The pull of “The Hunger Games” is sending many young fans to places such as the Cinnamon Creek Ranch, an archery complex in Roanoke.
“Compared to last year, we’re up 20 to 30 percent,” said Ken Hays, field staff coordinator.
Hays gives much of the credit to Katniss Everdeen.
She’s the 16-year-old heroine in “The Hunger Games.” Played by Jennifer Lawrence, she’s a deadeye with a bow and arrow, whether it’s hunting animals or fellow combatants known as Tributes.
Katniss definitely scores big with tweens and teens.
“She just makes it look so easy,” said Thira Schlegel, 12, of Austin. “There’s a scene where they’re eating, and she shoots an apple out of a pig’s mouth. That’s why they give her the highest score. That was cool. Definitely cool.”
Vicki Ysla said the movie rekindled her interest in archery, which started in the sixth grade when she attended an outdoors expo.
“It would definitely come in handy if our society were to have a Hunger Games,” said Vicki, 17, of Dale, Texas. “But I picked it up again just because I remembered how interesting and fun it is. Like any other hobby, it’s nice just to forget your troubles and focus on something else for a little while.”
The movie’s influence has led to a noticeable increase in people inquiring about taking archery lessons, Hays said.
“Where we used to get one or two calls a week, now we’re getting three or four a day,” he said.
Girls are upfront than boys about the movie pushing them to take up archery, Hays said.
“I’ve had some boys say, ‘I’m kinda interested in archery — but I didn’t see ‘The Hunger Games.’’ They’re hesitant to admit that.”
Cinnamon Creek Ranch catered to the movie’s popularity by hosting Hunger Games challenges.
“We kind of replicated what’s in the book and movie,” he said. “In the book, Katniss shoots a deer in the eye so the meat won’t be damaged. We had a 3D target with a balloon over the eye.”
Across the Metroplex, the Texas Archery Academy has hosted Hunger Games birthday parties, said Clint Montgomery, executive director. However, he notes it was the celebrants’ idea. The Plano business, which does extensive youth recruitment via schools and city recreation programs, hasn’t embraced the phenomenon like some.
“Honestly, we feel it would alienate as many people as it would attract,” he said. “And we do so many fun shoots anyway.”
Montgomery takes pains to state he’s not disparaging the movie.
“There’s a lot of talk in the media now about archery,” he said. “And that’s a positive thing for the industry.”
Thira’s father, Erich, an Austin photographer, knew his daughter read the book and saw the movie. He bought a beginning archery set at Academy Sports + Outdoors, but didn’t set his expectations high.
“I really thought she would find it boring,” he said. “It was quite the opposite. Once she tried it, she wanted to keep on doing it.”
She likes “the art” of archery, Thira said.
“When you pull back the string, you can feel the energy holding it against your face,” she said. “I try to put my finger on the tip to balance the arrow. Then I let it go. It’s fun.”
Katniss uses that balancing trick, by the way. And while the movie is fantasy, the lead actress’ archery is realistic, Hays said. U.S. Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig trained Lawrence for her role in “The Hunger Games.”
Hays said girls quickly find out that archery is a “great equalizer,” as testosterone sometimes gets in the way.
“The boys can get too competitive,” Hays said. “It’s easier for the girls to focus on the form and the process — and, as a result, often be more accurate shooting than the boys.”
Both Vicki and Thira plan to keep practicing.
“I want to own my own bow and arrows, of course, or a crossbow,” Vicki said. “I would love to join a league if I can find time.”
Thira may eventually hunt with a bow and arrow. It has nothing to do with mimicking Katniss, though, said Thira, who once fired an AR-15.
“Bowhunting is not as loud.”