It all started with a daughter who wanted nothing but a bow for Christmas. And not the kind to tie up a bun or a pony tail. But that one gift for his then 8-year-old started Calvin Dykes down a path that led to him becoming president of Smoky Mountain Archers.
“She got her bow, and I took her to shoot,” Dykes said. “But I figured if I’m going to haul her around every day to practice, I might as well do it, too.”
Dykes, 56, did not grow up in archery. After taking up the sport in the 90s alongside his daughter, he eventually got into competitive archery and has been involved with Smoky Mountain Archers for over a decade.
The club is a private, non-profit club that operates at the TWRA John Sevier Hunter Education Center on Rifle Range Road.
“It’s actually one of the older clubs of its kind in the state,” Dykes said. “It dates back to 1958.” The club has been on Rifle Range for over 40 years.
Dykes covers a lot of ground as president of the club. He lives in Claxton, but works as an electrician in Campbell County, where he was raised and graduated from Campbell County High School. He has three grown children and three grandchildren. And now that the club is back up and running after a nine-month hiatus due to Covid restrictions, he’ll be spending most of his weekends right on the border of Halls and Fountain City.
“Archery is an awesome sport. It’s for everyone,” Dykes said. “Anybody can do it well if they put in the practice.”
While the club has its adult division, a particular point of pride for Dykes are the youth programs for ages 8 to 18.
“We have a beginners’ session on Thursdays. We let kids come and check it out a few times at no charge, to get a feel for it, see if they like it,” he said. “Then if they decide they want to commit to it, the fee is $25 a year.”
Dykes further explained that there is no need for parents to make an upfront investment in equipment. The club has all the necessary equipment available for the kids to use until they’re ready for their own. While many participants are home-schooled students attending for physical education credit, he said any and all are welcome to come give it a try.
For Dykes, his work with the club is a labor of love.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t love it. Nobody’s getting paid here,” he said with a laugh. “The kids are great. They keep me busy.”
All are welcome to come out this weekend for the club’s annual Dogwood Invitational Tournament, Dykes said. The tournament is April 24-25 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Visitors are welcome to come as spectators or to compete. There is no preregistration. Just be sure to check in at the guard station.
Beth Kinnane is community news editor at KnoxTNToday.com.