Put the darts aside; it’s time to take weapon throwing to a whole new level. Three independently owned axe-throwing venues have opened in Tallapoosa and Elmore counties in the last four months. 

Nub Chuckers in Alexander City last month cut the ribbon at renovated space on Tallapoosa Street, in a building that previously housed the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce. In Eclectic, Wade Jones opened Viking Axe & Bow downtown, and Charles Sanderson opened his first axe-throwing facility in Wetumpka in February. Sanderson recently opened a second facility in Prattville and soon will open in Columbus, Georgia.

While axe throwing has been part of lumberjack competitions for centuries, it emerged as a recreational activity for the general public about 14 years ago in California or Canada; both regions claim it.

It’s also a decent total body workout. Throwing with the legs grounded stabilizes the body and works the calves, hamstrings, glutes and quads. It also works the back, shoulders and chest muscles, as well as the obliques.

The local industry took a heavy hit from the coronavirus sheltering guidelines, as all of them had only just opened when Gov. Kay Ivey nixed indoor gatherings.

Viking Axe & Bow opened the afternoon of March 12.

“It was the same day that the president told everyone to stay at home. I trudged through two weeks of business before the governor shut everything down, and I laid in wait until mid-May, when I was able to open up again,” said Jones.

Now that they can be open again, it’s easy to follow the guidelines, Jones said. Spraying the wood down with a bleach solution is part of the curing process for the materials used in building the lanes.

“We’re spraying it all down anyway. The axes are kept behind the counter and are sanitized before you pick them up. We’re social distancing by keeping a lane closed between every group,” he said. 

Nub Chuckers also opened early and operated for just four days before owners Kevin Spencer and Bobby Walton were forced to close.

Walton was introduced to the activity during a family reunion in Georgia last year.

“My wife’s cousin suggested we all go do it, and I had a good time,” Walton said. “When we got back to Alexander City, I talked to Kevin, and we went someplace to throw axes and decided we could open one up here.”

Walton and Spencer spent two months renovating the former chamber of commerce building just off the downtown traffic circle at 120 Tallapoosa Street.

Naming the business was an adventure in itself, Spencer said. After tossing out a variety of monikers that the owners thought were overused in the industry, Walton’s wife, Bree, searched synonyms for axe-related words and learned that ‘nub’ is another word for bulls-eye, and ‘chuck’ is a throwing term.

Nub Chuckers features eight lanes that are 15 feet in overall length with 12 feet of throwing distance. The subsurface on the lanes is 2-foot by 10-foot pine boards, topped with high-gauge cattle fencing that closes the wall space. The targets are drawn on 2-foot by 8-foot cottonwood from Kentucky.

“The cottonwood is a softer wood, so when the axe hits it, it doesn’t damage the wood as much as it would other kinds of wood, and the axe sticks better,” Walton explained. “Once a board gets a lot of use, we replace it.”

A lane rents for $20 per person per hour, and each lane can accommodate up to six people. Throwers might come in for a workout, stress relief or fun with friends, as the sport has adapted popular games from other sports.

Cornhole scores increasing numbers of points the closer the axe lands to the center of the target. Opponents play to 21 and must hit the winning score exactly; going over drops the player back to 15 points.

Around the World progresses a player sequentially from the left side of the target, through the center, across the right side of the target and hitting a blue eye on the target to win; the objective being the first person to complete the cycle.

In Humans and Zombies, competing teams throw for positive or negative points, respectively, as zombie points are deducted from human points.

As their customer bases develop, many axe-throwing venues form teams and leagues and host tournaments.

Many facilities across the country allow customers to bring their own beverages. Walton has applied for a license to serve beer and wine and said he hopes people will see throwing axes as a date night or family-bonding activity.

“We’d like to see people come eat dinner downtown and throw for an hour or two. Have a glass of wine while others are throwing. We’ll have some televisions set up, too,” he said. “Actually, we are seeing more ladies interested in throwing.”

The facility also can be rented for private events. Walton said Nub Chuckers hosted four birthday parties in its first two weeks of operation.

Viking Axe & Bow owner Jones said he’s booked a bachelorette party as well as birthday parties in Eclectic.

Half of Jones’ 3,000-square-foot building is set up for axe throwing, and he added an old fashioned arcade and a two-lane indoor archery range in the other half. The arcade games are old school – Space Invaders, electronic golf, boxing and more – and archery patrons are allowed to bring their own bows or use bows provided by the facility.

“I wanted to put something else in the spin, since we have the space. The indoor archery is nice because you can practice and shoot no matter what the weather is. And for the arcade, I wanted the stuff you would have seen in the arcade back in the ’80s,” Jones said. “It’s not video games; you can play those at home. This is different. These are the old coin-operated machines.”

Jones, who owned the Ourtown gasoline station and convenience store for many years prior to this venture, said he opened the recreational facility to give vacationers and locals something fun to do in Eclectic.

“When I had the Ourtown station, I saw it all the time: People would come to the lake, and after a few days, they would start looking for something fun to do off the water,” he explained. “They would go out of town to do that because there wasn’t anything here. I wanted to give them something else to do.”

Viking Axe & Bow is open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays; 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays; and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays. Bow lane rentals are $15 for 30 minutes or $25 per hour. Axe lanes are $20 for an hour. During Happy Hour – the first hour that the facility is open each day – the axe throwing lane rental fee is $15 instead of the usual $20. Patrons must be 14 years of age or older to throw axes.

Jones offers snacks, chips, candy bars and Cokes and allows patrons to bring in food from downtown Eclectic restaurants. Patrons also are welcome to bring their own beverages. Book at vikingaxeandbow.com.

Nub Chuckers also serves snacks and is open Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. All players must sign waivers once each year, and players aged 12 years to 18 years must be attended by an adult.

“People can book online, sign a waiver and pay online at nubchuckers.com or walk in,” Walton said.

Wetumpka Axe at 191 Spring St. is open Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Book a lane online and find rate information and more at wetumpkaaxe.com.

Before you go & How to throw

While axe throwing has been part of lumberjack competitions for centuries, it emerged as a recreational activity for the general public about 14 years ago in California or Canada, both regions claim it.

It’s also a decent total body workout. Throwing with the legs grounded stabilizes the body and works the calves, hamstrings, glutes and quads. It also works the back, shoulders and chest muscles, as well as the obliques. Axe throwing burns an estimated 116 calories per 30 minutes.

• Wear close-toed shoes. No sandals or open-toed shoes are allowed in the lanes.

• Wear comfortable clothing.

• It wouldn’t hurt to stretch out a bit before you start to throw, just to loosen up the muscles.

There are basically two grips: single hand or double hand. In both cases, hold the axe with the cutting edge of the blade pointed straight at the target. This will help to keep the blade straight.

“If it doesn’t leave your hand straight, the odds of hitting the target are lower,” said Bobby Walton of Nub Chuckers.

For the single-hand throw, bring the axe up beside the head with the upper arm and hand at a 90-degree angle and the axe blade pointing up. For the double-handed throw, stack the hands around the handle with the dominant hand on the bottom and the axe blade pointing away from you. Draw both hands back over the center of your head.

The double-handed throw helps to put more weight behind the axe and might carry it farther.

It might take several throws to get the axe to stick, so don’t get discouraged.

“I threw for 45 minutes the first time before I got it to stick,” said Viking Axe & Bow owner Wade Jones. “Form is what makes it stick, not strength in the arm. Compare it to golf and let the club do all the work.”

The axe should flip just one time, and once you have your distance down, you may need to step forward or back a little to position the axe at the right angle when it approaches the target.

“There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you stick the axe in the wood for the first time. It draws you in,” Jones said.