There is a hidden archery range in the heart of Orange County, CA. To find it, you need to either be a local, or do some massive research on the internet to find it. To get to the archery range you will need to drive to Santiago Park in the city of Santa Ana. The park hugs the Santa Ana river bed, and features a running trail, playground, softball field, lawn bowling, nature center, and of course an Archery range. You can park right next to the range, but you need to find the entrance that is unmarked near the nature center off of Memory Lane. You can park in the main parking lot, but you will have to follow a beautifully wooded trail that gives a self-explanatory tour of the parks features for about 300 yards.
The outdoor Orange County archery range is a fenced grassy area with 6 target bales, made of compressed foam rubber layers, carpet and epoxy. The bales are set at challenging distances for any level archer, and give rudimentary yardage up to about 80 yards. In the background are train tracks, and a large hillside leading to the freeway, keeping stray arrows relatively safe from the public. On the fence is an archer communication board, that has bow equipment for sale, as well as competitive events listed. The range is open from dawn to dusk to accommodate many schedules. The targets are maintained and kept up by the archers themselves, often donating materials like old fire hose to protect the bottom.
While the range is free, and not technically supervised, there are rules that are common sense enforced by the Santa Ana Archery Club, and the many archers that frequent the range. Rules are simple:
1. Shoot from the same lane
2. Retrieve arrows at the same time
3. Stand behind the shooting line
4. No broad heads into target bales
5. No Crossbows
6. Keep the area clean
The small archer community seems friendly and relaxed… often encouraging each other, while throwing in some friendly teasing to keep spirits high. A young group of archers hang out by the picnic table engaged in conversation waiting their turn. There are archers of all ages, with different bows, different styles, and different levels.
I talked to a friendly Marine veteran who had just picked up archery, and just started at the Santiago Park range. He stated that he had always drove across the county to get some range time, paying $15 a visit until he found this range by word of mouth. He likes the outdoor atmosphere better, and really appreciates the minimal cost for his hobby.