What can be so hard about getting a hatchet to stick in a big square piece of wood from 16 feet away?” I asked myself. I stepped into the “pit” as the axe throwing range is called, and three tosses later stuck the axe perfectly in the target. Then for the next fifteen minutes every attempt failed. My coach was Jeff Black, pastor of MPNaz, McPherson Nazarene Church. Jeff told me there’s not a lot of coaching to be done in axe throwing, just showing the thrower how to properly hold the axe, where to stand and when to let go. We tried everything; different axes, different distance and even different ways of standing, but my skills had evidently run their course for the evening.
The only piece of gear more important than an axe to our mountain man forefathers was a rifle and maybe their traps. An axe could chop and split firewood, help with setting beaver traps and could easily be used as a weapon at close range. It was all but inevitable that axe or tomahawk throwing competitions would become part of original mountain man rendezvous, and are still important events at modern mountain man get-togethers today.
Jeff and Danielle Black came to McPherson Nazarene Church, MPNaz, 3 years ago when church attendance had dropped to nearly nothing. They began seeking ways to rebuild interest among MPNaz members, and as an outreach, also to find ways to make the church relevant to non-church attendees within the McPherson community. Jeff sports a neatly trimmed beard and for years had trouble with sensitive skin making it difficult and painful to keep his beard trimmed. He found the website www.artofmanliness.com.com which gives tips, suggestions and advise for all things “manly,” including tips for shaving sensitive skin. As Jeff browsed the website, a link called “75 plus hobbies for men” caught his eye, and among those hobbies was the sport of axe and tomahawk throwing. Jeff believes that “manly” things for men to enjoy have become scarce in our society, so thinking “What could be more manly than throwing axes,” he signed up for a couple hours of axe throwing instruction at Blade and Timber in Wichita and began formulating a plan to bring axe throwing to MPNaz. Today MPNaz has a two lane axe throwing pit behind the church and hosts two hours of throwing time from 6:30 to 8:30 every Thursday evening for anyone wanting to try their hand.
The pit allows for throwers to stand at any distance up to 16 feet from the target and throw at a large, square, wooden target at the end of the lane that is divided into sections with different point values. Jeff recommends standing with your dominant foot in front your body. He can advise you how far up on the axe handle to hold by how the axe hits the target when thrown. The axe can be gripped with either one or both hands. Once in position with the axe gripped tightly, the thrower raises the axe over their head, brings their arm or arms forward and releases the axe at about eye level, WITHOUT flipping their wrist. Different ways of standing, different distances and different ways to grip the axe can all be tried until the thrower finds what works best for them.
Black told me “Besides providing a great outreach for us here at MPNaz, axe throwing is a way for city folks to feel manly in an atmosphere of competition without being too serious.” When I was in Army basic training back in the day, it was understandably pretty easy to fall asleep when we were in a classroom setting. But we had one particular instructor who kept a spray bottle of water behind the podium and could hit any of us in the room squarely in the face if we nodded off. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d try especially hard to remain awake during Sunday morning sermons if I knew the guy behind the pulpit could hit me squarely between the eyes with an axe. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve Gilliland can be contacted by email at email@example.com.