Gowanus

Want to hunt dinosaurs without leaving Brooklyn? In Gowanus, you can.

January 8, 2020 Paul Frangipane
At Gotham Archery in Gowanus, archers can brush up on their hunting skills or just aim at foam animal targets for fun when the winter weather keeps them inside. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

A raccoon stands atop a trash mound, surrounded by rats. A black widow hangs feet away from a turkey, and a ram shares a perch with a Tyrannosaurus rex. An arrow whizzes through the air and pierces the abdomen of a foam deer, which shakes back and forth before it regains its footing on a wooden stand.

This isn’t a hunting ground — it’s a Gowanus archery studio, which transforms into a faux hunting range on the first Saturday of every month. With a relatively short hunting season in New York, bow hunters take to events like Gotham Archery’s 3D Hunt to brush up on their skills alongside archers who are just shooting to switch up the monotony of aiming at paper targets.

Archers stand at a line in the back of the room and aim at different 3D targets in front of them.
Archers stand at a line in the back of the room and aim at different 3D targets in front of them. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

“It’s much much more difficult than shooting in one distance,” said Oleg Vykrest, who started shooting three years ago with his now 12-year-old son, as a way to focus his son’s weakening vision.

Each animal is given a different point amount. At the end of the night, the shooters tally their point totals and are added to a leader board.
Each animal is given a different point amount. At the end of the night, the shooters tally their point totals and are added to a leader board. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

In Gotham’s main room, archers stand in a line in front of a field of more than 30 animal targets, each with different point values. Some shoot at 3D targets from step ladders, while others sit down in fake shrubbery and aim at others. At the end of the night, they tally up their point totals to be added to a leader board.

Right before shooters release an arrow, their concentration can be seen in their eyes.
The face of concentration that comes with preparing to let loose an arrow. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

3D archery is typically shot outdoors and is a national tournament, said Gotham manager Pat Carroll, but in Brooklyn, it’s easier to find opportunities to shoot inside. The majority of their clientele just shoot 3D for fun.

Arrows are often so deep into the foam animals that the archers have difficulty removing them.
Arrows are often so deep into the foam animals that the archers have difficulty removing them. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

“Normally I shoot bare bow, which means I shoot traditionally, without a sight or anything like that, and shooting 3D at different distances with bare bow is a real challenge,” said Nelson Wong, who shoots as often as he possibly can. “It’s a lifestyle, it’s a sport, it’s exercise … eat, sleep, archery.”

The types of animals on the field vary from the often-seen raccoon to the long-extinct Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The types of animals on the field vary from the ubiquitous raccoon to the long-extinct Tyrannosaurus rex. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Once every quiver is empty after a round of shooting, the archers retrieve their arrows, sometimes getting help to pull them out of the foam models. If an arrow is so deep it won’t budge, they bring out a special tool to remove it.

The event attracts a wide range of ages in participants.
The event attracts a wide range of ages in participants. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The hunts typically attract between 15 and 20 people for a night, Carroll said. But regulars like Martin Fuchs, who has yet to shoot 3D, also come out just to spend time in the social environment.

“For me, archery is almost like therapy,” Fuchs said. “It’s very relaxing, it’s very calming, it’s how I can shut off my brain.”


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