Author: Cassie Gasaway
Archers and bowhunters like feeling safe and challenged when practicing on the range. Let’s learn how two archery shops met those goals by adding moving targets to their range to boost profits and customer satisfaction.
The targets can move along the track independently from the others, allowing the archers to retrieve arrows at their own pace. Photo Credit: Archery Connection
Archery Connection in Columbus, Georgia
Steve Smith and his wife, Janice, and son Mason own Archery Connection in Georgia. They noticed customers often grew complacent and careless when shooting on the indoor range without a rangemaster. Some even walked downrange to retrieve arrows when others were shooting. “It was extremely dangerous,” Steve Smith said.
Smith also shot competitively with his son, and dreamed of a system that returned the archers’ arrows after they shot, and eliminated the dangers and time needed to walk downrange after each round. The Smiths created prototypes of a target they could move forward and backward on a track. They cut and welded the shafts, attached pulleys and cables, and built the transmission, tracks and carriage. Four prototypes later, they had their system.
“The carriage is like a train track,” Smith said. “It runs on a steel cable with a pulley system driven by an electric motor and transmission to get the proper speed.”
When the Smiths moved their business in May 2019, they built eight lanes with the mechanical system to accommodate 16 targets and 16 archers at the same time. At the push of a button, customers move their target to any distance out to 30 yards. After shooting, they push another button to retrieve the target and pull their arrows.
Smith said each lane cost about $3,500 to build. Customers like the system’s unique convenience, and newcomers appreciate its safe, risk-free features.
“It’s a win-win for the shop and our customers,” Smith said. “It also speeds up the process for our shooters because they don’t have to wait on others to finish shooting before retrieving their arrows. They’re in control.”
Smith increased his range fees from $10 to $12 after installing the system, and said customers pay it repeatedly. Archery Connections averages about 400 archers monthly.
Smith is working to patent the system, and encourages retailers to contact him at the Archery Connection website for more information.
This moveable target is part of a 3D course. Photo Credit: CenterShot Archery
Center Shot Archery in Covington, Kentucky
A few states over, Center Shot Archery owners Carl and Sandy Harney had a similar idea. As longtime archers, they created unique shooting challenges for each other on their range. Three years ago, a customer dropped off some track equipment for them. They modified it into a practical “mover.”
Carl Harney said it’s basically an electric motor on a platform that runs along a track, moving forward or backward like a remote-controlled car. They mounted a 3D target atop the platform to simulate a walking animal, and set up the range to include blinds, picket fences, elevated platforms and old Christmas trees. Customers shoot at the moving target as it passes between obstacles. The track and motor are mobile, so the Harneys can move it to create different shooting angles and situations.
“Nature doesn’t cooperate,” Carl said. “Sometimes you can only see half an animal when you shoot. We wanted to create real-world scenarios, and challenge customers to pick and place their shot. Everyone who comes in loves shooting it because it’s different from what most shops have.”
When the customer who donated the equipment saw how the Harneys used it, he donated the parts for another moving device. They built a third moving target that swings down from the ceiling. Each moving target costs about $300. Carl said anyone with mechanical skills can make these devices, or find a customer or skilled craftsman who’s willing to help make one.
The Harneys also ask customer for suggestions on how to make the range more challenging. They like to involve customers and encourage them to return to shoot unique setups. They also use fog machines, hang PVC pipes from the ceiling to shoot through, and turn on a “blower” machine that keeps ping-pong balls floating in midair. The PVC pipes help bowhunters visualize small shooting windows, and the fog and floating machine increase each shot’s difficulty.
Big Returns on Investments
The Smiths and Harneys said the time and money investments in their moving-target systems were worthwhile because customers enjoy practicing more and return often, which increased their profits.
“It’s an investment, but it will pay dividends in the long run,” Steve Smith said. “I think it would be an asset for all shops. The benefits outweigh the expenses and electrical costs. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.”
Sandy Harney agreed. “Shops should look into adding some sort of mobile target to their range,” she said. “Customers think it’s interesting and challenging, so they keep coming back.”
If you want to build or improve your range, consider using the ATA’ s Archery Range Guide: Retail Edition. The guide helps retail members establish profitable ranges that engage customers. Log into your MyATA member dashboard and click “Download Free ATA Resources” to read the guide.