AP NEWS

BRIDGE CITY Archery shop stays on target for 30 years

April 10, 2019

The oldest archery shop in Southeast Texas has seen a lot of changes with both technology and archers in the more than 30 years it has been doing business in Bridge City, but Donnie Pickard, the owner of Precision Archery, said one thing has always remained the same.

“Passion is the word,” Pickard said. “People come here because they know if they buy a bow, they’re going to be able to shoot it and get it serviced when they need it.”

On an early spring day, it is easy to navigate the rows of accessories and bows for all shooters, including crossbows and bows for fishing, but Pickard said that isn’t always the case during the lead up to hunting season. During the fall, the shooting range in the back is off limits and it’s all hands on deck.

Across the ceiling of the shop is a row of older models arranged like a museum exhibit showing the progression of technology through the years, but these aren’t archive pieces. Most of the bows were all used by Pickard, including his first, one of the early models designed by Holless Wilbur Allen.

Allen was the first to submit a U.S. patent for the compound bow, a creation he made by sawing off the ends of a recurve bow and trying to replace them with a series of pulleys that would hold enough kinetic energy to send an arrow 25 yards before the target could escape.

Pickard said his dad ordered the bow from a catalog and taught him how to use the “technological breakthrough” made of aluminium and composite materials. Despite its weight and the creaking noise the limbs would make when pulled to full draw, he said he killed his first deer in 1971.

“I’ve always been into it since then,” Pickard said. “Opening the shop wasn’t really a choice.”

Just like more and more of his customers became hobbyists and target shooters, the bows themselves began to morph through the years. Instead of long limbs with multiple wheels, today’s bows are light with advanced cams running parallel to each other.

Bow companies like Hoyt, Matthew and Bowtech are constantly innovating to make bows stronger and lighter, or releasing limited editions to excite archers.

“There is always a new model every year, like a computer,” Pickard said. “In about four or five years, whatever you bought before is considered outdated.”

With so many versions and gimmicks, it’s up to people like Pickard to help customers pick the right bow for them. During the hype of the “Hunger Games” movie series, that also meant helping young girls pick out a bow so they could learn to shoot just like Katniss Everdeen.

Even as the industry grows and innovates, Pickard said he knows there is danger waiting out there for shops like his. Most major bow companies institute mandatory prices so online retailers can’t undercut local shops, but the creep of online shopping is still there.

“My customer base is built on loyalty,” Pickard said. “The manufacturers don’t want the bow shops to go out of business, because that means they have to deal with millions of hunters looking for service on their bows, and they don’t have the infrastructure for that.”

A 2015 survey by the Archery Trade Association found 21.6 million Americans participate in archery.

The reliance on local shops by the big companies coupled with increased competition from the market’s high-end companies will hopefully mean further stability for shops like Precision Archery, as firms like XploreMR predict the market will experience large growth by 2028 due to consumer trends for adventure sports.

Whatever the future holds, it’s likely Pickard will still be there to help, whether it’s selling a bow to an avid hunter or helping a first-time archer interested in shooting targets in their backyard.

“With a compound bow, it really only takes about 10 to 20 minutes to figure it out,” Pickard said. “Archery is like anything. There is a skill level, and then there is talent. It’s something you can work at forever.”

jacob.dick@beaumontenterprise.com

Twitter.com/jdickjournalism