If you’re throwing axes in north central Pennsylvania, chances are you’re splitting firewood, cutting down a tree, or participating in a lumberjack competition. In the coming weeks, you can try your hand at ‘urban’ axe throwing--a past-time and sport that’s growing in popularity across the country.

Marshall Winters and Jennifer Larsen Winters are working hard to open their new business, The Hatchet House, within the next couple of weeks. Not in the woods, this axe-throwing venue is in downtown Williamsport on the corner of Fourth and Market Streets.

“We tried axe throwing at a number of places in Pennsylvania and in Denver, Co., and found it to be a family-friendly activity,” Marshall said. While on vacation, they and their sons Mason, 11, and Aidan, 16, enjoyed it so much, they decided it was time to bring axe throwing to north central Pennsylvania.

Axe throwing is a little like darts because you point a sharp object at a target and toss it. It’s a little like archery because you’re aiming at a bullseye, hoping to land it dead center. It’s a little like craziness, throwing a sharp blade towards the target about 12 feet away, hoping it sticks into the wooden planks mounted on the wall. And it’s a lot about adrenaline, because when you let go of the axe, your heart is pounding.

Like in golf where you can swing the club a few times to warm up, you get a few practice throws; like in dominoes, there are a variety of scoring methods, yet axe throwing is certainly not as tame as either of those activities “There are a couple of different games,” explained Marshall, “and all involve points. You can come with a group and compete with the lanes beside you, or we can pair you up with other singles or pairs to make it fun.”

Axe throwing is for anyone who can safely toss an axe: friends, families, team-building for businesses, bachelor or bachelorette parties, or maybe just to blow off a little steam after a particularly trying day at work. “The Hatchet House also hopes to add axe-throwing leagues,” added Jennifer, “where participants will compete weekly against other teams.”

The Hatchet House will have seven throwing lanes, protected on all sides by metal fencing. A thick rubber mat blunts the axes that fall to the ground. Some simple rules include wearing closed-toed shoes and paying attention when the staff communicates the throwing guidelines. “The trick is not to throw hard, but to lob the hatchet at the target,” according to Marshall.

At the rear of the building, the “Snaxe Bar” will offer munchies and soda, iced tea, and water. As for the alcohol, it’s BYOB, beer and wine only. The waiting area up front will have a photo area where friends can capture the experience with fun props.

Is axe throwing safe?

“Safety is a huge priority,” said Jennifer, noting that the barriers between each lane is different than at some other axe-throwing venues where there are two lanes per “cage.” The Hatchet House will have attentive staff on hand at all times to watch over the friendly competition and offer tips for safe throwing.

Not long ago, an axe-throwing-gone-wrong video went viral on social media, prompting concern over the safety of the activity. It garnered so much attention, that the World Axe Throwing League investigated and issued a statement over the incident, calling it a “one-in-a-million throw.” Throwing sharp objects naturally brings with it inherent risk, but The Hatchet House has taken every precaution to minimize risks.

How to hatchet

Axe throwing is done in the span of an hour or so, and they’ll teach beginners a few fun games. Parties can book ahead and fill out the necessary waiver online or drop in if lanes are open. Cost is $20 for adults and $15 for students with a valid ID and $15 for kids who can safely throw a hatchet. Like at a driving range, you can pay the hourly fee and toss practice throws, or bring a group for competition.

The Hatchet House will be open Wednesday and Thursday 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m, and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Parking lots and street parking is nearby, free on weekends.

To learn more contact PA Hatchet House or call (570) 800-AXES.