July 01, 2007
"The spirit of the bow dwells in the heart of all young men."
The famous Apache War Chief, Geronimo, was right about the spirit of the bow and kids. I would add young women to his quote as well. Kids just love to shoot a bow and arrow. Once they see an arrow, powered by their own efforts, fly to the target, they are hooked.
My grandkids are good examples of the interest young people possess for archery. Kids learn fast. Once they develop the motor skills needed to shoot a simple kid's bow they progress amazingly well. One afternoon this spring, five year old Cade Pestrue learned to shoot a bow. After an hour or so he was drawing, releasing and (sometimes) hitting the target right along with his older sister and brother. Seven-year-old Chloe seems to have natural ability for sports and I was proud to see her easily pulling arrows from her back quiver, nocking them on the string properly and shooting them with consistency. Chance is nine years old. He has been shooting a bow pretty well for a few years. Now he is interested in "more power" and "to shoot a bird or small game animal" with his bow. "How old do you have to be to go bowhunting?" he asked.
Here are my suggestions for starting kids in archery:
1) Use kid sized archery equipment. Make sure the bow is light enough that the child doesn't struggle with it. Garage sales are great places to pick up kid's bows. Buy or make short, light arrows. They must "stick" in the target for the child to enjoy shooting. Traditional bows, recurves and longbows, work well for kids because they can be shot from any draw length. As the child grows, he will pull the bow farther. The bow sort of grows up with the kid. I keep a box of kid sized shooting gloves and armguards for them to choose from to protect tender skin.
2) Teach them safe shooting. Teach them, by word and example, safe shooting habits. No one goes across the line until all shooting is over. Never stand behind someone who is pulling arrows from a target. Always keep a nocked arrow pointed downrange, etc. Always have adult supervision present.
3) Coach them on the basics of proper archery form. But, don't nag on it! Let the child develop a form that works best for them. A little help goes a long way with a child. They can worry about the fine points of archery form later, if they are interested.
4) Keep it simple. Just let them enjoy shooting arrows in a safe manner. Let them develop their own methods of drawing the bow and aiming. Let them learn. The complicated stuff can come later.
5) Keep it fun. Repetition can get tedious in any sport. To keep archery fun, change targets often, and shoot from different distances. Find a safe, open area and let them see how far they can shoot an arrow, or try to land an arrow in a circle on the ground some distance away. There are many archery games to play; just keep it fun. Remember, no nagging about their form. It's better to encourage them to try it a "better" way. Also, don't shoot too long. At the first sign of fatigue, or finger pain, stop shooting for the day.
With today's more urban population, getting, and keeping, young people involved in outdoor sports is something we need to pursue. Youth archery programs are made available by many organizations.
• The Boy Scouts of America offers archery training. Developed in 1911, Archery Merit Badge has always ranked within the top 10 merit badges earned by Boy Scouts each year. It teaches not only shooting but an understanding of archery equipment and a "hands on" approach to making and maintaining it. Contact your local Boy Scout Troop for more information.
• Compton Traditional Bowhunters teaches youth archery and has donated hundreds of bows, with arrows and shooting gloves, to various clubs, organizations and individuals. A youth shooting class is held each year at their Rendezvous held near Berrien Springs, MI. Contact Compton Traditional Bowhunters, P.O. Box 191267, Boise, ID 83719. Or call 208-562-0488.
• The Professional Bowhunter's Society has a Young Bowhunter's Program, headed up by Jerrod Feiner and Blake Fisher that encourages youth involvement. PBS believes the future of bowhunting lies within this new program. Jarrod has been quoted, "The Young Bowhunter's Program is an excellent way for young people without hunting mentors to get involved with the sport". Contact Professional Bowhunter's Society, Young Bowhunter's program, P.O. Box 246, Terrell, NC 28682. Or call 704-664-2534.
• Michigan Traditional Bowhunters encourage youth involvement in archery by hosting a free, kid's shooting area at their Jamboree, held near Grayling, Michigan each summer on the last weekend in June. Also, youth 12 and under are allowed to shoot the archery courses for free with adult supervision. Contact MTB, P.O. Box 137, Dundee, MI 48131-0137 or call, MTB President, Keith Dentel, 419-476-1813.
An afternoon of archery with my grandkids is as much fun for me as it is for them. I enjoy seeing their progress, hearing their excuses when they miss and sharing their joy when they hit. We don't keep score, but I can see the competition developing as their skills improve. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Oh, I just remembered, I need to go make some more kid's arrows.n