December 12 2019
LA GRANDE, Ore. — Jolene Smith learned the importance of ignoring distraction 13 years ago, when her daughter Kaylene was a baby. Jolene and her husband, Rob, starting shooting archery together and would often bring along their infant.
Three years later, twins Kendra and Kaleb were added to the mix, and often Jolene would carry one on her back while Rob took the other.
"If you've got a kid on your back covering your eyes, it makes it a little more difficult," Jolene said. "It's hard when they're that small."
The outings proved beneficial for the entire family, however. Earlier this month, Jolene, 13-year-old Kaylene and 10-year-old Kendra, along with other family members, competed in the third leg of the International Bowhunting Organization's triple crown tournament, sponsored by the Grande Ronde Bowmen near Spring Creek.
Jolene, a nurse, has already qualified for the IBO world championship, which takes place in New York in August, by placing first in her division — the Female Bowhunter Open —in the first and second legs. Kaylene hopes to join her at worlds in the Female Youth Category.
Kendra competes in the CUB competitive class, which is designated for archers 9 to 12 years old.
"She's competing against 12-year-old boys," Jolene said of her daughter, who is competitive with others in her class — including her brother.
Rob is especially proud of his wife and daughters for the success they've demonstrated and hope to achieve this weekend.
"A lot of archery is focused on men," he said. "We need more women and family involvement. This is a really great family sport."
Jolene's parents were both competitive archers, and she said female archers have seen a great deal of progress in the sport.
"Now equipment is more specialized for women — I have a pink bow," she said, motioning to her gear. "There's a lot more women now than there were."
Although the sport is largely an individual one, practicing together is a family affair. The Smiths have a small practice range in their backyard.
Rob said one of his older sons and Jolene often practice shooting water bottle caps from 20 yards away.
"They're hitting a bottle cap consistently," he said. "That's the kind of competitive level (Jolene) shoots."
He and his wife also engage in some friendly archery competition. Last season, Jolene found the buck that he tried for years to shoot.
"I worked opening morning and my wife shot it," he said of the buck, which is now featured as the wallpaper on her cellphone.
The family bond is emphasized not only in competition and in practice, but in their equipment.
"Kaylene is shooting the first bow my mom shot," Jolene said. "She shot competition with it, she hunted with it and she shot a bear out of a tree with it."
Her mother, Joan Booth, was the No. 1 woman archer in the Northwest for a while, Jolene said.
Although the girls enjoy archery for different reasons, including being out in nature and the opportunity to "beat boys," they stay busy with other activities.
Kaylene plays select soccer and is raising money for next year's eighth-grade Philly trip.
"She's a little soccer queen," Jolene said.
Kaylene seems to bring the same level of competition to the pitch as she does the shooting range.
"If you see me play, I knock people down," she said.
Kendra, who is in fourth grade, plays basketball and is trying out for the Missoula Children's Theatre production of "Robin Hood."
This month, however, they were zeroed in on a medley of animals, including lions, warthogs and perhaps an alligator or two. The animals are foam, but they are life-size and the competition is set up to simulate a real bowhunting experience.
They've been practicing four to 12 hours a week, and much of it has been at Alpine Archery due to weather conditions.
Their motto, Jolene said, is "ready, fire, aim."
The order may be unorthodox, but it is intentionally so.
"It's really about consistency," she said. "Do your best and learn from your mistakes and try again."