Organized archery in Yolo County dates from the early fifties when local barber, George Hebert and half a dozen other local bowhunters formed Yana Bowmen. Among those early members was Dr. Al Grigarick of UCD. Both of these continue living in Davis today. At that time archery was largely a “do it yourself” hobby. Many made their own bows, and nearly all manufactured their own arrows as archery outlets were few and far between. That, together with the inherent difficulty in achieving accuracy this equipment posed caused many to give up the sport after a short time. Such appears to have happened to several of the original Yana Bowmen and the club folded after a year or two at the most.
Then about 1957 a new group was formed with the old Yana Bowmen being the nucleus. This new archery club was named Yolo Bowmen and was formed under auspicious of the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) with George Hebert as President and Dave Barton as Secretary. The following year saw Dr. Grigarick as President and the author as Secretary-treasurer.
The club had no source of income other than member dues thus they were dependent on the generosity of local landowners for a range site. A site unsuitable for growing crops was found in the flood pain of Cache Creek and a range established under rules of the NFAA. These rules were specific regarding the number of targets, the distances shot at each target, and the placement of targets so as to provide maximum safety regarding discharged arrows. The actual order of targets was dictated by topography as well as available space. But scores obtained by shooting this range would be comparable to those shot on a NFAA range in New York State or any Field Archery range in between.
Unfortunately that first winter was a wet one and the range was flooded with most of the targets carried downstream. Next spring the club obtained permission to establish a range in Nelson’s Grove, a 12 acre grove of mature Valley Oaks on Road 18A some three miles north of Woodland. The club held regular weekly evening shoots and an organized club shoot on the second Sunday of each month during the remainder of the year. Then, it was learned that the Boy Scouts also had permission to use this grove of trees. Since the area was just barely large enough to accommodate an official field archery range the addition of Boy Scouts would not be compatible. The club decided that it would be much wiser for them to move than to contest the Scouts. And accordingly a site was found on the left side of Putah Creek immediately downstream or the “Low Water Bridge”. A unit of 14 targets was set up and the club enjoyed the use of this range for several years. Eventually the rancher told them that he needed that area for his operation and they were again looking for a range site.
It was while our range was located along Putah Creek that the club began what has come to be known as Trail Shoots. This was well before the “age of plastics” but we managed to create the first 3-D animals ever seen on an archery range. Dr. Al Grigarick devised a way to use laminated cardboard and excelsior to form the shape of an animal then with
the use of carefully sewn burlap and a little paint we had a life sized animal that was easily recognizable as the animal it represented. The club sponsored these trail shoots for fourteen consecutive years until they secured the present range site and changed to a standard field shoot known as the “Oasis Shoot”.
Dr. Olmo, of UCD, owned considerable acreage along the right side of Putah Creek immediately upstream of what is now Interstate 80, a portion of which constituted the flood plain in that it was between the creek and levee. However Monticello Dam now virtually precluded this area flooding and Yolo Bowmen moved to this site. Yolo Bowmen again enjoyed regular weekly evening practice shoots during the summer as well as regular second Sunday club shoots. In addition they sponsored a free bowhunter clinic each year which was the forerunner of what is now the International Bowhunter Education Program. (this author was the original author of that program also.)
But good things never last forever and after several years Dr. Olmo found other need for this acreage. About this time the Federal Government, through an agency concerned solely with recreation, made the old WWII Air Force Communications site available to Yolo County for recreational purposes. At this time I believe Paul Ackerman was club president and both of us spent several evenings talking to Betsy Marchand, Supervisor representing the Davis area. It wasn’t hard to convince her that Yolo Bowmen would be logical caretakers of a portion of this property and at the same time provide an enhanced recreational activity for local residents. That was the easy part. There were more hoops to be jumped through than we ever imagined but eventually the club established a new range, planted trees, drilled a well, built restroom facilities, and storage buildings for replacement hay bales as well as club equipment. This facility now boasts a four star rating by the National Field Archery Association, is the site of a very successful annual tournament, and is available for public use by non associated archers.
It may be of interest to present membership to know how all those early trees were obtained and watered through their formative years. As I remember it Elmer Wilson worked some kind of deal with the Department of Forestry nursery, located along Chiles Road, to get surplus trees by the truck load. Fellow member, Jim Newton then mounted three 55 gallon drums on a trailer with which we spent most weekends hauling water and laying garden hoses from the drums to various trees. We only dreamed of installing a well and drip irrigation system because money was more than a little short. At that time the club consisted of a mere dozen members and everyone worked steadily to get the range completed. As you know, Elmer and Jim are no longer with us but memories of them will be with us forever. It was people like them that persisted and created the foundation for what Yolo Bowmen is today.