CHICAGO (CBS) — Back in the day, dinner might’ve depended on how well you shoot a bow and arrow. In modern times, archery can get you a spot on the world stage, or at least guarantee a fun morning.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory wondered about the pandemic’s effect on the solo outdoor activity, so she went to the western suburbs to find out.

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If you follow the arrows, you’ll find the sport of archery is the target of all ages and backgrounds.

“I was a PE teacher. Retired. We had archery at school,” said Bob Brown, who CBS 2 met at the Blackwell Forest Preserve archery range with his wife, Diane.

“I just like it.  I’m not good at sports, but it’s something I could actually compete with him and have a chance of at least coming in a close second,” said the senior citizen, who started shooting around about two years ago.

Second-grader Everett Drake was also out practicing in Warrenville. He found his bow and arrow under the tree last Christmas.

“It’s [wrapping a bow and arrow] very hard to do it. So they needed to cover it in garbage bags,” said the 7-year-old, who estimated he’s been to the range about 10 times this year.

Shooting is free, and growing in popularity in DuPage County, as evidenced by the number of archery permits purchased from the Forest Preserve. A total of 564 were sold during a 6-month period in 2019, with only 518 total last year, but nearly 800 sold so far in 2021. That’s about a 40 percent increase from pre-pandemic to now. Permits cost $30 a year for DuPage residents.

Dave Schaefer, from the Illinois Target Archery Association, confirms that the sport is getting more love statewide, too.

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“Looking at the growth over the last five years, it’s been a little over 13 percent,” said Schaefer, ITAA’s president.

He credits movies like The Hunger Games and The Avengers for increased interest. Archery also breeds real-life heroes, like Nathan Zimmerman of Woodstock.

“I’m feeling pretty excited, nervous. It’s still pretty surreal,” said Zimmerman, of his upcoming trip to Poland. He’ll be one of three Americans in his age group and category to compete in the World Archery Youth Championships from August 9- 15.

“I started competing when I was 6 years old, and it’s just my passion, something I love to do,” said the competitive archer.

How inspiring for novice archers like Everett.

“I definitely do remember the first time I hit one of the targets,” said the 7-year-old. “Pretty fun.”

With fun mostly guaranteed, and set up often outdoors and socially distanced, archery’s slight rise in pandemic popularity is no long shot.

You can try archery for free on Saturday at the Blackwell Forest Preserve’s open house from 10am -2pm.

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Also this weekend: the Illinois Target Archery Association’s Outdoor State Championship in Wheaton.

Lauren Victory