Band of Bowhunters

Archers practice at their range last fall near Balad.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Last September, Capt. David Mattox, a communications officer with the 864th Engineer Battalion, bunked next to Spc. Andrew Casey, a chaplain's bodyguard, at Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda, north of Baghdad. In their spare time they would watch bowhunting videos and lament the deer seasons they would be missing. Then Mattox had a morale-boosting idea.

"I got approval from the battalion commander to build an archery range, and I had my wife, Sara, in Washington, send my two bows and some arrows to me," Mattox says. "Casey ordered a target from Cabela's."

Spc. Robert Davis, the battalion commander's driver, and Supply Sgt. Roger Ash, friends of Casey, joined in the construction of the 35-yard range in the abandoned building that the unit occupied at the LSA (near Balad). Skilled carpenters, the foursome set up sandbags and a backstop to contain stray shots; then they rigged lights for night shooting. Occasional mortar attacks against the LSA did not disrupt practice. "The range became a hunters' hangout, and after two months' practice, we were getting good," Mattox says.

The soldiers hope to be shipped home this spring. Davis will try to shoot a Missouri whitetail in the fall, while Casey hunts Texas bucks. Ash plans to go after West Coast blacktails. Mattox has his sights set on taking a black bear in Washington. If they get a shot, none of them expect to miss.