Remy Epps, Lake Brandt activities specialist for Greensboro’s Parks and Recreation Department-cum-certified archery instructor, performed a magic trick.
She asked her three pupils to form a triangle with their hands, hold them up and look at her finger, which she pointed at each. While all three shot right-handed, Epps told student Ed Thompson to aim with his left.
“How you know that?” he asked, bewildered.
“Your hand moves naturally to the side you aim with,” Epps explained. “Like, I shoot right, but I aim left.”
Archery is literally a sport of tension and release. But it’s easy to pick up.
The creak of a string. Silence. A hiss and hollow impact.
The sun beat down on Hester Park’s plain at high noon on June 2. Small platoons of Canada geese honked and waddled in the shade around the grounds. Others floated on the pond, sliding through the water over channel catfish hidden under the surface.
Epps sat on a bench underneath a line of oak trees, setting the colored bows and arrows on a picnic table. Hester Park’s designated archery range will open later in the summer; in the meantime, two circular targets on aluminum easels sat in the middle of a small clearing, waiting to be shot to tatters.
Initially, only two young boys dropped off by their father showed up: Owen and Jacob Osborne. But they were enough for Epps to begin.
“Have y’all done archery before?” Epps asked them.
“No,” they replied in sheepish unison.
“Yes.” The same shy tone.
Epps explained the basics — the difference between recurve and compound bows, the anatomy of both bows and arrows from string and handle to nock and fletching.
“This is the boring stuff, I promise you,” Epps said.
Epps took it upon herself to teach a beginners’ archery clinic this summer. However, instead of teaching the classes at Lake Brandt, she decided to bring the clinic to Hester Park, site of the future range.
Epps learned how to shoot a bow and arrow at Camp Weaver, a summer program with the Greensboro YMCA that she’d attended for years. Weaver also offered certification classes to become an archery instructor, and she came to enjoy the sport so much that she decided to enroll. She’s now been certified for seven years.
She began working for the parks department in March 2015, and became a full-time employee the following January. Epps then took the opportunity to teach her passion to others.
“When Weaver did demo days, people didn’t know how to shoot,” Epps said in an interview. “So I said, ‘Why not start a program where anyone — aged 8 and up — can learn the sport?’”
The department agreed.
The archery clinic will be held every first and third Thursday from June until September.
Before shooting began, Epps emphasized safety.
“Always point your bow downrange, even if it’s not loaded,” Epps said. “Keep your points down. And don’t dry-fire the bow — don’t pull the string without an arrow loaded. It could snap the string and hit you in the face.”
The class then moved into the bright sunlight, where Epps demonstrated proper form and stance with her wooden recurve bow; the two boys had lighter, composite compound bows.
“Pull the string back to the point of your smile,” she said. “Release when ready.”
And they got to it, standing 20 feet from their targets, 10 or so arrows for each novice archer.
Already the siblings at least hit the target, but Epps provided needed guidance.
“So yours are going a little low,” Epps told Owen. “Bring your arm up a bit.”
Their quivers spent, the boys removed the arrows, as instructed by Epps. And as they took their second round of shots, their improvement became immediately apparent.
“Nice, in the yellow,” Epps said. “Pretty soon, y’all can start competing against each other, see who can get the most points.”
Thompson arrived soon after.
“I’m gonna start working with this gentleman now, so y’all can move to one target,” Epps told the Osbornes. They removed the arrows from both targets, then moved to the right-hand target as Epps handed Thompson a recurve bow, running through the same essentials.
On his first shot of this new round, Owen hit the dead center of the target.
“Ooo, bullseye!” Epps said as Thompson nocked his arrow.
Thompson also quickly hit the inner rings.
“You a pro!” Epps laughed. “You were hiding your expertise.”
“That was luck,” Thompson said.
His next shot was a bullseye.
Thompson laughed. “That was luck,” he repeated.
Soon, arrows flew thick as at Agincourt. Maybe not quite.
HssFWOP. TsTWOCK. TckFWAP.
For an hour and half, Epps kept giving pointers to the budding archers.
“You gotta follow through,” she said. “You know in basketball, when you shoot, you gotta keep your wrist locked after you shoot? Same in archery. When you release, when your bow arm’s shakin’, your arrow goes every which way.”
And again, their skills improved.
“Is this really your first time shooting?” Epps asked the brothers.
They both said yes.
“Whaaaat? Either I’m a great instructor, or y’all are natural shooters.”
“Probably both,” Owen said.
For more info on the archery clinic, contact Remy Epps at [email protected] Space is limited.