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Local shoot produces ‘comeback’ score for rookie archer

When Luke Perkins lined up his final arrow at this year’s Wapiti Bowmen Bonanza Safari Shoot on Richardson Gap Road on June 15, it was the culmination of a journey.

It had been a bit of a winding road for Luke to get to the 50-yard firing line, where he was about to take a shot at a life-sized three-dimensional rhino target. On the rhino was the real target Luke and all the other archers at the competition were aiming for: a PVC plastic ring an inch-and-a-half in diameter.

Anybody putting an arrow on or in the ring would win $1,000.

Luke, who lives in rural Albany, is a relative novice in the sport. He didn’t grow up in a shooting family, but he’d gotten the bug after shooting a buck when he was 13 on his family’s property outside of Albany.

A friend, who shot a bow and hunted, got him interested.

“I thought that was cool,” he said. “I had a bow that I’d carved out of a stick. I could shoot a tree at 10 yards. My friend could shoot a quarter-sized group at 20 yards. I’m kind of competitive. I went on Amazon and I upgraded to a Mission Hype DTS.”

For those unfamiliar with the sport, that’s a compound bow known for quality and affordability. It got Luke, who is home schooled and the oldest of four kids, started in serious archery.

“Neither parent had been involved in archery,” said his mom, Ruth Perkins. “It was a completely different world to us. He had friends involved in it. It just kind of went from there.

“I remember the shock going into M2  (Outdoor Sports in Lebanon) and realizing how expensive this was.”

Luke was determined. He set up a range in his back yard and signed up for a class at M2 to learn the basics.

“I got good up to 20 yards. I got accurate up to 50 yards. I could hit a pie plate at 80 yards consistently.”

Thus prepared, he entered last year’s Bonanza Safari Shoot.

“I’d been looking forward to the shoot,” Luke recalled. “I saw a flyer at M2. I’d been practicing for months. I was amped up, really excited.”

He arrived early and warmed up, got his bow sighted in, then realized that he needed to attend a shooters meeting about 50 yards away, where organizer Gary Burns of Sweet Home was going over preliminary information –  competition rules, range safety and so on.

Luke said he had his arrows in a side clip, hitched to his waist.

Realizing the meeting was in progress, “I started jogging,” he said. “All the arrows fell out. One fell, nock down, and my leg drove right into it.”

A mishap Luke suffered during last year’s shoot forced him to take a trip to the hospital. Photo courtesy of Gary Burns

 Burns said he was in the middle of his safety lecture when “this guy runs up and interrupts me. There was a kid out on the practice range with an arrow sticking through his leg.”

Luke said he was “in shock.”

He’d been practicing zealously for this and “Boom, I had an arrow in my leg. I tried to pull it out and people rushed over and told me to stop.”

His mother, Ruth Perkins, said she hadn’t been able to take Luke, so her husband Daniel did.

“I saw I’d missed a call from Daniel. I thought that was really weird. It was 9:15. The shoot had already started.”

She called him back.

“His first words were, ‘I’m following the ambulance.’

“That was kind of shocking. That’s not what you want to hear when your kid’s at an archery shoot,” Ruth said.

The ambulance ride was “exciting,” Luke said. “I was telling all the guys in the ambulance about it.”

At the hospital, the arrow was removed and Luke decided he wanted to go back to the competition.

Unfortunately, he said, “When I got into the car to go back, all the medicine and drugs made me really sick.”

So that ended that.

The injury was a close call, Ruth Perkins said.

“It was the mercy of God. We really believe his guardian angels were there protecting him. The arrow just missed a major nerve and the sac of the knee.”

Luke went back to his practice range, and turned his attention to hunting.

He got out twice with a bow last year and bagged a doe, he said.

“I wasn’t successful elk hunting.”

This year, he said, he’s got tags for both an elk and a buck in the Desolation unit.

He enjoys hunting, he said.

“With a bow, when you get so close to an animal, it’s so cool and you get an adrenaline rush.”

First, though, was the Wapiti shoot. His dad couldn’t make it, so his mom took him. It was her first time, she said, and she wasn’t expecting a whole lot.

But “Gary and his friends were incredibly encouraging to Luke,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is so fun.’”

“I was in a really neat group,” Luke said. “Really neat group. They were giving me pointers and tips and advice and stuff.”

The final target of the day was the rhino.

“I go all over Sweet Home and get donations from businesses, which sponsor a money dot,” Burns said. “Last year nobody hit it in regulation. The year before, one guy hit it and got $1,000.”

Because he was a youth, Luke shot from 50 yards. His first arrow was about an inch out of the main 8-inch ring encircling the money dot, Burns said.

“We were at 104 yards, watching this with binoculars,” Burns said. “I said, ‘Man, that’s perfect elevation.’”

Luke said he thought his first shot was “pretty good.”

“It was about the right height,” he said. His second was a lot closer.

“I thought, ‘Oh Lord, please let me get it.’ I walked up and it was in the shadow of the ring. I couldn’t see where it had hit, exactly.”

Burns said he and the other veterans realized that the arrow was right on the edge of the ring which, according to the rules, could be a money shot.

“I was yelling, ‘Do not touch it.’ We started dancing around like little kids.”

The arrow had pierced the edge of the ring, qualifying for a $1,000 shot.”

It was the only one that weekend, Burns said. “There were top shooters there.”

Ruth Perkins said she “didn’t really expect anything. We stayed way back. I’m videoing.

“He really believed he could get it. OK. I will not doubt my child any more.”

Luke said he deposited the prize money in the bank.

“I’m waiting to see,” he said. “I might use it towards a truck. Not sure.

“This was kind of a comeback year.”