The Flathead Valley has caught up to a nationwide trend in target sports – axe throwing. In a 3,200-square-foot building equipped with 12 lanes and targets separated by ceiling-height chain-link fences, people can chuck axes at Hank’s Hatchets Axe Throwing just off of U.S. Highway 93 in Whitefish.
Similar to darts, participants can play a variety of different versions, but the end goal is always the same — sticking the axe. Different games include variations of cornhole, Around the World and HORSE.
After visiting axe-throwing facilities in Seattle, Spokane and Missoula, owner Jared D’Andrea realized the Flathead could use an axe-throwing facility and decided to name it after his nickname, Hank.
“It’s fun,” D’Andrea said. “That’s why I wanted to start it.”
In their first week, he and his business partner, Laurie Whallon, noticed diverse groups of people coming into the facility to learn about the game. He says groups of four show up on average, but he’s seen anywhere from two to 20.
With 12 lanes, up to four people can play in each lane. Larger parties can book private bays, including one that holds eight people and a second that holds 10 people.
D’Andrea has noticed a common thread between many of the participants who walk into his facility — once they start playing, the competition is on.
“That’s another reason why I go into it, because it’s really competitive,” he said. “I love that.”
To add to the competition, D’Andrea says there’s an axe-throwing league in the works, which he plans to participate in.
The league would be involved in the World Axe Throwing League, which is a global governing body of urban axe throwing. D’Andrea’s facility fits WATL specifications, including official rules, lane sizes and target diameter.
The specifications also address safety concerns with standard axes, and D’Andrea keeps the lanes separated with fences.
“Everything’s pretty caged up,” he said.
D’Andrea’s competitive nature has translated to not only the game, but also his business. He’s already planning on branching out from Whitefish to potential locations south of Kalispell, Coeur d’Alene and Washington.
D’Andrea moved to Whitefish from Spokane three years ago after visiting the area on a ski trip.
“Once I got to the top of the mountain, it was all over,” he said.
He hopes to open bars in his future locations, but due to space he probably won’t have one in Whitefish. However, he says he might sell beer and wine in the future. The facility currently has a bring-your-own-beer (BYOB) policy, which prohibits hard alcohol.
On Sundays, Hank’s Hatchets hosts a family day where kids 12 and older can play accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. BYOB is not allowed on family day.
D’Andrea also offers private events where a group of 10 can throw for two hours. He says axe throwing is great for corporate parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthday parties and date nights.
Hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for family day. Hank’s Hatchets is closed on Mondays.
Those interested in booking a day or time that isn’t within those hours can also call to negotiate a time.
For more information, visit www.hankshatchets.com.