Rafael Lopez drew back his bow, readying to fire.
He stared intently down the range, measuring his distance and tension in the line.
Practice the 25-year-old Carlsbad native got at Top Nock Archery and Supply would prove invaluable this fall during bow hunting season as New Mexicans sought prize deer and elk.
He’s been using a bow for about 10 years, and Lopez said the range that opened in May at 2101 S. Canal St. was a drastic improvement from the city’s outdoor range on the edge of town.
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Situated on Carlsbad’s most trafficked roadway, Top Nock presented a new way for local archers to hone their craft, and another option for children looking to celebrate or just have fun.
Avid shooters can purchase the latest gear and test equipment in the multi-lane target range, while newcomers to the sport can rent bows and get some practice.
There’s also an axe-throwing range situated at the front of the store that its owners hope will prove popular for birthday parties and other events.
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“This is awesome,” Lopez said. “It’s great for the community. All we have is that other range, but it’s on the outskirts of town and it’s outside. This is better for your arrows. It’s a perfect location.”
Top Nock was opened earlier this year by husband and wife Brent and Jennifer Cottingham.
He grew up in Carlsbad, graduating from high school in nearby Loving and worked for years in the potash mines.
Today, Cunningham works at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste repository.
But as an avid hunter since childhood, he always wanted his own range.
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And as a business owner, he hoped to be able to give back to the community with a healthy activity for Carlsbad’s youth, intending to partner with local Boy and Girl Scouts as well as organizations like 4-H on various programs as the business gets off the ground.
“I’ve always dreamed of my own range,” he said. “We want to give back to the community. We want to get kids involved in the outdoors, keep them out of trouble.”
Jennifer Cottingham, a native of White Deer in the northern Texas panhandle also worked in the mines and at WIPP before taking on the businesses’ operations full time this year.
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She said she hoped bow hunting would continue to grow in popularity and the business would respond to an increased demand.
“It seems like there’s been more interest in it. Women are getting more into it,” she said. “There’s a lot of hunters in the area that need supplies.”
Not only could Top Nock cater to avid hunters and bowmen, but it will also serve as a fun venue for birthday parties and other events for all ages.
“We wanted to create a bowling-alley vibe,” Jennifer Cottingham said. “We got a lot of feedback that people needed more venues, places to go for parties. It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
And the whole thing is bolstered by the reopening of Yum Yum Yogurt inside the range.
The popular frozen yogurt shop closed its location in the Carlsbad Mall during the COVID-19 pandemic, but through a partnership with Top Nock, now offers all the same treats amid the flying axes and arrows at Top Nock.
Owner of Yum Yum Yogurt Estefani Hammond said keeping her business afloat during the shifting public health orders amid COVID-19 proved too difficult.
Yum Yum Yogurt, open in Carlsbad in 2014, but was forced to close during the pandemic.
Earlier this year, through a partnership with the Cottinghams, Hammond was able to bring the business back and offer refreshments to those weary from a strenuous hour of axe throwing or archery.
“I think it’s beneficial to both,” Hammond said. “People who come in for yogurt will learn about them and people who come for the range will learn about us. It’s going to be really fun for Carlsbad.”
Brent Cottingham said practice at Top Nock’s controlled environment can go a long way in preparing hunters for the pressure and rigor of the hunt.
“There’s a thing called buck fever,” he said. “When you’re up close to big animal, you get nervous. This can at least get them some experience so they’re not jumping.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.