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It was dark and quiet, not unlike hunting at dawn or dusk. And, as with most archery hunts, there was the waiting game, too.

Payton Johnston, 8, of Brainerd was a bit anxious at first. But after a little coaching by his father, Jeremy, he settled in and, after a dozen or so arrows, was making the occasional kill shot, his dad figured.

Trophy elk and bighorn sheep and the like. They were all there for the taking on the outskirts of Brainerd.


Payton was among the first to use the new TechnoHunt simulator at Archery Country, 11568 Business Highway 371, Brainerd. The store added the popular interactive archery video game Aug. 25, and the Johnstons were there early that afternoon. They just walked in and pretty much had the simulator area to themselves. But word of such a valuable bow-hunting training tool obviously travels fast.

“Probably around 100,” Jake Schlangen, Archery Country owner, said early last week of TechnoHunt numbers the first two weeks. “We take walk-ins but reservations are advised.”

With the TechnoHunt simulator, a video projector plays various wildlife scenes on a large screen while archers shoot blunt-tipped arrows at the targets. As a player shoots, the arrow passes through three separate lasers. One is positioned near the initial shot, the second in between the screen and initial shot and the third in front of the screen. Each laser provides a computer reference to the arrow location. Players receive a score based on the quality of their shot.

According to TechnoHunt, footage from more than 700 various hunting videos, filmed up close by “professional and adventurous wildlife photographers,” enables users to experience a variety of hunting scenarios.

“It simulates hunting scenes from all over the world and any species you can think about, over 700 different scenes,” Schlangen said when asked if it’s mostly used as a tune-up for upcoming hunts – the archery deer season opened Saturday. “It shows real scenes, and just like real hunting, you have to wait for the right shot angle.”

The TH300 model at Archery Country is top-of-the-line. According to the company, features include True Yardage, which allows archers to use their yardage pins to shoot virtual quarry up to 56 yards away (randomly selected) on a 20-yard range, and its state-of-the-art software includes real field shooting factors such as wind simulation, the Aurora, Colo., company said.

“This system can have up to six people shooting at it, with three all at the same time shooting the same scene,” Schlangen said. “You can shoot at 20 (yards) and the computer can also figure out what your drop would be and you can shoot up to 50-yard simulated shots as well. Along with that, you can turn two of the sensors off and have kids shoot at 10 yards one at a time.

“You take your own bow and arrows, take the tips off your arrows and replace them with blunt-style tips that bounce off a scene when you shoot it. It plays an intro and you shoot a scene. It shows everybody’s score and then plays the next (scene). This happens for three to five arrows and then you go get the arrows and do it again.”

Schlangen said cost to use the simulator is $8 per person for a half-hour and $12 for an hour.

“In a half-hour you get about 30 to 40 shoots,” he said.

“Customers are loving it, with many coming back day after day to shoot it. A lot of customers have commented on how it puts some excitement into shooting instead of shooting at the same target all the time.”

Schlangen said the plan is to start TechnoHunt leagues in the winter, sometime after the new year. In the meantime, Schlangen expects its popularity to continue to grow.

And why not?

“Yes, I have,” Schlangen said when asked if he’s tried his hand at TechnoHunt. “It’s a blast – and good practice.”

For more on Archery Country’s TechnoHunt, or to reserve the simulator, call the store at 822-3933.