KIDS ARCHERY 101 - BY TRACY BREEN
In the last five years, a plethora of movies have hit the big screen that portray archery in a positive light. The Hunger Games is by far the most popular movie series out there that has put archery front and center in today’s culture. Brave from Disney and others have also helped shed some light on how awesome the sport of archery can be. As a result, more kids are asking their parents if they can shoot a bow. John Schaffer from Schaffer Performance Archery in Minnesota has noticed an uptick in bow sales. Schaffer owns a pro shop and manufactures bow sights and arrow rests. “We have noticed many people bringing kids into the shop asking for a kids’ bow in the last few years. It is really cool that parents and kids are interested in the sport of archery,” Schaffer said. Getting started in archery is not like learning to play basketball. Some attention to detail is required. It is best if a child gets a quality bow and quality instruction. Below are a few tips to get a child started properly started in archery.
VISIT A PRO-SHOP
John Schaffer is quick to point out that if a parent is planning to purchase their child a bow, they should purchase a bow from an archery pro shop, not a box store. “When a person comes into a pro shop with a child, we spend a lot of time making sure they purchase a bow that fits them. We also make sure they are pulling the proper amount of weight,” said Schaffer. “I see many parents purchase a bow that doesn’t fit their child and the kid often ends up pulling too much weight so it is hard for them to pull back the bow. If a child can only pull 10 pounds, that’s fine. Eventually they will pull more weight. In the beginning, we want them only pulling what they can comfortably draw,” Schaffer explained.
PURCHASE A BOW A CHILD CAN GROW WITH
It is important to note when picking out a bow for a youngster that a bow is chosen that the kid can grow with. “Many companies including Mission Archery, PSE and others make bows that have adjustable draw weight and draw length so a kid can use the same bow for years as they grow.” Once you have a bow for your child trick it out in colored accessories from Pine Ridge Archery. “Kids all have a favorite color,” said Bychowski. “Tricking their bow out in all matching accessories makes shooting more fun for a kid.”
START THEM OFF CLOSE
When introducing a child to archery, Schaffer suggests starting them close to the target. “Because adults often shoot at 20 or 30 yards, many parents think their kids should be shooting at the same distance. Kids will have a hard time hitting the target at that distance when they are just starting out. I start every kid at five or ten feet. The goal early on is to just hit the target. I am not worried about accuracy. When they can consistently hit a target, I lengthen the distance between them and the target.” Schaffer also starts kids off shooting at balloons because kids love hearing the balloon pop when the arrow hits it. “The goal is to make archery fun and exciting and shooting at balloons does that,” Schaffer added.
BUY A TARGET
Once a child is set up, it is important that they shoot at home if possible. “We always encourage parents to get their kids a target so they can shoot in the backyard if it is legal where they live. Parents shouldn’t just purchase any target. There are youth targets on the market. Morrell Targets and others make targets that are built to be shot at with lightweight bows. It is really discouraging for a kid if they shoot at a target and the arrow bounces off the target. Arrows will not penetrate targets built for kids and the arrows will be easy to remove for the kids, which makes shooting fun. After a kid is pulling plenty of weight, buy them a few 3D targets for the backyard. Kids love shooting at animals. It also helps teach them about the anatomy of animals which they will need to know if they start bowhunting,” Schaffer noted.
TRY A LEAGUE OR A TOURNAMENT
Archery is just like any sport; the more a child shoots their bow, the more accurate they will become. “We have youth leagues in our store and it has become very popular. Children enjoy competition so kids are attracted to leagues,” Schaffer said. Brian Bychowski from Pine Ridge Archery has taken it one step further. His daughter, Elena shoots in tournaments all over the country and they both have a great time doing it. “The wonderful thing about archery is a child can quickly see the results of their hard work. My daughter loves to shoot competition. We never get too serious; we just have fun with it. There is no doubt that she will be bowhunting with me when she gets a little older. The goal right now is to make archery and tournaments fun,” Bychowski said.
Schaffer echoed what Bychowski said. “I tell parents they need to keep it fun. We never try to overload a kid with too much technical information when we start them out. We put a bow in their hand, teach them a little bit about proper form and technique, and let them shoot several arrows. Keeping it fun is a necessity and when it is fun, they will keep doing it.”
GET INVOLVED IN ARCHERY PROGRAMS
P.J. Perea from the NWTF knows all about keeping archery fun. The NWTF has partnered with N.A.S.P (The National Archery In The Schools Program) and Scholastic 3D Archery to promote archery to kids in school and after school. “These programs teach the sport of archery and show kids how much fun archery can be. The N.A.S.P. program gets kids started with archery while they are at school. The S3DA is a program to get kids into 3D archery. Of course, if you get kids into shooting 3D animals, eventually many of those kids are going to want to archery hunt which gets more hunters in the woods which is a big plus for hunting and the NWTF,” said Perea. “Getting kids involved in archery is a great thing all the way around. Archery is a sport anyone can participate in and many kids who start out just shooting for fun take up bowhunting.” Matt McPherson from Mathews Archery once told me the thing that makes archery cool is that a kid doesn’t have to be athletic to excel it. Many of us were not born to be baseball or football stars. Yet we can all excel in the sport of archery. If you have a child who needs a little confidence booster, put a bow in their hand and watch their face light up. Many kids who have grown up with a bow in their hand have gone on to be some of the best archers in the world. If you haven’t done so already, bring your child into a pro-shop and get them started on the right foot. The smile on their face when they see the first arrow hit the bullseye will be priceless.
Sidebar 1- PROPER SETUP AND TECHNIQUE
Some parents want their child to shoot a recurve or longbow like they see in the movies. Some parents want their child to use a compound bow, especially if the parent already owns a compound bow. Schaffer recommends a compound. “If a child is under the age of 6 years old, we start them on a Mathews Genesis bow without any sight or gadgets except a kisser button. If a child is over the age of 6, we have them start with a compound bow that has an adjustable draw weight and draw length. We set them up with a kisser button, a sight and a rest. This allows them to start learning proper form and shooting techniques right off the bat. A kisser button really helps a child learn how to shoot the same way, shot after shot. Learning on a traditional bow takes more time and they are much harder to pull back. A compound is typically a better choice for a child.”
BY TRACY BREEN