Cos Cob Archers aim to help grow sport

July 3, 2016

GREENWICH — Ask bowman Ed Smith, president of the Cos Cob Archers, and he’ll explain the vast difference between Hawkeye and Katniss Everdeen.

Smith is quick to point out that as Hawkeye in “The Avengers,” Jeremy Renner’s bowmanship may be miraculous, but it’s also nonsense.

“He is the worst shot,” Smith said.

“He has no form, no nothing,” he said. “I don’t think he has a clue where that arrow is going when he lets it go.”

But Jennifer Lawrence as Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” movies put on a decent show of archery, Smith said.

“She took a lot of courses,” he said. “She can shoot fairly well.”

Like them or not, Smith said it’s films like these that inspire more people to pick up archery.

“Every time one of those movies comes out, the kids go wild,” Smith said.

Many get hooked and recruit friends and family to join them at the 23 acres of natural areas off Bible Street to shoot paper targets, and 3-D targets of animals.

Smith, 64, picked up archery not because of anything he saw in the movies. The sport was an extension of the hunting he’s been around since his childhood, raised by a coal miner father from Pittsburgh who fed the family by killing deer and other animals.

“We learned at an early age where the meat came from,” he said.

Smith, his father and his younger brother took up archery in 1995 to spend more time hunting while living in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. New York laws allow hunting with bow-and-arrow and with rifles at different times.

After a couple of years, Smith was sidelined by a shoulder injury. When he returned several years later, he noticed a change in the sport. Durable carbon shaft arrows were more common than aluminum arrows that bend when hitting something hard, like a rock.

“There’s a lot of kinetic energy behind an arrow,” he said. “(If you hit) a rock? Forget it. You’re done.”

Carbon arrows, on the other hand, are straight to within one three-thousandths of an inch.

Archery is appealing because it’s more challenging than shooting with a gun, Smith said. He practices twice a week for a few hours on the course.

Practicing archery is like improving your golf game, according to Jeff Stempien, a Greenwich police detective and member of the club who served as president before Smith.

“You’ve got people that at 40 or 50 yards could put it in a coffee cup,” he said. “That’s a little difficult.”

The club’s woods make it an easy retreat to nature for members who come from Co-Op City and other sections of New York to get away. But he said Smith spearheaded many of the improvments and renovations of the club.

“Ed is high-speed,” Stempien said. “He’s a true leader and he’s really shaped this place up.”

The club has about 100 members. Children are admitted as long as they are strong enough to pull back the string on a bow made for them.

“I’ve seen 5- and 6-year-olds that would scare you,” Smith said. “Not not only shoot — they shoot well.”

Smith said beginners should take a lesson to see if they like the sport and purchase a bow from a reputable dealer.

“If it’s not for you, it’s like a pair of shoes that are two sizes too small or too big,” Smith said. “You can walk in them, but it’s not going to feel right.

“But if you have equipment that’s sized for you and you take a lesson and find the right way to shoot, you’ll have a lot of fun.”