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  • Ax-throw-ing lanes at Deadeye Dick's are kept apart for safety reasons.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette An axe sticks in a target at Deadeye Dicks on Wednesday.  

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Elizabeth Wyman, a Journal Gazette sports writer, prepares to throw an ax at Deadeye Dick’s.  

Sunday, September 09, 2018 1:00 am

Bull's-eye: Sports writer finds the target - and feels the rush

ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette

I'm no Paul Bunyan. I don't own an ax, know anything about wood, I get lost in Menards and don't own any flannel apparel, but there's something intriguing about flinging a sharp century-old tool at a target, while drinking a beer in a beautiful wood smelling lumberjack-themed arena.

From the Celts, Frankish soldiers, Native Americans and Daniel Boone, the use of axes in battle, and for sport, has been around for centuries.

Today, a much less violent form of ax throwing has swept the country by storm. Deadeye Dick's opened in Fort Wayne on July 5; I decided to give it a try.

For preface, I like to think I'm athletic. Or at least, I'd like to think I have solid aim. At one point I had a dartboard hanging in my house, so how different could chucking an ax be from darts?

Very different.

Co-owner Jennifer Rao was very informative in explaining proper techniques and safety concerns when throwing an ax.

Before even that, you must “bless the boards.” The wooden targets get dry and must be moisturized. A priest came into throw one day and gave the maintenance that title. There are two main ways to throw: one-handed to the side of your head, and the two-handed overhead throw.

I attempted the one-handed throw first. She told me many people will put their nondominant hand out in front of them for balance. The ax needs two complete rotations to perfectly stick on the target. You can line up at the red line on the floor or take a few steps into your throw.

The blade of your ax must be straight up and down and when your ax and thumb are at the same level, you release it. 

Simple enough?

No way.

It was difficult. I didn't have a problem hitting the target – minus one or two stray throws a little ways off the board – but the tricky part was making the ax stick on the board. I kept hitting the head of the ax on the board, rather than the point of it. 

She said I was still releasing the ax too late.

“People are afraid of them, but they're not scalpels,” Rao said. “These are not very sharp. Lose your fear for it, and that might help a little better.”

Truthfully, I was getting a little discouraged.

Rao tells me a lot of women around 5 feet do better with the overhand throw. So I gave it a try. As much as I would like to believe I got it on the first try when changing my technique, it still took a little while.

But then, after nearly giving up, I arched my body backward, lifted the ax above my head, and released it as if my greatest enemy were standing at the target – Deadeye Dick's does host an “Axe Your Ex” night for those wanting to channel that aggression.

Bull's-eye! Well, not quite, but I was close and satisfied I hit the target. It felt amazing, like I just hit a hole-in-one. 

“As you throw, once you get that, it's almost like you have a memory for how it feels,” Rao said. “Your body and your arm, everything memorizes that feel, and then you start to hit it. It's definitely addictive because you challenge yourself to do better.”

I'm not quitting my day job, but hurling an ax was quite the rush.

Elizabeth Wyman is a sports reporter for The Journal Gazette. She is on Twitter @_elizabethwyman. She may be reached at 260-461-8339.