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A world championship for local resident Wes Naish


What started in the excited hands of his son turned into a hobby, a bonding experience and eventually, a gold medal.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Wes Naish, of Warren, takes aim at a target at the Bushmen Archers range north of St. Helens. Naish, who will turn 79 this winter, has been practicing archery for more than 35 years.While most people his age might sit around the kitchen table and play board games, Wes Naish is a little different. He stands still and silent, bow drawn and with one eye – his good eye – fixed on the bale 50 yards down range. After a few moments pause, the weapon twangs, and with a dull THUD the arrow lands firmly in the target.

“It’s a little low,” he says after walking out to take a closer look at the pattern his arrows made. Two arrows aside, all of his shots are within three inches of one another, but Naish has cause to be picky.

Last month, Naish won two medals at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. And at 78, the gold medal in 3D shooting and a bronze in targets are an ironic victory for a man who tumbled in to the sport by accident.

Some time in the late 1960s, Naish and his son were helping to move a friend when his son discovered something in the clutter – an old, fiberglass recurve bow, and he was instantly intrigued.

“We helped a mother and her three boys move to Bozeman, Mont., and Brad came across that little bow and said ‘whats this?’ and she gave it to him,” said Naish, smiling as he recalled the discovery. “When we came home, our neighbor from across the street, a man by the name of Galen Jordan, was doing the 4H club. He had a place to shoot, so I took Brad over there. He shot a few arrows, and of course he wanted to be in the 4H club, so I took him to that.”

Soon after, Naish was in charge of the 4H club himself and had a bow of his own.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Wes Naish might utilize technology, but make no mistake: he's a crack-shot.“I was hooked,” he said.

More than 35 years later, Naish says archery is something that still binds the family together. Brad still has the left-handed bow bought for him years ago, and Naish’s younger son Doug continues to shoot with his father from time to time.

“We have shot arrows together ever since Brad got me shooting,” Naish said. “Until they got out of 4H and got out of shooting for a while. Now Doug lives in Portland … he comes out here, and we shoot together.”

While many can remember practicing archery at summer camp, or perhaps owning a small bow as a child, the type of equipment Naish is accustomed to is far more sophisticated. Naish uses a compound bow, which utilizes pulleys and levers to bend the beams, instead of the old fashioned recurve. Augmenting the odd sight of the bow’s many strings and wheels is a stabilizer which protrudes nearly three feet in front of the bow itself.

Archery in this day and age is a sport that requires much more than steel nerves and a good eye. Forget Robin Hood – today’s archers have dialed-in sights and detailed computer statistics that assist them in getting the perfect shot. Although the scope can tell Naish where to put the arrow, the job of holding still and getting it there falls to his steady hand.

“I’m still working on that,” he laughed.

The system Naish uses is one he has taken quite some time to perfect. Before traveling to the games in October, he spent much of the summer being sure his sight was dead on. He’ll fire a round of arrows, many of which lie in a tight pattern, and adjust his scope to move the pattern until it lands in the “x-ring,” the small circle at the very center of the target. Naish has settings for every imaginable distance he’ll need during a competition, including the 40, 50 and 60 yard targets used in the target competition.

Two-and-a-half years ago, his hobby took a hit.

“The end of April, year before last, my retina detached. I had three surgeries re-attaching it,” said Naish. “The first two, they put gas bubbles in my eye, and it failed and detached again. Then the third time, they filled the eye with silicon oil.”

Soon after, Naish discovered a problem with his cornea, and while he has taken steps to fix both problems, the conditions left him with hardly any vision in his left eye and absolutely no depth perception. Naish must rely entirely on his trial and error in the practice range, and it appears to be working.

After a long career teaching band at St. Helens High School, and several years in the military, Naish has a long list of accomplishments to be proud of. He hasn’t stopped teaching, even after retirement, now focusing on showing kids how to excel at the sport he’s mastered. He even teaches the 4H instructors, and for good reason. At the games, Naish only made one mistake in the 3D shoot. He hit the same target twice.