Archery provides for unforgettable experience 

By Darren Lum

Published Oct. 3 2017

It was a birthday Nancy Walker will never forget.

The Highlands resident took her 57th birthday as an opportunity to do something she had never done before shoot arrows with a bow.

She got the opportunity at the first ever HHOA – Lady Archers of Ontario instructional event on Saturday Sept. 17 hosted at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association fish hatchery in Haliburton.

Walker said at her age she has embraced a new philosophy to “take advantage of a lot of opportunities.”

She learned about the opportunity from her friend Lori Kunkel who had already registered for the event.

“I thought to myself what better way to spend my birthday? So Lori ended up giving me the day for my birthday present” she wrote in an email.

Although Walker does not have an interest in hunting she thought the portion of the day dedicated to bow hunting didn’t “overshadow learning the sport and why we were there.”

Shooting is addictive and it’s hard to stop at one shot she adds.

“After you shoot the first one because you have no clue what you are doing….you are hooked and don’t want to stop because you just want to keep getting better” she wrote.

She encourages other women interested to try it as they won’t be disappointed.

The day was organized by LadyArchers founder and certified National Archery School Program instructor Toni Cooper who is an Oakwood resident outside of Lindsay but who is originally from Minden and a HHSS graduate said she was blown away by 32 participants.

The idea to start Lady Archers came from friends who asked her to come up to the Highlands to help them learn how to shoot. They told her it was too difficult to learn from their partners.

“It was supposed to just start that I was going to [teach] four or five girls – friends of mine–and then it went into this” she said.

The instructional event is for women of all ages and is divided into two parts.

It starts with an analysis of each person to determine their body mechanics to learn what each person’s stance draw weight and draw length and to learn which hand is dominant for shooting. It includes an overview of the equipment the sport and safety procedures and practices while on the range. Participants get to put what they learn into practice with plenty of time on the range shooting.

All the skills can be applied to long and recurve bows.

She grew up with hunting and became a hunter herself and started hunting with a cross-bow.

After a brief hiatus (she was hunting with a gun) she  has returned to hunting using a bow for more than year. She has close to 18 years of hunting experience.

Cooper loves the greater challenge of  hunting with a bow which requires greater patience precision and a closeness to the animal unlike hunting with a gun.

She knows the difficulty with learning from a loved one and said that was the prevailing sentiment expressed by participants from the Sept. 22 event.

“I had a hard time learning from my other half because he’s been doing it for so long” he said. “You feel more comfortable learning from someone not your other half.”

She said participants felt a greater a level of comfort taking her offering.

The event’s immense popularity has spawned two more days this autumn on Oct. 21 and 22. Both from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Even before she scheduled the third day of instruction she already had a waiting list of more than 20 women who prompted the Oct. 21 event because they were unable to have a spot for the Oct. 22 date. For the three days of instruction she said there are close to an amazing 100 participants.

There are four events scheduled for next year at HHOA she said. One of them will be a seminar on using the bow to hunt turkeys. There will also be a co-ed event and a “mom and we” where mothers can bring their children. Amazingly people have already inquired about next year’s September offering for instruction scheduled on Sept. 9. She is in discussion for two events in Bancroft.

Cooper is appreciative for the success and believes if this continues she may give up her full-time factory job.

She acknowledges the support of the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association volunteer certified instructors guest instructors Bernie Nicholls and Ted Robinson and to local merchant Outdoors Plus Haliburton who helped and donated 12 arm guards and wax for the bow string.

“Anything I needed they were willing to give me” she said referring to the support by Outdoors Plus.

Cooper appreciates being able to contribute back to the community.

She donated non-perishable food items from a collection from the event to the 4Cs Food Bank and used the raffle draw money to be able to donated $105 to the J. Douglas Elementary School food for kids program and $100 to the HHOA.

If anyone unable to join the autumn sessions still wants to learn can contact Cooper.

Until Cooper’s website for the Lady Archers is running she can be contacted with her email address ( toni75cooper@gmail.com ).

Cooper estimated there was going to be close to 15 ladies register.

“I thought at the max I might get 15 women … I thought many were going to be my friends feeling bad for me” she said laughing.