Published September 27th, 2019 at 10:00 AM
Someone screams a blood-curdling war whoop from the back of the warehouse-like room, which smells of sawdust.
There’s a loud, distracting, drumroll of sorts, then an axe whirs end over end through the air, thudding into a wall.
A group dressed in office attire huddled around a cooler lets out an “Ahhhhhh”.
Missed, by that much.
“We are similar to a bowling alley…kind of,” says Jonathon Dallen, manager and “axe master” at the Overland Park, Kansas, axe-throwing complex Bury the Hatchet.
The venue’s wide “lanes” resemble batting cages, but with two large painted targets at the closed end and wood chips scattered across the padded floor. Throwers step into the cage opening, where instead of Lousiville Sluggers, there’s an arsenal of axes hacked into a stump.
Think bowling, but more barbaric. Darts, but more destructive.
“It would be like someone going to the Renaissance Festival and being like, ‘Hey I want to throw a hatchet’. You can come here and within a couple of hours you could actually become really good at it,” Dallen insists.
Since its opening in September 2018, Bury the Hatchet has welcomed axe throwers of all kinds, from individual niche-sport seekers, to corporate groups, bachelorette parties, birthday parties — even break-up parties.
And while the thought of hoisting an axe high above your head and plunging its blade deep into a wall some 15 feet away may sound like a stress-relieving social trend, axe throwing is, well, an actual sport.
Bury the Hatchet adheres to the World Axe Throwing League’s official rules, whether it’s in an open session or weekly league play. Participants may choose to use one or two hands while taking aim at the target’s circular rings. One foot must remain on the ground at all times. The thrower must not cross the 12-foot line.
“I’d say the absolute most important thing is learning to throw straight so you don’t get a wonky throw. The axe has to stay straight to stick,” says Dallen. “You need to have one smooth motion from your step to your throw. Straight, hard, fast and getting the proper rotation. That’s what we teach every group that comes in here.”
Axe masters like Dallen are on hand to give pointers and ensure that axes don’t go awry. They also lead groups through Bury the Hatchet games like “Around the World” — similar to darts’ “Blackout” — or axe-throwing’s version of Cricket, “Area 51”.
Josh Cornett, a member of the group of coworkers enjoying the team-building afternoon over bring-your-own beer and wine, won his group’s tournament-style competition by totalling the most points after 10 throws, round after round.
A second-time axe thrower, Cornett credits his victory to previous experience wielding the 3.5-pound blade. He compares his champion arm motion and release to mechanics of a more traditionally free-spirited sport.
“It’s probably a little bit more like throwing a frisbee, where your wrist is really important, but up and down rather than throwing a frisbee side to side,” he explains with a demonstration.
Dallen credits axe throwing’s rise to popularity as a social game to experiences like that of Cornett’s group, sharing drinks and laughs over a competitive experience learning a new sport.
For Cornett, it’s the offbeat chance to hurl sharpened steel.
“I just think that it’s pretty fun and novel,” says Cornett. “You don’t really get to throw axes in many other places.”
This article is a part of Flatland’s SportsTown Series: A collection of stories covering the average athletes, niche-sport elites and everyone else who are dedicated to the games you’ve never heard of, could easily be a part of, and just might want to love that make Kansas City truly a one-of-a-kind sports town.