoit, national archery chamion Alexis Ruiz and Kelcie Luke. Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

One new member, Brianna Dudoit, is hooked on the sport.

“Becoming a bowhunter, I really fell in love with it,” said Dudoit, whose husband, Kenny, is the club’s president. “My husband got a new bow and I tried it out and Nelson took us under his wing…. This is my first actual tournament entering so I’m excited. It’s kind of a big thing for our bow club.”

Though people may think the archery club is only open to top shots, Rapanot said that’s not the case.

“It’s family oriented,” he explained. “Everyone is welcome, it’s not for elite shooters. It’s about family, camaraderie and fun…. Kids nowadays are always on the iPad all day. This teaches them to get outside, to be disciplined.”

Gioia, age 7, takes aim. Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

For more information on the club, visit molokaibowhunters.com.

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