NEW ULM, Minnesota – Labor Day weekend marked a milestone for Cherokee Nation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. With help from the Archery Trade Association (ATA), the state opened the Joe Thornton Archery Range, its third public archery park, and the first range built on the state’s tribal lands. The range opened just in time to welcome thousands of visitors to Tahlequah for the 64th annual Cherokee National Holiday.
The ATA contributed $50,000 to the Tahlequah, Oklahoma, range, which is named after Joe Thornton, a Cherokee Nation citizen, 1961 World Archery Champion and 1962 British National Champion. Thornton, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, gave the order to fire the inaugural arrow, a bull’s-eye shot by his son Ken.
“I’m very happy to see a good archery range here and would like to see other archers come along and be world champions,” Thornton said in a Cherokee Nation press release. “I believe it is a possibility.”
Built on Cherokee Nation tribal land and funded in part by the ATA, the park features a 3-D range, an elevated shooting tower and a 70-meter, Olympic-style range with a 125-foot awning to shield archers from inclement weather.
“The ATA is dedicated to growing archery and bowhunting at the grassroots level,” said Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO. “By providing opportunities for people to try archery in their local communities, we can recruit new archers and bowhunters, re-engage those who haven’t tried shooting in awhile, and strengthen the archery industry as a whole.”
Joe Thornton, pictured left, said he hopes to see more Cherokee Nation archers become world champions. Photo courtesy of Kelly Bostian/Tulsa World
Cherokee Nation’s 14 counties include 109 schools offering the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), making the Joe Thornton Archery Range an ideal location for future NASP competitions.
Colin Berg, information and education section supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, alluded to the community’s efforts to grow archery in a Cherokee Nation press release. “We’re putting money into schools in this area to give them an opportunity to shoot at the range,” Berg said. “One of the popular features is a tower stand. A lot of hunters like to hunt off the ground, and finding a place to practice in Tahlequah is not always easy. Climbing onto a 12-foot stand to shoot at targets instead of hanging one in your backyard and worrying about whether an arrow will go across the fence is a great thing to offer the community.”
Facilities like the Joe Thornton Archery Range are where new archers can try the sport while bowhunters and more seasoned archers practice. Photo courtesy of Kelly Bostian/Tulsa World
“The Joe Thornton Archery Range represents a strong partnership between the Tahlequah community, the archery industry, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation,” said Mitch King, ATA’s director of government relations. “Ranges like this one are where youths and first-time archers can try the sport while bowhunters and more seasoned archers practice. Our experience confirms that a community’s level of dedication to developing and maintaining archery programs and facilities assures residents will utilize those facilities once they are built.”
To learn more about the ATA’s investments in growing archery through community archery parks, contact the ATA toll free at (866) 266-2776.