Kayla Schaum stepped into a stance, placing her feet shoulder-width apart and her toes against an imaginary straight line.
She raised a bow to her shoulders and pulled back the arrow in a perfect, horizontal line.
Closing one eye, she aimed for the bull's-eye.
The 11-year-old from York is among a recent wave of young girls showing up at archery ranges and sporting goods stores across the country, searching for equipment and an experience to emulate Katniss Everdeen, the popular heroine in "The Hunger Games."
Since the movie's release this spring, local ranges are packed and equipment sales have soared by 20 percent, according to the Minnesota-based Archery Trade Association.
But Kayla said her target is strength, not idolatry.
"Katniss is brave ... strong. Archery doesn't make me feel like Katniss ... it makes me feel strong," she said.
Before reading the "Hunger Games" trilogy by
Suzanne Collins or seeing the movie, Kayla considered herself "a reader and artist."
Once she found a flight path, she started to feel like an athlete.
"It takes a lot of muscle and patience and practice," she said.
'A certain finesse:' The latter is one of the reasons girls sometimes outperform boys at the range, said Wayne Schuler, manager of Deer Valley Sporting Goods in West Manchester Township.
"Women shooters have a certain finesse and tend to have a more precise aim," he said.
He's noticed more women and girls showing up to fire arrows across his target hall.
He doesn't solely credit "The Hunger Games" with the uptick, however. He's noticed a surge in the sport during the last five years as women walked through the doors.
"Many of our customers are women with high-stress jobs. We have a lot of nurses who come in here to unwind," he said.
There's serenity in setting up a shot because "you have to focus so intently on what you're doing that you forget your stress," he said.
Xtreme Archery: Nate Reider wishes he had more time to feel that release. But as co-owner of Xtreme Archery in York he, too, has been busy with new customers, who are between 6 and 16 years old.
The new archery fans typically line up at Reider's 3-D range on afternoons and weekends, taking aim among lifesize foam animals and real trees at the 24-target course.
To supply the increased demand, Reider hopes to host a "Hunger Games" Day -- a fun Saturday tournament that would award trophy prizes, but spare the darkness of Katniss' dystopian destiny.
Xtreme also hosts youth leagues, where partners compete for prizes during a 15-week challenge.
Local ranges are providing opportunities students may not receive in area schools.
"I don't think we have one school in York County (enrolled in the National Archery in the Schools program)," said Samantha Pedder, outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
State number: But across Pennsylvania there is evidence of an increased interest in the sport.
The state sold 300,000 archery licenses during the 2011-12 hunting season and about 100 schools and 25,000 students enrolled in the National Archery in the Schools program, she said.
Pedder attributed the increased interest to "the 'Hunger Games' phenomenon" and "media attention," which she said will benefit the entire archery community and continue growing the sport.
"Across the state, more and more people are choosing to pick up a bow and test out their skills," she said.
EVEN MORE ARCHERY
If Panem, the fictitious country from "The Hunger Games," is credited with spawning archery sales, Hollywood and London may be responsible for continuing them.
Archery will be featured in two movies and a TV show later this year.
This week, "The Avengers" opens and showcases several superheroes, including the arrow-toting Hawkeye. "Brave" opens June 22 and introduces the latest Disney princess, Merida, a skilled archer.
And the CW television network has plans for a "Smallville" spinoff about Green Arrow, who is DC Comics' resident Robin Hood.
"Characters like Katniss Everdeen (from 'Hunger Games') and Merida are great heroines that champion the sport of archery. Katniss is a character that many people can relate to, and I think that her use of the bow and arrow as tools in the book will encourage many more girls to try their hand at archery," said Samantha Pedder, outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The sport is expected to receive even more attention in July when the 2012 Olympic Games open in London, where the U.S. has top-ranked competitors in seven of 10 categories in archery.
- Get some basic tips on archery: http://ydtalk.com/jdispatch/2012/04/30/archery-basics/
- See some trick shooting: http://ydtalk.com/jdispatch/2012/04/30/amazing-archery/
- Watch an archery competition: http://ydtalk.com/jdispatch/2012/04/30/archery-competition/
-- Reach Candy Wood all at 505-5437 or email@example.com.