When it comes to bowhunting, Trevor Irvine finds you need to change your attitude when it comes to your altitude.
The New Zealander wasn’t talking about the 15-hour flight from his home country to the United States. Instead, he was referring to his need to adjust to Yankton’s climate and topography during this week’s World Bowhunter Championships.
Irvine used Monday’s practice day to tweak his style once the 151 competitors step to the line.
“We have to try out our gear to get used to the elevation,” he told the Press & Dakotan. “Our bows will go four feet a second faster here, likely because of the altitude. We’re at sea level in New Zealand.”
In addition, Irvine welcomed the chance for New Zealand’s six-member team to adjust to their surroundings.
“We flew the 15 hours from New Zealand to Chicago, and then we flew to Sioux Falls and traveled to Yankton,” he said. “We got here early, which gave us time to get over our jet lag and to get a feel for the climate around here.”
The “Kiwis,” as New Zealanders are affectionately called in honor of their native bird, live south of the equator. As a result, they left their homeland during late winter — in contrast to this week’s forecast of temperatures in the mid-80s for Yankton.
It’s all part of adjusting for global travel and competition. But the 69-year-old Irvine —who started New Zealand’s field archery association in 1984 — and 68-year-old teammate James Williams, who has competed since the 1980s, are among the veterans on the global circuit.
The International Field Archery Association (IFAA) is sponsoring the four-day outdoor event at Lewis and Clark Lake. The competition features three-dimensional targets which appear like wildlife. The event also features paper targets.
This week’s tournament brings together archers from nearly two dozen countries around the world, according to Bruce Cull, general manager of the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center (NEYAC).
The archers compete in various categories and divisions. They shoot from varying distances.
MAKING THE MOVE
The IFAA held the opening ceremonies Monday at the NEYAC Center. The contestants came dressed in their respective team uniforms, with most listing their nation on the outfit. While they may come from different cultures and languages, they showed a common enthusiasm for the upcoming competition.
Unlike some past years, the 2019 championships have been moved from the NEYAC to sites along Lewis and Clark Lake, Cull said.
“We’ve had competitions here at the archery center, but we’re moving this (event) to Lewis and Clark Lake for a couple of reasons,” he said.
One reason is the high water table at the site, created by the current prolonged high Missouri River releases at Gavins Point Dam. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has faced continued high runoff of near-record proportions.
As a result, the Corps has maintained releases of 70,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to continue evacuating water out of the mainstem reservoirs before 2020.
The second reason for moving the competition to Lewis and Clark Lake: location, location, location.
“You have the topography at the lake,” Cull said. “You have so much up and down (with the hills), which is very conducive to bow hunting.”
For New Zealanders Irvine and James Williams, Lewis and Clark Lake will represent new territory and new challenges.
“We’ve both been here (in Yankton), but we shot at the archery center,” Irvine said. “This is our first time out there (at the lake).”
The Italian delegation may face additional challenges because of the South Dakota weather, said team member Pocaterra Marcello.
“We use a historical bow. It’s all wood and no plastic. We use osage wood that we get from the United States,” he said. “Our bows get wet because of humidity and rain. We may need to protect them (from inclement weather).”
In that case, the Italians may face a very challenging week ahead.
The National Weather Service forecast for the Yankton region calls for the threat for severe weather and heavy rainfall twice in a three-day period. The first round is expected late tonight (Tuesday) and into early Wednesday, then again Wednesday night into early Thursday.
Besides caring for their bows, the Italians would face another challenge from wet weather. They rest the arrow on their hands when shooting.
But prior to Monday’s opening ceremony, Marcello didn’t focus on any challenges. Instead, he spoke of the many positive things he has experienced through archery.
He pointed to the many friends he has made from around the world. The 49-year-old Marcello has also found a passion that began when he was 18. One of his teammates, 47-year-old Stefano Turetta, has competed in archery since 2005 and echoed the same sentiments.
They were joined for the Press & Dakotan interview by Swiss archer Stefano Maranta, who has competed since 2006. The Swiss team has six members on its roster.
While competing for different countries, Marcello and Maranta consider themselves neighbors. Marcello lives in northern Italy, while Maranta lives in southern Switzerland.
“We’re not so far apart,” Marcello explained. “It would be like crossing from the United States into Mexico.”
Italian teammate Turetta lives in Venice, known for its canals and gondolas. However, the city has other modes of transportation, he said with a smile.
Archery remains a popular sport throughout Europe, but more so in the northern countries such as Germany, Austria and France, Marcello said. “In Italy, the major sports are more toward soccer and basketball,” he said.
Regardless of the nation, this week’s archers qualified for their national teams and bring international-caliber talent to Yankton.
For Marcello, the trek to Yankton brings other rewards — the chance to sample the American culture in the midst of a mix of other cultures among the archers.
The Italians are taking advantage of their time in the United States to check out the middle of the nation.
“We just left Rapid City (on the way to Yankton),” he said. “We’ve been to Yellowstone, Black Hills and the Badlands. We also saw Mount Rushmore, the ‘faces.’”
The Italians would like to see one other aspect of area life, Marcello said. “We would like to see Indians, to visit their reservations,” he said, reflecting a European fascination with Native Americans.
The United States is huge, and the feeling becomes even greater when traveling the wide-open spaces of South Dakota, Marcello said.
The same feeling even translates to the NEYAC grounds, Marcello said.
“This is big, huge,” he said, using a sweeping gesture with his hand. “In Italy, we would have one practice field. Here, you have five or six different fields.”
Irvine agreed, noting the small size and population of his home country in comparison to the United States. “New Zealand has only 4 to 4 ½ million people,” he said.
A WARM WELCOME
During Monday’s opening ceremonies, Mayor Nathan Johnson welcomed the athletes to Yankton. He encouraged them to explore local landmarks and history during their stay.
Johnson pointed to the history of American Indians and explorers Lewis and Clark, the Dakota Territorial Capitol where early legislators ran government and the Mead Cultural Education Center with its majesty and historical exhibits.
In addition, the mayor encouraged the foreign visitors to enjoy Lewis and Clark Lake along with the Missouri River.
“And take a walk on Meridian Bridge at sunset. That will take your breath away,” he added.
Johnson also spoke of the NEYAC as the largest indoor archery facility in the United States. In a decade, the NEYAC has become a resource that some never thought possible, he said.
Now, he said the “world-class facility” brings the world to Yankton’s doorstep.
“Consider this your home away from home,” Johnson told the international archers.
To show the global flavor, Cull noted that Germany — not the United States — brought the largest delegation of competitors to the IFAA World Bowhunter Championships.
IFAA Vice President Steve Kendrick of England welcomed the athletes and declared the games officially open.
The archers stood with respect at the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” but also proudly waved their own nations’ flags and stood in front of huge flags for group photos.
They also formed one united group for a mass photo, with some archers playfully holding up a large selfie stick to capture their own version of the global moment.
After the ceremony, the hosts handed out an American favorite treat — ice cream bars.
The athlete said they look forward to the camaraderie as well as the competition while in Yankton.
Williams made a friend even before landing on American soil. “The 15-hour trip went so quickly. I didn’t read my book or watch the movies. I spent part of the time talking with the person next to me,” he said.
Turetta shared a similar feeling about the international trips. “I like the competition and getting to know other people,” he said.
And in an often fractured world, Irvine pointed to the strong bonds shared by those with a passion for the sport.
“Archery breaks down larger barriers, whether it’s religion or politics,” he said. “When you’re up there and are rubbing shoulders (with your fellow archers), you’re all brothers in arms.”
- Randy Dockendorf