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Axe throwing is a fun night out and more and more are popping up around the Garden State. You’ll have lots of laughs as you try to hit the target, or you can challenge your crew to some friendly competition.

“I’ve noticed people want to do stuff but they’re kind of limited to … dinner, drinks, movies and bowling,” said Mark Milan, owner and managing partner of Stumpy’s Hatchet House in Green Brook, which is the second Stumpy’s in the country and is approaching its fifth anniversary. “[Axe throwing] is about being social and bringing friends and family together.”

Most axe-throwing places are designed as playgrounds for adults, so you can spend the evening playing other games like giant Connect 4, human bumper balls, paintball, virtual reality games or Jenga. “It’s an experience of its own,” Milan said. “In the culture of toughness we’re in … you can master a new skill, take out some of your aggression, or do something active without being a serious athlete. … You’re throwing hatchets here but we’re selling an experience.”

If you’re a first-timer, here are 10 things you should know before you go.

1. It’s Not as Hard as It Looks

Yes, there is some level of physical activity and strength needed to throw an axe, but you don’t necessarily need to be Jason Momoa to be a pro. If you stand in the right position and listen to the directions, you’ll find that it’s easy to throw – but maybe not as easy to stick the target. Sometimes the head of the axe hits first, other times the handle does – sometimes you shoot too high or throw too hard. No matter how many times you throw, there’s always a thrill when you hit the bullseyes dead center (and a bigger thrill when you get to ring the bell, so everyone knows you’re a winner). The hatchet only weighs about 2.5 pounds so you shouldn’t be too sore the next day.

2. Someone Is There to Help You

A trained professional will give you tips on how to hold and throw the axe. They’ll show you where to stand, what your stance should be, how to hold the axe overhead and how to follow through. They’ll offer tips on moving closer or further away depending on what part of your axe hits the target, and they’ll be there to cheer you on when you hit the center. Make sure you listen to the instructions; you don’t want to do trick shots or close your eyes or anything out of the ordinary because it’s dangerous. And a note to men: Milan says the guys of the group typically don’t pay attention to the lesson until they get schooled by the girls who are very attentive, and then the competition is on!

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3. Dress for the Activity

Dress for comfort and open-toed shoes are a definite no-no. Definitely wear sneakers or low flats.

4. Who Can Join the Party

If you have a need to burn off some energy, get out your anger or laugh a lot with your friends, axe throwing is for you. Most axe-throwing centers want you to be 18 or older to throw, but some will let teens 13 and older play on certain nights. Check the guidelines wherever you’re going before you round up a group of kids.

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5. Reenergize with Some Snacks

Most locations let you bring in your own food and drinks. Of course, no one should be inebriated while handling a sharp and dangerous object like a hatchet. Finger foods and sandwiches, chips and dips or even mini charcuterie boards are good options. Some spots even have menus of local restaurants so you can order in. If you’re celebrating, don’t forget to bring the cake. Many people bring decorations, balloons and candles to set the tone for a birthday.

6. Come Back Again and Again

Some hatchet houses have leagues that make for great practice nights, friendly competition and something to look forward to after work. You can join an adult league or a youth league. Some even have cornhole leagues as well.

STAFF PHOTO / Ring the bell when you get a bullseye.

7. What If You Can’t Make it Out

If you can’t make it in person, or if you want to practice at home, some retailers sell home versions of (very safe) axe-throwing games. Set it up in a spacious living room (without breakables) or out in the backyard. You’ll be ready for your next time out!

Here are some spots around the state where you can get your hatchet throwing on!

Axehole’s Hatchet House New Jersey: Pompton Lakes

Battle of the Axes: Williamstown

Bury the Hatchet: Bloomfield/Montclair, Cherry Hill, Freehold, Matawan/Old Bridge, Paramus, Princeton, Toms River, Woodbridge

Chopper’s Hatchet House: Cherry Hill

The Hack Shack: Passaic

Stumpy’s Hatchet House: Delran, Eatontown, Fairfield, Green Brook, Princeton, Upper Saddle River

You can also go axe throwing at larger entertainment centers, such as Supercharged in Edison or Adventure Crossing in Jackson. Those use laser screens instead of wooden boards to track your points.

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