It was a Saturday night in a Louisiana civic center, and all eyes were on an arrow sticking in the side of a black panther made of foam.
“Oooh, that’s close,” whispered Leola-based commentator P.J. Reilly as judges debated whether the arrow had landed in a spot worth 10 points or 12. That would determine whether the Utah archer who fired it had won or would face a Missouri archer in a tiebreaking showdown. A judge held up a 10.
“Hey, what do we love?” said Reilly, who is an outdoors columnist for LNP | LancasterOnline. “Sudden death. We always want to keep shooting.”
The two archers this time took aim at a foam deer as Reilly and his co-commentator, Oklahoma-based pro archer Nathan Brooks, offered thoughts on the competitors’ backgrounds and techniques. The judges whipped out a ruler. The Utah archer won by a 16th of an inch.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that close of a call,” Brooks said. “And it was a bit confusing. But we got a winner out of the deal.”
That’s an example of the type of archery action broadcast live six times a year on the Sportsman Channel thanks to Competition Archery Media of Leola.
For the second year in a row, CAM is producing coverage of the six-stop McKenzie/Archery Shooters Association Pro/Am Tour for the Sportsman Channel, which reaches more than 36 million U.S. television households.
It’s an endeavor that fits a mission outlined on CAM’s website in a message from Rob Kaufhold, president of Lancaster Archery Supply and father of an Olympic archer. Kaufhold wrote that he felt a personal calling to create a media team that could grow archery into a mainstream and even “it” sport.
In 2013, he hired Reilly and a cinematographer to build a media team within Lancaster Archery Supply. In 2018, CAM spun off as its own thing. In 2019, he hired Josh Grine as general manager of CAM.
Grine is a Bedford County native whose Lancaster County resume includes 10 years as a youth pastor and two years running the retail side of Stoltzfus Feed & Supply in Gap.
Grine also co-owns Archery Shooters Association, the Georgia-based outfit hosting the pro tour that CAM is covering for the Sportsman Channel. Grine plans to gradually assume the ASA helm as longtime owner Mike Tyrell transitions into retirement.
An uphill battle
Grine’s path to leadership positions in these archery groups began when he plopped his oldest daughter, Haly, into a pack on his back and headed into the woods to hunt when she was about 4 months old.
Haly felt at home there, he says. She was 12 when she saw her father shoot a deer from a tree stand. She wanted in. Grine thought he’d better find her lessons because, although he was an experienced archer, he wanted his daughter to have an unbiased instructor. He discovered Lancaster Archery Supply and ended up working as an archery instructor there.
Haly Grine excelled and eventually wanted to compete in one of ASA’s national tournaments.
“She fell in love and said she wanted to do them all,” Grine says. “That was, coincidentally, the year that CAM started. So I volunteered to do anything that they needed me to do. … That became a way for me to come along and help Haly get to her shoots.”
That was in 2018. In 2019, he started talking with Kaufhold about CAM’s future.
“He was looking at figuring out how to make CAM sustainable,” Grine says. “It was quickly becoming obvious to him that having Lancaster Archery employees put in effort part-time to keep CAM afloat was not going to work. He needed somebody to solely focus on that.”
Grine faced a challenge.
“One of the things everybody told me was, ‘You’ll never get archery on national television,’ ” he says. “And within a year, we signed our first contract with the Sportsman Channel.”
In the early ’90s, archery was televised on ESPN 2.
“That was pre-Disney ownership,” Reilly says. “ESPN 2 back in the old days was hunting, fishing, all that stuff. Now it’s cornhole, darts, things like that. So when that happened, (3-D) archery disappeared for decades.”
Reilly — who has filled some lulls in tournament action with talk of things like the color of the aforementioned panther’s eyes — laughs when asked whether he felt any kinship with the sportscasters from “Dodgeball.” That 2004 movie invented ESPN 8 — something that the real ESPN later made into an actual (occasional) thing.
“We started out on a network that is very much like ‘The Ocho,’ ” Reilly says, referring to the Eleven Sports network. “That one was very much off-beat sports. Soccer was a big one of theirs. But leagues you don’t ever see on TV. … That gave us a place to kind of perfect what we’re doing.”
From Leola to a TV near you
Setting up for competitions is now somewhat of a well-choreographed dance directed from a shiny trailer often parked behind Lancaster Archery Supply’s massive warehouse in Leola.
“It’s a mess right now,” Reilly says as he unlocks the door. A few leftover water bottles from a mostly consumed case sit on the floor. It’s plenty hot in the Southern locales where ASA tournaments are held.
The rest of the trailer is like some technological Jenga — stacked equipment and dangling wires that would all be unpacked when the crew rolled to Kentucky in early June.
It’s an upgraded version of the same basic trailer built during early coverage days by Jason Will. He worked for about 20 years with cable provider Blue Ridge Communications, where he focused on sports.
While with Blue Ridge, he was asked to cover the Lancaster Archery Classic, an annual event held at Spooky Nook Sports. That’s how Will got his foot in the archery door. The rig he built for CAM is similar to ones he built for Blue Ridge.
Will and his wife now own Scratch Bakes, with locations in Lancaster and Ephrata. Baking and broadcast both involve a lot of multitasking and keeping everyone and everything working together, Will says.
“We just refer to him as MacGyver,” Grine says. “We’ve yet to find anything can go wrong that he cannot fix in the moment and keep the broadcast going. So he’s invaluable.”
Reilly recalls one ASA event where a Southern storm blew up and seemingly hovered over the CAM trailer, dumping three inches of rain.
“We had wires that were under water. It was blowing fuses. Everything shut down,” Reilly says. “Jason, when it stopped, fixed it all within 20 minutes and we were back up and running.”
That rain came on the heels of an earlier incident at the same event.
“Our internet connection was 300 yards away at a Big Jim’s grocery store. So we had wire running 300 yards across this lawn,” he says.
A dump truck ran over it. Only two of the wire’s eight strands remained workable. The CAM crew also noticed some marks on other wires over that weekend.
“When we were taking it down, it was dark and somebody said, ‘Hey, there’s something out there,’ ” Reilly says. “We shined a light and here these foxes came out. They were chewing the cable. So all of that and the guy still got it running.”
One of Will’s least favorite close calls was the time a satellite provider couldn’t find a signal until the countdown to air time had reached the 5-second mark.
“These are no-fail situations. You really can’t afford not to make things work,” Will says. “You may lose your contract. People may never look at you the same way again. That’s the kind of stuff that plays in your mind. But you can’t let it. I just always get it done.”
An audience for archery
Like most of the CAM team, Will is a subcontractor, as are most of the 18 people it takes to cover a final event, Grine says. The producer flies in from Washington state. Some crew members come from Lancaster County. Others are local talent recruited from areas around each event.
Reilly is handling commentary on the ASA events this year. Another on-air personality, Greg White, is handling some of CAM’s internet-focused coverage outside ASA events. White is known by many as a commentator in the motorcycle road racing world.
The pro sitting next to Reilly in the broadcast booth at ASA events alternates between Brooks and pro archer Darrin Christenberry.
In addition to the actual broadcast, CAM produces segments for online venues such as “Shot of the Week,” which sometimes includes tips for hunters, and “Meet the ASA.”
Reilly says he likes the latter in part because it shines a spotlight on archers who, unlike the pros who get most if not all their equipment from sponsors, are often ponying up $3,000 to $4,000 on bows and accessories.
“Think of the commitment they’re making,” he says.
Gas and airline prices are making expenses unpleasant this year for CAM and its equipment-filled, 40-foot trailer. Price hikes haven’t translated into a huge drop in ASA attendance, Grine says.
“Our last one in Louisiana? That’s not the easiest place to get to, and we still had a great turnout,” he says, noting that people traveled from states all over the country to attend. “People are still traveling to our events. We’re fortunate that they love it as much as we do, and they make the sacrifice to make it work.”
Among Grine’s goals are expanding state organizations within the ASA and giving state championships more of a flavor of what is found at nationals.
“It’s like getting together for an archery tournament and a family reunion six times a year,” he says.
Haly Grine is still doing the circuit. She was Rookie of the Year in 2021 in the ASA Women’s Pro Division. When she’s not doing the circuit, she’s working part-time as a tech at Lancaster Archery Supply.
Grine says he’s not quite ready to move South. He wants to stay in Lancaster County while his younger daughter, Gabrielle, finishes school. Gabrielle isn’t an archer.
“My wife is a dance teacher. That’s been her passion her whole life,” he says. “So my youngest dances. They go together to work all the time, and Haly and I go together to work all the time.”
Grine stresses that CAM will continue covering more than ASA events and will, for example, do a live broadcast of the USA Archery Outdoor National Championships for its Facebook and YouTube channels plus USA Archery’s channels. That happens Aug. 10-12 in Malvern. CAM also covers National Field Archery events.
“Yes, I am the majority owner of ASA. But I love archery,” Grine says. “For Competition Archery Media, the ASA is our bread and butter. But we want to help all the organizations and all the disciplines grow.”