There was laughter and good cheer in the air — until it was time to take a shot.
Then, everyone would go quiet. Seconds later, the arrow would ring out across the forest, followed by words of congratulation or condolence.
Dozens braved the cold for their shot at a bull’s eye at the N.W.T. Archery Championship in Fort Providence last weekend.
Freddie Tinqui and his sons were some of the three dozen participants at the competition. Tinqui remembers the first time he harvested a moose with a bow and arrow in his teens.
“It started off with my grandpa making me a birch tree bow and arrow,” he said. “I started off young, and I’ve been shooting on and off since then.”
Now, he’s passing those skills on to the next generation.
As a 3D archery championship, the contestants weren’t shooting at any regular bull’s eyes: Instead, they were aiming at life-sized animal targets, ranging from a moose to a bison to a beaver. There was even a giant mosquito and frog.
This is just the second year in the competition’s decade-long history the Aboriginal Sports Circle (ASC) has chosen a host community outside Yellowknife. Last year’s competition was held in Fort Smith.
The ASC’s event coordinator, Carson Roche, said it was important for the competition to take place in one of the smaller communities so as not to be too Yellowknife centric. “When I took over the position, I wanted to host them in communities, just to give them opportunities to showcase their athletes,” he said. “It’s a territorial championship, so if it’s in Yellowknife every year, it might just seem like a Yellowknife event.”
With this year’s championship taking place later in the year than usual, contestants had to brace frigid late fall temperatures of -5°C and lower. The silence before a shot was broken only by the crunching of fallen leaves.
In contrast to Tinqui, Eddie Smith had never fired a bow before the competition. “It’s pretty hard to figure out how to shoot with arrows,” he said. “It’s not like shooting with a gun, you’ve gotta get the feel for it. But yeah, I got better as the days wore on, that’s for sure.”
Neither had his teammate, twelve-year-old James Bonnetrouge.
But Bonnetrouge was confident he did well. “I think I did awesome,” he said.
He was right: Despite their lack of experience, Smith and Bonnetrouge’s team took home first place in the teams competition.
Nicholas Graham from Yellowknife had the highest overall score, with 153 points.
Tinqui said his kids were disappointed they didn’t win, but he tries to treat it as just another lesson. “I told them, we’re here to have fun,” he said. “They didn’t like the part where they lost, but your first time you can’t win. Try your best.”