Archery has come a long way in over 100 years.

English-style, five-foot-long longbows were first used in the United States for bowhunting and competitive archery. In the 1920s, professional engineers took an interest, eventually developing the shorter, more efficient recurve and compound bows.

“When I was in my young 20s, I got my first taste with the longbow hunting deer in western North Dakota,” says Minnesota native Maury Bergh, who has had a love affair with archery since the late 1940s.

Next year, the Oro Valley resident – who thrives on challenges and competition – has a new goal: refining the accuracy of his relatively new compound bow for National Senior Olympics in Houston, Texas.

Bergh, 82, will compete in the 80-to-84-year-old archery event because he won his state age bracket in Phoenix earlier this year.

He’s only had his three-foot-long, 43-pound compound bow for about a year.

“I wasn’t pleased with my performance in Phoenix,” adds Bergh, who still finished first in his age bracket, “but I know it can get better!” His old bow was a 50 pounds.

The crux of his challenge: an even release of his new bow to insure a more accurate shot.

Most competitive archers – likely three of every four, he estimates – use the relatively new trigger method for a precise release. Bergh, however, prefers the string held with three fingers before release.

“I tried it (the trigger approach) and really didn’t like it as well as the three-finger approach,” he said.

The mechanical trigger permits a single point of contact on the string. That creates less deformity in the string at full draw, plus a more consistent release.

Bergh intends to work on a steadier release at Precision Shooting Equipment’s indoor range near the Tucson Mall – his usual practice site here – with the archery equipment company’s employees.

“When 2011 rolls around, I’ll likely start three- or four-times-a-week practices – with at least 90 arrows each time – before the nationals (in June).”

His competition goal: “If I’m in the 700s each of two days, I believe I’ll be OK.” That’s a formidable task – an average eight score of the 180 arrows over two days from 40, 50 and 60 yards.

Compound bow designs use cams or elliptical wheels on the end of the limbs, reducing force required to hold string at full draw. First developed in 1966, the compound only recently became the most commonly used bow in competition.

In 1997, Bergh finished fourth in the 60-to-65-year-old bracket when the nationals were in Tucson. That’s been his only other nationals competition.

“I really like the Senior Olympics,” said Bergh, who became a competitive archer in the mid-1990s, “because we have both local and state competition each year.” The nationals are every two years.

Bergh also enjoys four other pastimes – swimming, carving ornate wall hangings and shelves out of oak, sorting through 2,500 football and baseball cards, and restoring antique carpentry tools.

Both Bergh and wife Edith worked 30 years for the North Dakota Telephone Co., then were consultants across the country providing engineering and construction for various communications projects for 22 years. They moved to Oro Valley in 1991.

Some of the younger archery competitors (persons just over 50) are unbelievably talented, offers Bergh. “We (his 80-plus competitors) just ‘loop’ the arrows at the target. The younger ones just zip them in!”

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