GILLETTE — In small, circular motions, the man polished his blade razor-sharp with a small whetstone before pulling the remainder of his arsenal from a hard plastic carrying case.
This man is serious about his axes.
Traditionally an activity best enjoyed with a few brews and buds on a night off or at a mountain man rendezvous, axe throwing as a competitive sport is a relatively new idea.
With only a handful of establishments in the Cowboy State and around the country where one can even take part in axe throwing, the sport is very much in its infancy. Luckily, Gillette is one of a few select locations where this activity is available to just about anyone willing to take on the challenge.
A small, dedicated group in Gillette has not only accepted the challenge, but they might also be having too much fun to stop even if they tried.
“We’re all kinda hooked now,” Brad Harthun said. “I look forward to this day every week.”
For two seasons, the Axe House has been offering league play for axe throwing. The group has held steady at just over 20 players thus far, which has created a tight-knit group of friends who share the common joy surrounding the sport for a season of eight weeks beginning in September and ending the first week of November.
Leaving the sport is hard to do once you get into it, Harthun said.
“It’s fun,” Axe House manager Faith Harvey said in between throws. Harvey is in her first year of competition. “You get some aggression out. It’s darts on steroids.”
Torey Rush, who competes with Trent Jones as a team, said getting together each week is just a good way to catch up with friends while also supporting the Axe House.
“It’s just something for people to do,” Jones said. “It gets people out of the house on a Tuesday night and you get to meet new people.”
While most of the group is content with the status quo of competing in both the spring and fall leagues here in Gillette, Harthun is taking his newfound love of axe throwing to a whole new level.
Out of his carrying case he reveals official hatchets from World Axe Throwing League, which bring a new challenge in throwing, but he’s up for it. As he continually improves his game week after week, Harthun looks toward new horizons within the axe-throwing realm.
With a maximum score of 64 possible in the game, Harthun is currently throwing consistently in the mid-50s. He’s still chasing down a perfect score, and would like to start competing at larger venues around the United States next year.
As for his group in Gillette, he hopes to see it continue to flourish. He said many are intimidated to try it out, but noted that everyone has to start from somewhere.
“You don’t have to be good,” he said. “Once you start sticking, you just get better from there.”