From the Fort Wilderness main entrance, I headed through this 750-acre woodland oasis to the Bike Barn where the lesson is held and was surrounded by tranquility-inducing sights, sounds and smells: pillars of cypress trees, the fragrance of pine, a meandering stream perfect for canoe rentals, people horseback riding. Civilization? What civilization?
Each class is limited to 10, and participating with me were two adults and seven youngsters. It’s not surprising that the grown-ups were outnumbered. “The kids tend to really enjoy it, and are surprised at how much fun it is,” Lisa Moore, recreational regional manager, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge/Fort Wilderness, told me.
No simple aim-and-shoot exercise, this is a thorough rundown of what a person needs to know to get started. Our instructors, Ron and Forrest, explained what we’d be learning — everything from how to safely hold the bow when not shooting to the proper arm and foot position. Hey, did you know the notch at the back end of an arrow that holds it in the bowstring is called the “nock”? They patiently coached us on each step as we got used to the compound bows (composed of a levering system of cables and pulleys to bend the limbs); full size for the adults, smaller ones for the kids.
After the instructions, it was time to shoot some arrows! Most of the 90-minute session was devoted to practicing our newly acquired abilities. Chatting with some of my classmates, I was relieved to discover that I wasn’t the only newbie there that sunny day.
Thanks to our tutors, I felt comfortable handling the bow, positioning my body, loading the arrows, drawing back on the string with three fingers, aligning the shots, aiming and releasing. We shot a few rounds 15 feet from the targets, then a few more 21 feet away and finally from 30 feet, increasing the challenge each time. To put that in perspective, Olympic archers shoot from 229 feet. Yikes! I better get to practicing.
While most of my arrows hit the target, I’m not about to quit my day job. Still, Ron encouraged me by saying he thought I was doing well.
As relaxed and engaging as the training was, safety was always paramount. From the mandatory safety glasses and blunt-tip arrows to the proper way to handle the equipment, Ron and Forrest ensured we all enjoyed the class without getting hurt.
An overall satisfying experience that left me with a sense of accomplishment, I recommend you do not miss out on this rousing, family-friendly test of dexterity, concentration and skill. Who knows? You may even discover your inner archer.
Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) to reserve your spot. The Fort Wilderness Archery Experience costs $25–$39 and is open to all aged 7 and up. A stay at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is not required. But as Lisa advises, “book early because it sells out quickly.”