'It's a pretty big show': Total Archery Challenge is bringing its 3D archery shoot to Oklahoma

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Total Archery Challenge is coming to Oklahoma.

The company that hosts some of the most unique and challenging 3D archery shoots across the country announced Wednesday that it will hold an event in Oklahoma for the first time at Beavers Bend State Park on April 1-3.

Total Archery Challenge is not a tournament. Participants are not competing for cash prizes. It is a 3D fun shoot for archers of all skill levels and ages.

If no one is shooting for a score to win something "now everybody is just there to have a good time," said Total Archery Challenge president Sean DeGrey. "And that was our focus. To create an event that everyone can attend and have a great time doing it regardless of their skill level."

Total Archery Challenge events are held in the most scenic venues across the United States, including the top of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, the Black Hills of South Dakota, the northern woods of Michigan, and many other locations.

Multiple archery courses are set up at each event to test the marksmanship of all skill levels. Each event includes more than 100 3D targets (lifelike targets of animals, including a Sasquatch) that challenge shooters to adjust for distances, steep angles and natural obstacles.

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Total Archery Challenge is bringing its 3D shooting event to Beavers Bend State Park April 1-3. It will be the first time Total Archery Challenge, which holds 3D archery shoots across the country and offers some of the most challenging courses, has held an event in Oklahoma.
Total Archery Challenge is bringing its 3D shooting event to Beavers Bend State Park April 1-3. It will be the first time Total Archery Challenge, which holds 3D archery shoots across the country and offers some of the most challenging courses, has held an event in Oklahoma.

"A lot of our event is hiking. You got a long ways to walk," DeGrey said. "We provide shots that are more realistic in the field than you might catch at another event. There are obstacles in the way. If you are not on your mark, you are going to hit a tree or a rock or whatever, because that's what happens in the field."

But not all targets are set up as hunting scenarios. There also will be targets positioned for unusual shots, such as a target as far as 100 yards away "because it's just fun to watch an arrow go that far," DeGrey said.

There are courses for compound bows and traditional archery.

Registration for the Beavers Bend event will open sometime in February. The date to be determined will be announced on Total Archery Challenge social media platforms.

Cost to participate in the event ranges from $60 to $175, depending on how many days a person wants to shoot and what times. Early morning starts will cost more because an archer can then shoot multiple courses in a day.

The Beavers Bend event, the first event of the 2022 season for Total Archery Challenge, is expected to attract participants from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. And maybe even farther.

Total Archery Challenge events in Utah have drawn people from all 50 states, and before COVID-19, other countries as well, DeGrey said.

Total Archery Challenge events typically will have anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 shooters.

"It's a pretty big show," said James Ambrose of Stillwater, who helped persuade DeGrey to bring Total Archery Challenge to Oklahoma.

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Gary, a chocolate lab owned by Patrick Finney of Edmond, poses with the bounty from a duck hunt near Guthrie on Dec. 29. The drought has made it tough on duck hunters in Oklahoma this season. The duck season continues through Jan. 30 in all Oklahoma counties except the three Panhandle counties, where it has already closed.
Gary, a chocolate lab owned by Patrick Finney of Edmond, poses with the bounty from a duck hunt near Guthrie on Dec. 29. The drought has made it tough on duck hunters in Oklahoma this season. The duck season continues through Jan. 30 in all Oklahoma counties except the three Panhandle counties, where it has already closed.

Orange Bison Company

Total Archery Challenge would not be coming to Oklahoma if not for two Stillwater residents, Ambrose and Sean McCabe, who made a recruiting pitch to DeGrey.

Colleagues at the Oklahoma State University Foundation, the two men share a passion for all things outdoors.

"We are always out hiking or hunting or fishing or launching arrows in the front yard," McCabe said.

Ambrose is currently preparing himself for a three-day backpacking trip to Texas' Big Bend National Park next month.

"I've been spending my lunch break trying to get miles in," he said.

During the pandemic, the co-workers and friends found themselves with idle time, so they started an outdoor business together called Orange Bison Company. Its mantra is Born to Roam.

They sell apparel and just launched weekly podcasts about the outdoors.

"Our goal is just to create an outdoor brand, a lifestyle brand," Ambrose said. "Whatever the way you love to roam. Whatever gets you outside, whether that be bicycling, running, hiking, whatever that is, that's what we're about. We just want to get more people outside."

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On an island

This is the 10th year of Total Archery Challenge. The bulk of its events are held at ski resorts across the country. Utah, Montana, Colorado and Vermont are just some of the stops on the 2022 tour.

If not at a ski resort, Total Archery Challenge looks to hold events in picturesque settings and places where there are other tourist attractions nearby. Total Archery Challenge also holds an event in San Antonio at Natural Bridges Cavern, for example.

Many participants in Total Archery Challenge events around the country bring their families and make the trip a mini-vacation.

The scenery of southeastern Oklahoma plus the other outdoor adventures around Broken Bow sold DeGrey on holding an 3D shoot at Beavers Bend State Park.

"It's a beautiful area and there is a lot of opportunity there to do other things, and it has some good elevation," DeGrey said.

Four 3D archery courses will be set up with one of them at an island on Broken Bow Lake. Shooters will have to take a boat ride to get to and from the island.

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The recruiting pitch

DeGrey was looking to expand Total Archery Challenge to new locations, but was not considering Oklahoma until contacted by McCabe and Ambrose.

"We wouldn't have been there in the next five years had they not reached out to us," DeGrey said.

Ambrose and McCabe first tried to persuade DeGrey on a place near their home, but he wasn't wowed by the flat land around Stillwater.

"What makes their courses unique is elevation changes, the topography of the area," Ambrose said.

Looking for a site more mountainous, the Orange Bison Company founders persuaded DeGrey to come back to Oklahoma and visit Beavers Bend State Park.

"At first we kind of pestered him to the point where he finally started responding to us," Ambrose said. "Then pestered him enough to get him to come here once and then twice and then three times and here we are."

DeGrey said state tourism officials were receptive to the idea of having the event at the state park.

"We do have a good track record and work with some giant, well-known venues across the country," he said. "It kind of creates some credibility for us, but they have been great to work with. It's been pretty painless."

There also will be an outdoor expo held during the Beavers Bend event with between 30 and 50 outdoor vendors.

For those who have never participated in a Total Archery Challenge, DeGrey has the following advice:

"Be ready to do some hiking, and bring a backpack to carry some water and snacks because you are out there for a few hours at a time. And just come out and be excited to shoot and meet new people regardless of skill.

"It's a big gathering of like-minded people."

Reporter Ed Godfrey looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at egodfrey@oklahoman.com or on Twitter @EdGodfrey. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Total Archery Challenge is bringing its 3D archery shoot to Oklahoma

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