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  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Elizabeth Wyman, a Journal Gazette sports writer, prepares to throw an ax at Deadeye Dick's.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette An axe sticks in a target at Deadeye Dicks on Wednesday.  

  • Ax-throw-ing lanes at Deadeye Dick’s are kept apart for safety reasons.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 6:37 pm

Ax throwing arrives in city venue

ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette

Deadeye Dick's

Location: 4524 Parnell Ave. Fort Wayne, Ind.

Hours: noon-8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; noon-10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday


Erica Rodewald steps up to the red line; ax in right hand as the smell of lumber and beer surround her. Her husband, Joe, and neighbors Matt and Debbi Bowman watch closely.

Erica smoothly flings the ax toward the target.


She nonchalantly cemented the ax on the target for the third consecutive time.

“You kind of start to get in the groove,” Erica said.

Erica was in the groove. A groove people in the Fort Wayne and surrounding areas are beginning to like.

Ax throwing is growing in popularity, and Deadeye Dick's is giving people the chance to sharpen their skills.

“I think it's different. I think it's a physical activity that almost anybody can do, and it doesn't really matter your stamina level, although you do build up a sweat when you play,” co-owner Jennifer Rao said. “There's such an adrenaline rush when your ax hits that bull's-eye.”

Rao, and her co-owner, Anthony Gaston, also own the Fort Wayne Chamber Escape Room, which they opened three years ago. Normally, in the summer, they change the rooms, but they dedicated this summer to opening Deadeye Dick's.

The co-owners first heard about ax throwing at the Room Escape convention in St. Louis last year. Workshops and seminars displaying the next great form of entertainment included ax throwing, and Rao and Gaston couldn't pass it up. With the added bonus of being able to bring your own beer, the sport has transformed into a night of physical activity and fun.

“I was like 'oh my God, we need that here in Fort Wayne. How fun is that?' ” Rao said. “We wanted more entertainment in the winter. We have so many months of winter here, and it's so unpredictable. So far, the community has been extremely receptive and they're excited about it.”

Ax throwing is like darts: One throws an ax at the target, but there is a technique the thrower must follow. Rao instructs everyone who comes in the proper ways to safely throw. She said the ax must rotate two full times to stick perfectly into the target. Multiple stances and forms of throwing make the sport intricate and challenging. 

“A lot of people come in and think they have to be Thor, like they have to throw their hammer into the next millennia, and I tell people you don't have to do that,” Rao said. “You literally just have to toss the ax.”

Since its grand opening July 5, Rao said she has had all sorts of people come in and try. Ax throwing is also available at Combat Ops Arena.

“It's not always what you expect; target market wise, it surprises you sometimes,” Rao said.

While patrons must be 18-and-older or 14-and-older with a parent or guardian, she has seen all ages and people in various physical conditions give it a try.

“I wanted to do something different; an alternative to the normal going out, so we had dinner and then we came here,” said Matt Bowman, who was visiting with his wife and the Rodewalds.

Bowman is already a Deadeye Dick's returning customer.

“It's good to socialize and talk with a little bit of competitiveness, and I know my wife likes to chuck sharp objects,” he said.

Rao put up a contest on the escape room web page to have customers vote for the name of the venue. The winner, Deadeye Dick's, refers to another name for a lumberjack.

People get competitive with ax throwing. The business has taken off so rapidly Rao and Gaston decided to create a nine-week league with cash prizes involved, and are considering extending the hours.

Rao loves that the community is getting a taste for a growing sport she's passionate about. The first time she ever went ax throwing, she hit eight bull's-eyes and knew she could introduce it to others.

“It was my thing,” Rao said. “I've been waiting for this sport my whole life.”