Sweltering heat and humidity multiplied the challenge faced by archers participating in the Train to Hunt (TTH) event sponsored by the Chilakoot Bowhunters on Saturday, June 30 in Somerset.
Club President Dennis Black noted the event was one of the largest in the country.
"We've got people here from New Mexico, Colorado, Washington State and Oregon. We like to think we have an exceptional facility," said Black.
According to club member Dave Wolner, this was the club's third year hosting a TTH event. Participation has doubled every year and offers opportunities for archers of all ages, genders and abilities to compete.
"We had more than 100 participants this year not including kids," said Wolner.
TTH was started in 2011 by Idahoan Kenton Clairmont. Growing up in the small community of Bonner's Ferry just south of the Canadian border in the shadow of the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, Clairmont played high school sports and hunted with friends and family. Following college, he returned to his hometown to teach and coach until, encouraged by his students, he tried out in front of professional baseball scouts and earned an opportunity to live his dream. He played professional baseball at the Single A level in Pennsylvania for one memorable year and was released. Following his release, Clairmont struggled to find an identity after sports. At the age of 30 while teaching at a school for kids from troubled backgrounds, Clairmont was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It changed his life. Conditioning and training not only became essential to his recovery, it gave his life new direction and ultimately lead to the creation of TTH.
"Since RA, I've really never taken my physical ability and physical health for granted," said Clairmont.
TTH is a strength and conditioning program designed in the popular mold of extreme fitness challenges like the Tough Mudder and Bootcamp Challenge, specifically for hunters.
According to Clairmont's website, "Seven years ago I launched a website called Train To Hunt that was designed to help hunters prepare for the physical demands of whatever hunt they had coming up in the fall. Recognizing that hunters have such a short season and therefore no great motivation to train year round, I decided that it was time to create an event specifically for hunters! The Train To Hunt Challenge was born in 2011 and designed to give hunters, not only a reason to train in the early parts of the year, but to give them a testing ground for their training program. It is unlike any event you have ever done and will help you prepare for the ultimate goal, hunting season."
In addition to the live fitness challenge events, TTH enables outdoor enthusiasts to purchase specific training programs from a library of training programs designed with specific types of hunts in mind. Customers can also design a personalized program with one of the TTH certified personal trainers.
Online video journals act as a coach, trainer and guide to improve overall fitness and conditioning resulting in a better athlete which makes a better hunter. Online videos are also available for purchase to help participants train for the live event challenges.
Clairmont arrived in Somerset several days early to work with his staff and club volunteers coordinating event logistics and setting up the course for the Saturday's challenge.
"This is my 12th event this year stretching from Oregon and Washington to Texas and all the way to New York. The people here today have been training for hunting and other outdoor endeavors. Train To Hunt is a measuring stick. They're here to find out how effective their training has been. Can I shoot under pressure? Can I move well with weight on my back? Can I control my breathing and make a shot under pressure? This is no joke. It's a measuring stick. We've got everybody from traditionals to 60+ to 5-year-olds. You name it, they're all out here having fun flinging arrows, moving their bodies and smiling the whole way," explained Clairmont.
Established in 1953, Chilakoot is the Midwest's oldest archery club. Memberships range from $30 for folks who are willing to volunteer hours helping out around the facility to $210 for non-working memberships. The facility is open to members year round and provides a variety of classes and leagues for archers of all ages and abilities. The club's long been recognized for its outstanding facility and dedicated staff and volunteers; 53 acres of steeply rolling, forested terrain provided an ideal environment to facilitate a TTH challenge.
At the start of the Challenge Course, late morning was sunny with a wicked heat index. A heat of five women archers were just beginning their 20 Over the Box step ups. Each of the five stations was set up with a wood box and sandbag positioned 25 yards from a 3D deer target. A number of tents representing sponsors and other services ringed the challenge range while a mixed crowd of supporters and participants waiting for their heats cheered the competitors on. It was the kind of day where extreme heat would team up with extreme challenges to truly test the mettle of each and every competitor.
The Challenge Course consists of a shooting range with boxes and targets, a short 200 -300 yard loop run and a longer 1-1.5 mile mountain trek. Each station has a designated volunteer, in this case, a National Guard member complete in fatigues and polished boots, who monitors their competitor to make sure they are completing each challenge fairly. Competitors must complete the following in order: 20 Over the Box step ups, run the loop course, shoot a single arrow at the target, 10 Ground to Shoulder box overs, run the loop course, shoot a single arrow at the target, 10 Box Facing Burpee box overs, run the loop course, shoot a single arrow at the target, 10 Sandbag Get Up box overs, run the loop course, shoot a single arrow at the target, and following the fourth shot, put on a backpack filled with the division appropriate weight (up to 50 pounds) and complete the Mountain portion of the course which includes two shots at designated targets along the route. Upon completion of the Challenge Course, competitors receive a 30 minute recovery period then move to the 3-D course.
The 3D course Saturday consisted of 20 individual targets
Shooting scores from each course are combined with times to determine the winners in each age category and division.
Events like TTH deliver welcome additional revenue to the club. According to Wolner, the club endeavors to make archery accessible to everyone.
"Each member has a requirement of putting in so many work hours every year. So our membership dues and volunteers maintain the whole thing. It keeps everyone really involved. Every membership is a family membership so it's the same price if it's one person or five people. Members can use the club 24/7. The time when it might be reserved is for a league, a week night shoot. The club is open year round so outdoor and we have an indoor range as well and we offer bowhunter education and learn to shoot classes for kids. We don't charge a lot for membership, it's more of a pay as you play kind of arrangement," said Wolner.
While exiting the Challenge Mountain course, several determined competitors passed by heading up a steep hill while several others laid on the ground in shade alongside the trail victims of the heat and fatigue. It appeared that Clairmont had succeeded in not only fostering a warrior mentality in these competitors but also an unforgettable way to measure the results of that training against like minded hunters.
For more information about the Chilakoot Bowhunters, visit their website at: www.chilakootbowhunters.org
To find out more about the TTH program, visit their website at: www.traintohunt.com.