Brian Dansby has been an insurance adjuster for about 26 years, a stressful job that requires frequent therapeutic relief.
The Columbus native and Fortson resident finds that mental escape in the form of a compound bow. Though he has long been a hunter using guns, he also picked up a bow early in life and then began competing in tournaments back in 1999.
It was nearly three years ago that Dansby, 51, and partner Blake Burger founded an archery business in Waverly Hall, Ga., called Southern Addiction. Last spring, they moved the business to 4211 Milgen Road in Columbus and renamed the venture Columbus Archery Academy.
The facility includes a 20-yard indoor shooting range and a front showroom with compound bows and accessories for the academy’s customers, which include men, women and children, many of them families looking to spend interesting, competitive time together.
Dansby said the sport is growing steadily in the Columbus area, with an annual bow-shooting tournament held each year at Fort Benning, attracting nearly 2,000 competitors from all over. The person who won the Archery Shooter’s Association Classic’s senior pro division — in which Dansby competes — was from Oregon.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited with the businessman and bow shooter recently at Columbus Archery Academy to discuss the sport and his job of teaching others the finer points of hitting the target with a bow and arrow more often than not. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity.
Q. How did you get involved with bow shooting?
A. I started shooting a bow when I was a kid. I started shooting competitively in 1999. I’ve shot a bow my entire life. My dad was a bow hunter. But I started competitively in 1999 shooting the hunter class, then moved up to Open B, Open A semi-pro and now, because I’m old, I shoot senior.
Q. Guns weren’t an attraction for you?
A. I’ve shot guns. I’ve hunted with guns. But no, I’ve always been into archery, the bow hunting.
Q. What do you enjoy about it?
A. I don’t want to go all Ted Nugent on anybody, but there really is just something about seeing the arrow fly, seeing it hit its target. It’s just a lot of fun. Basically, you can shoot a hundred shots and have those four or five or six that are just perfect, and then you feel like every shot can be that way all day long. There’s just something about seeing the arrow hit the middle of the target. It’s a really good feeling.
Q. That carries over to those you teach to shoot a bow?
A. I see it on the kids that we teach here. Obviously, I’m more worried about having them learn to do it right, the form and all that. But then when one of them hits the target in the middle, you can just see it. They’re excited. It blows their mind a little bit.
Q. So you’re still competing?
A. Still am. Archery season is from January to August for the most part. So it’s over for the year, because most people who shoot bow competition are also bow hunters. And bow season, hunting season, is now. It just started last Saturday. So through January everybody will be bow hunting or be hunting (with guns), and then tournament season starts up again in January.
Q. Is it cheaper to take up archery than hunt with guns?
A. The initial investment can be high in both. But you get to re-shoot your bullets (arrows) in archery, so you’re not having to go buy new bullets. It’s probably cheaper than guns, but guns hold their value a little better. To me, it’s just a relaxing sport. Working out of the house as an insurance adjuster for years, you get on the phone and somebody is cussing you, then you go outside and shoot a bow and it’s just relaxing.
Q. Insurance adjusting can be stressful?
A. Always. Any job can be stressful, but yes, definitely. It’s personal. You’re dealing with their house, their car.
Q. That’s why bow hunting is a relaxing diversion for you?
A. Definitely. You’ve got to have some sort of stress relief, and archery is definitely that. Another thing is, as I said I’m old, but from kids to older people, the equipment is so easy to use, so easy to tune, no matter how old you are … And it’s not necessarily the athletic kid that is good in archery. It’s good for everyone. An elderly lady, when we were still in Waverly Hall, came in and shot all of the bows one day. She just couldn’t believe that she could do it. We have equipment that we can get and fit most anyone.
Q. How did you get into teaching bow shooting?
A. I’m not sure. I love it, so I want other people to try it and get into it. I’m the coach at Wynnbrook Christian School for their archery program. I got a coaching certificate before I became a coach there and helped them start the program (in 2010 or 2011). Now we have programs at Calvary (Christian School); it has a middle school and high school. We’ve got Lafayette Christian in LaGrange; it has a middle school and high school. Waverly Hall has a high school program. So there are five or six programs around that have kind of come out of the Wynnbrook program because of how much fun it was. It’s really a growing sport. I haven’t been able to get a public school to jump on the archery program yet.
Q. How long has your academy been in this location?
A. We’ve been here since April 4. We were in Waverly Hall for two years as Southern Addiction Archery.
Q. I take it there’s more traffic here?
A. Oh, yeah. If people were coming to Waverly Hall, they were coming to see us. Here we get people who say, I just saw your sign and wanted to stop in, or I heard the radio spot, or I saw it on Facebook or whatever. The traffic has increased a hundredfold here.
Q. How soon do kids start learning to shoot a bow?
A. We have kids from all age groups coming in and learning. I personally recommend about fourth grade simply because we have some fourth-grade kids that are good and strong. They can pull the bow. They can do everything. We have some kids that are fifth grade before they can do it.
Q. But even older people come into the sport?
A. We have bows now, the Mission Craze for example, that goes from 15 pounds all the way to 70. Most anyone can pull 15 pounds of draw. That’s almost nothing. Then it will go all the way up to 70, which is pretty hard to pull.
Q. Is that a misconception that so much strength is required to use a bow?
A. Yeah. Again, most people that start out don’t start at 70 pounds. They start at 40 or 50 pounds and build their way up. A lot of ladies will come in and these bows that are so adjustable these days help them start at 25 pounds and build up slowly until they can get to the 30, 40 and 50 pounds. What you’re looking at is you just want to get enough draw weight to get the arrow to go a little quicker, a little faster.
Q. What is the financial range of acquiring the equipment?
A. We have Genesis bows, which are what they use in the archery-in-school program, for like $165. Our next package bow would be $399. We have a couple of entry-level bows for that. And then they go up. We have guys spending $1,500 or $1,600 on a setup. It’s according to what you want.
Q. So you use them for hunting yourself?
A. I got started with bow hunting. I got into tournament archery to become a better bow hunter. The first tournament I went to I saw all of these guys with these long stabilizers and expensive sights and told myself, I’ll never have all of that, I’m just out here getting better at hunting. And now I’ve got three and four times (that amount of stuff). The tournament aspect of it is very addictive also. Bow hunting is addictive just being out in the quiet (outdoors), but the tournament aspect of it, if people will try it, they’ll have so much fun. We have a good time doing it.
Q. So the peace and quiet of outdoors draws some people to the sport?
A. Yep, a lot of it is just the quietness of being in the woods. You can see a deer at 250 yards with a gun, and boom, it’s over. With a bow, you’ve got to watch (your surroundings). You learn more because the deer has to get a lot closer to you. Just the closeness of nature, I guess, would be what a lot of people get into bow hunting for.
Q. How long does it take to become proficient?
A. We have almost a guarantee that if someone will come in here and first, be coachable, and will listen to what we say, and let us fit them to the equipment, then we promise them that they’ll be shooting softball-sized groups at 20 yards before they leave that day. Modern compound equipment is super easy to shoot, if you’re coachable and willing to listen and if you’ll let us fit you. Again, my bows are not going to fit her. Her bows not going to fit you. Everybody has different draw lengths, so we need to actually fit that bow to you.
Q. That fitting matters so much?
A. A lot of people, when you ask have you ever shot a bow, they say, oh yeah, I shot my uncle’s back when I was 15. Well, the uncle was 6-foot-4 and the guy (now shooting) was 5-foot-7; it just doesn’t work that way in archery. It’s like handing them a .22 rifle and you can hit the same area with the same scope. It doesn’t work that way with archery. You’ve got to have that bow fitted to the person. Once it’s fitted to you, it’s an easy sport. People walk out of here amazed all the time.
Q. They’re amazed how they’ve done?
A. A couple of things we hear all the time is, ‘No one’s ever told me that.’ I had it again today. A guy said, ‘I’ve been bow hunting for nine years and nobody’s every showed me that.’ Most people who’ve been bow hunting for a long time, 90 percent of what they do is right. But it’s that other 10 percent that really gets them to where they are really confident.
Q. What percentage of your customers are men versus women?
A. About 80 to 90 percent are men, but the women side is growing like crazy. We decided when we opened just to have a women’s line, and not let any men shoot with them. We had about five or six shooting, and six or seven standing back watching it.
Q. What do you enjoy the most about this?
A. I love seeing somebody get better. A guy earlier today brought in the bow that was adjustable, but it didn’t fit him at all. He had been shooting that bow over six or seven years. I asked him if could I spend 10 minutes with him on something, and he said sure. So we adjusted his bow to fit him and his shooting went from where he was just glad to hit the paper to where he was hitting dead in the middle. He was like, man, I’ve never been able to do that. He was very excited, so that part gets to me, to see somebody have instant success like that.
Current residence: Lives in Fortson, just over in Harris County
Previous jobs: Worked at the archery counter at Northside Pawn; has been an insurance adjuster for the past 26 years
Education: 1983 graduate of Hardaway High School; earned bachelor’s degree in business administration, with minor in marketing, from Columbus College (now Columbus State University) in 1989
Family: Wife, Jacki, and sons, Spencer and Briceson, the latter a 9th grader at Harris County High, and daughter Annalise, a 7th grader at Wynnbrook Christian School
Leisure time: Enjoys, you guessed it, bow hunting; loves college football and watching team sports, such as high school football and baseball