I’ve never met a young person who doesn’t like archery. No doubt, some are more enthusiastic than others, but virtually every youth I know, is intrigued with the challenge. Whether they were introduced at a summer camp, or have friends or parents who bow hunt, there’s just something about archery that draws them in.
With Christmas fast approaching, and winter on its way, there’s no better time to put a bow in your youngster’s hand and get them shooting. Here are a few tips for introducing kids to archery and bowhunting.
It’s rare to meet a young person who doesn’t like archery.
Easy Does It
Without exception, the number one mistake I see parents make, is pushing to hard. In my home, my wife and I bow hunt, a lot. We live the archery scene 365 days a year and we hunt every moment we can from late August through to December, and then again during the spring seasons for turkey and bear as well. Both of our daughters have grown up in this environment. We introduced them to archery and bowhunting in the field, at the age of four, but because they were immersed in it, we didn’t want to force it on them. In turn, it’s actually taken them until their teens to show a real interest. Now it’s come full circle and our oldest especially, has become intrigued with bowhunting.
Choose an Age-Appropriate Bow
With Christmas fast approaching, there’s no better time to consider putting a bow under the tree. Beware though, you’ll want to make sure that the one you choose is age- and size-appropriate. The biggest challenge you’ll face is draw weight and draw length.
Most manufacturers make youth bows. Some offer more selection than others, but think about introducing really young children to archery with a lightweight recurve or cam bow – something with an 4-to-10-pound draw weight, depending on their age and stature. Bear Archery is one company that offers a diverse selection of different kids and youth bows and bow sets. A friend of mine picked up a Bear Archery Spark Youth Bow Set for his 5-year-old. It includes two arrows, an armguard, a quiver, and it’s recommended for ages 5 to 10. Really, its an ideal little starter set. His son, now 6 years of age, is shoots an older PSE Mini Burner Youth Bow. He needs another year to grow into the minimum draw length, but he handles it extremely well. The beauty with this one, is that draw length can be adjusted from 16-inches to 26.5 inches. And get this, depending on the draw length, the draw weight adjusts from as little as four-pounds all the way up to 40-pounds. Both of my kids shot this bow when they were little and I can tell you its definitely one of the most versatile youth options on the market today.
Have Them ‘Fitted’
Kids come in all shapes and sizes just like adults, so having them properly ‘fitted’ before you put them into a bow is key. Recognizing that this isn’t always possible, the reality is that you may have to get them going through the motions with a bow that’s maybe on the bigger size in the interim, but as they grow older and bigger, you should be able to slide them into a properly fitting bow. What I mean by this is one in which the draw length is set perfectly. Only by doing this will you help them develop proper form and develop good shooting skills. With this, accuracy will follow. Also, be sure to get them pulling a suitable draw weight. If the bow is set too heavy, or too light, they’ll just get frustrated.
Youth bow sets, particularly for those 5 years of age and younger, are inexpensive and lightweight.
Teaching proper skill progression, correct form, and the biomechanics of archery will set them up for success. Most archery shops offer lessens. I highly recommend enrolling youngsters in lessens so that they can learn the correct way to shoot. Certified instructors are always preferred. Teaching them how to draw, anchor, aim, release, and follow-through with their shot is key.
I can’t stress safety enough. Anytime we’re shooting a projectile, there is a safety risk. Teach kids from the get go, to only nock an arrow, draw, aim, and release when its safe to do so. Teach them to acknowledge their target and respect the space of other archers. At indoor ranges, that usually means minding the shooting line, aiming only down range, and hanging up their bow in designated areas when its time to collect arrows downrange.
If your youngster is interested in bow hunting, consider mounting a stand a few feet off the ground for them to practice shooting from.
This same friend I mentioned above, set up a mini-treestand in his yard. The base is set at five-feet – a perfect height for his little ones to practice climbing the sticks and shooting from a modified elevated position. Again though, safety should be a priority. Adult supervision with younger children is imperative. A variety of kids’ full-body safety harnesses can be purchased from companies like Muddy Outdoors and Hunter Safety System.
Indoor Range Time
With winter upon us, indoor range time may be most practical during the colder months. Indoor archery ranges can be a lot of fun, with many offering youth events. The really nice thing about shooting indoors is the fixed distances. Some have 10, 20, 30 and further fixed target butts, but the standard distance with many is 20 yards. Archery should always be fun. To keep things interesting for smaller kids, consider hanging balloons for your young person to shoot at. There’s nothing like that visual and audible response when they hit their target and it pops.
Once kids get some experience, whether its just for recreational shooting or for competition, the best practice opportunities you can give them will be at the 3D range. Most clubs are affiliated with state or provincial archery associations. In turn, they have leagues and 3D competitions. These are great opportunities for kids to get involved and hone their archery skills. Furthermore, as far as bowhunting goes, nothing compares to shooting at a life-size deer, hog, turkey, or other target.
The 3D range is a great place to teach kids to shoot safely, and help them to understand the anatomy of game animals.
Hunting with a Bow
Shooting a bow at a static target is one thing, but arming arrows with a lethal broadhead is an entirely different game. If your young person is showing interest in hunting, be sure to do it the right way. It is important to incorporate a few fundamental things as they take this next step. Always stress safety and be sure to educate them on the anatomy of the animal they will be bow hunting. I always recommend having an adult accompany a young person in a blind or a stand when they experience their first hunts. Help them to understand limits and opportunities, including when to draw and where to aim for proper shot placement to ensure a quick kill.