Over three dozen Chickasaw youth learned the fundamentals of an essential part of Chickasaw culture at the Chickasaw Nation Traditional Archery Camp, held this summer at the Stratford Sportsman Club in rural Garvin County.

Traditional archery skills have been passed down for centuries and the camp has enabled Chickasaw youth to learn the ancient sport from seasoned pros, said Tyler Sprabery, Chickasaw Nation Youth Sports Director.

Sprabery, who is also secretary of the Sportsman Club, said club members were delighted to introduce students to traditional archery. While Sprabery offered free use of the 40-acre club, the Chickasaw Nation donated to support the club’s operations.

“They (the club members) are very important in involving the children (in sport). Our class of young people is always the smallest and it is she who will eventually take over, ”he said.

Traditional archery is the simplest form of archery, using a stick and string, and either a longbow or a recurve bow.

Camp participants received a recurve bow, arrows, quiver, arm guard and tongue. They learned how to use the equipment, learned basic shooting techniques, and learned safety tips. But the main goal, said Sprabery, was to provide an enjoyable outdoor experience.

Two expert archers, Richard Mulligan and Ben Aguirre, led the camp with the help of Mr. Sprabery.

Mr. Aguirre, a club member who lives in Mustang, Oklahoma, said, “Traditional archery is more like a mentoring and collaborative lifestyle. This goes hand in hand with the possibility of teaching sports to children and helping the sport to continue to live. I felt like it was my obligation and I was honored to do so when Tyler contacted me and asked if I was interested. I jumped at the chance. “

Working with young people keeps a person young, he said. “And there is the fulfillment as you pass the torch.”

The Stratford Sportsman’s Club is home to many exceptional archers, Mr Aguirre said.

“There are about four to five perennial world champions, as well as a few newcomers. I am honored to say that I am a member of this club.

The club hosts two major events each year, the Oklahoma State Longbow Championship and the South Central Blowout. Archers from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico come to the Stratford Sportsman Club to compete.

Mr Aguirre recalled a story about buying his first longbow and his first visit to the club. He arrived around closing time, but a group of archers greeted him, walked the course with him and gave him some advice.

Among the men was a tall, older gentleman who turned to Mr. Aguirre and asked, “Is this my bow?” It turned out that the longbow which Mr Aguirre had bought on a whim from a pawnshop in Prague was made by this man, GW Flanagan.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but his bows have been responsible for winning several world championships,” Mr. Aguirre said.

World title holders Chickasaw Shiloh Butts and Ryan Ramsey were also part of the archery squad in attendance for Mr Aguirre’s first visit.

“They were ready to work with me. It told me that these people don’t consider championships as much as their involvement in traditional archery and just mentoring, ”he said.

“Everyone takes their own journey in archery, some people are just getting started, others have been there for a long time and (the archery camp) was an opportunity to help children to embark on their journey. “

The Chickasaw twin daughters mentored by Mr Aguirre, Ralee and Rylan Collins, of Latta, said they enjoyed their time at the archery camp and were now eager to join their mother, Rachael, to hunt in the ‘bow this stag season.

The 8 year old girls have a compound bow, but this was their first time shooting a traditional archery.

Aiming at three-dimensional targets was Ralee’s favorite part of the camp.

“There was a turkey, a dinosaur, a lion, a buffalo and a bear,” she said, adding that she hopes to attend next year’s archery camp. “Next time we’ll bring our brother,” she said.

Rylan enjoyed the competition at the end of the camp. A competition for the best archer in the camp concluded the day. The best male and female archers were awarded.

They both agree that attending archery camp was a lot more fun than playing a video game.

Chickasaw Terry Barnes’ grandfather, Norman, brought his grandson, Bennett, who lives in Oklahoma City to the camp.

“We were totally blown away by the organization and by the people running the camp,” said Barnes. “Ben and Richard were phenomenal. It was a first-rate operation. I was amazed at how many world champions were part of the club.

Mr Barnes said Bennett, 10, already owned a bow before attending camp, but the experience motivated and inspired him to continue practicing.

The Stratford Sportsman Club is located south of Lake Longmire, approximately 9 miles east of Pauls Valley.

For more information on the Stratford Sportsman Club, call (580) 759-6719.

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