LAIRDSVILLE - The Lunger family isn't just building skilled and champion archers. They are building strong family bonds through the sport.
Eleven-year-old Emalee took her first state championship March 23-24 at the Pennsylvania State Indoor Archery Competition at the state Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.
She took the title in the state female cadet bowhunter unlimited AA challenge category.
But Emalee didn't just walk away with a championship. She broke a record that weekend, too.
Her score of 527 out of 600, shot on Sunday, replaced the record of 523 in that category for a one-day record.
"I had to shoot with kids with scopes and I was shooting off sights," Emalee said. "I went over to mom and started crying and said, "This is not fair. I am shooting without sights."
After Emalee shot her record round, her dad came over and told her, "You kicked their butts."
After shooting, she was thinking about the scopes versus sights ordeal. She didn't even realize she had broken a record.
"No one said anything about it. I didn't know if I even won," Emalee said.
"On Sunday, when we went into the competition, she was down on herself because she didn't shoot as well as she wanted" the day before, said her mother, Tracy.
After her family reassured her she did fine the day before, she landed the record-breaking round.
"When she started to shoot on Sunday, she was a little reserved, but her confidence grew," Tracy said with a smile.
Emalee said she was sad after the competition ended.
Her sister, Bethany, 10, also placed in the category she competed that weekend.
Siblings start young
Emalee has been shooting for about three years. Her younger siblings, Bethany and Jackson, 6, also shoot.
"Before, it was just flinging arrows in the yard. That is the way everyone started," said their father, Michael, an archery hunter who also is getting into competitive shooting.
Tracy and the kids signed up at Thunder Ridge Outdoors, 357 Camp Lavigne Road, Benton, for archery classes at the start of the year. The classes are what led Emalee, Bethany and Tracy to the indoor state competition.
Tracy got into archery about three months ago, when she got her first bow for Christmas.
Michael has the longest history with archery. He said could remember, as a child of about 4 years old, going to the Bowhunter Festival in Forksville, Sullivan County, every fall.
The Lungers now have made going together to the festival their family tradition.
Mentoring the greenhorn archers is Barry Sones, of Clarkstown, an avid international archery hunter.
"A dad and husband can only teach so much," Michael said.
"Barry shoots with them," Tracy said. "He would help with Emalee.
"He would stand right behind her and say, 'You weren't holding the bow right' (and he'd) show her properly," she added.
Emalee said she only entered into competition at the Bow Hunter festival last fall and at regionals and states this past March.
Michael said it's pretty amazing that both Emalee and Bethany do so well, since they are so new to competitive shooting.
"None of them have shot a lot of competition. That is what is neat," he said.
"I watched them and was really proud," their father added.
Danny Wido, bow technician at Thunder Ridge Outdoors, can attest to Emalee's achievements.
"She has got a really good work ethic and a lot of talent," he said.
Wido helps Emalee shoot when she is at Thunder Ridge with her family.
"If she puts her head to it, I know for a fact she can go a long way," he said.
Emalee shoots Hoyt brand bows. The bow she used in the championship competition was one that was auctioned off at Sone's event and dinner in January.
Tracy actually won the bow, but when Emalee got her hands on it, the weapon seemed to be made just for her.
Strong family bonds
The family recently went to their first outdoor 3D competition held by the Bloomsburg Archery Club.
"We had been shooting at Drop Tine (Archery) and that (event) was really cool for all of us to shoot together," Tracy said.
Michael said the family shoots about three to four nights a week, a couple hours at a time, and usually at Thunder Ridge Outdoors and in their backyard.
"We are there to relax and let the kids be kids," he said.
Usually, he said, the kids shoot for a while and then put down their bows and do what kids do - goof around and play.
"I haven't heard them say yet, 'I don't want to go shoot.' I hear, 'When are we going shooting?' " he said.
The family agrees that archery is a family sport and helps them stay strong and bond together.
"Shooting as a family is very important ... we want to impress upon the kids that we do things as a family and we stick together," Tracy said.
Dad makes sure all the maintenance to the bows is done. Mom ensures everything that is needed is packed, whether it is for a shooting competition or just a couple hours of practice.
"For us as a family, it's very important for us to stay together. The people we shoot with have also become a family unit (to us) as well," Tracy said.
"We have great friendships from shooting over at Thunder Ridge," she added.
Along with those friends, the family has acquired tips and skills from the staff.
"A lot of people come here because they see the Lunger family come in and shoot," Wido said. "You don't normally see that many people get involved (in a family).
"Mike and Tracy do a great job of balancing everything. It's a good place and they bring a lot of people into the shop," he said.
Wido said archery doesn't have to be all about competition all the time, and the Lungers show that.
"You have five people coming in to have a good time," he said.
Thunder Ridge welcomes all ages to come and shoot.
"We are trying to get as many people involved in the sport as we can," he said.
The right time
"It gets them away from the TV and the computers," Michael said, adding that that is important to him and his wife.
Since Emalee's championship and as the family gets more and more involved in the sport, it has become important to promote it, he said.
"I get asked questions and try to promote the sport and keep it going," he said.
Michael said since the kids have gotten involved with archery, the focus and concentration it takes for the sport even has carried over to everyday life, such as school for instance.
Emalee hasn't taken the bow out to hunt yet. Dad said it's not time.
"There is a lot more to hunting with a bow than there is a with a rifle," he said. "It's totally different. I have lost a few deer and have been sick over it. It is not fun when it happens."
He said he would like to see Emalee get more time behind the strings before heading out to the woods.
"They (the kids) are pretty good nerve-wise. They don't let a lot of things rattle them," he said. But, "I don't want to turn them loose with a broadhead before they are ready."