You can hear them behind you. Feverishly, you point the barrel of your bright red rifle towards the trees, thumb fumbling over the orange, rubber button on your rail-mounted flashlight as you struggle to see what is around you, but you know they are there, just out of your line of sight. The zombies are gaining on you, and as you manage to take aim in the darkness, you remember the two rules: “Shoot ’em in the face,” and “Don’t get bit.”
While this sounds like the adventures of movie actors dying in a motion picture, Clarksville Zombie Hunters brings this experience to life just 20 minutes from the APSU main campus, with several attractions designed for a variety of age groups, from a hayride to a pitch-black, fog-filled maze. Eric Yow and his wife have been running Zombie Hunters for four years now, and they said the turn-out has risen every year they host it.
“We have seen other groups host events like this, but we thought we could add so much more to it,” Eric Yow said. “We have added attractions due to our increased popularity.”
Though Yow hosts several events for Clarksville residents to participate in, the centerpiece of the whole experience is the zombie hunting itself. As part of the main attraction, participants receive a pump-action, 12-gauge paintball gun with a rail-mounted flashlight. Participants then embark on a path through the woods, where various zombies and other scares assault them every step of the way.
Clarksville Zombie Hunters encourages participant to treat the zombies actors like real, undead zombies.
“We have two rules at Zombie Hunters,” Yow said. “Shoot ’em in the face, and do not get bit.”
The staff assured visitors the actors do wear protective gear.
Getting prepared for their six-week season takes almost an entire year; Yow and his team are always searching for new ways to improve the attractions and working on potential new attractions.
For example, the batteries used in the rail-mounted flashlights are a constant source of stress in getting set up.
“So much of what we do at Zombie Hunters is research and development, seeing what works and what does not,” Yow said. For example, “We tested six of these flashlights, and they worked really well, so we purchased about 80 of them in bulk. We get them, and about half of them do not work. We are in the process of replacing them.”
Yow and his team donate a part of their earnings from Zombie Hunters to local charities and organizations. Last year they raised $26,000 for six different organizations. As part of the experience, members of the selected organizations dress up as zombies and volunteer as workers and/or targets for the paintball course.
“You help and support these charities by shooting them in the face,” Yow said.
One of these organizations, Christian County High School’s JROTC program, participated opening night Friday, Oct. 6. This is their second year participating in Zombie Hunters.
“[Zombie Hunters] is huge for us, because this is such a huge money-maker for us,” Major R. Reese Marlow, head of the school’s JROTC program, said. He said Zombie Hunters alone constitutes more than half of the program’s annual budget.
“The kids really love it,” Marlow said. “They do not view it as work.”
Yow and his team spend all year planning for the five or six weekends Zombie Hunters runs, and the Clarksville community has made it a popular and vital part of their Halloween activities. Children as young as three years old and people up to 83 years old equally take part in ridding Clarksville of zombies throughout the month of October, and participants join in on the festivities, knowing every paintball fired is another dollar donated to local organizations to better their communities.