THE NEXT GENERATION.
We could hear the buck moving in the fading light of opening day. My younger brother at my side had assured me that his first arrow had hit its mark solid, but I felt that another one might be needed to finish the job without having to track at night. As we rounded the large bush we could see the buck 12 yards ahead, lying down with his head up.
Before Patrick could draw his bow, I whispered a warning to him; when this arrow hits the buck he will get a shot of adrenaline and may jump and run--be careful. Impatiently, Pat scoffed, drew like a practiced pro and slipped the string from his fingers. The shot sent the buck airborne, and my little brother retreating across two counties. After being run over during my brother's hasty retreat, I couldn't get back to my feet for fear that I would fall over again from laughter. Looking back on those days, I can't imagine what it would have been like to hunt if I hadn't had Pat to share my hunting adventures.
Today, Pat and I still look back and laugh at that first buck and the scare he gave us. The buck hangs proudly on my brothers wall at home and we can't imagine our lives without archery and bowhunting. Every year and every hunt it seems he thanks me for getting him started in bowhunting. Ironically it was his father, my step father, that took me on my first bowhunt.
Statistically, it appears that bowhunting's future is secure for the most part, but that is due to the grassroots efforts of archers and bowhunters reaching out and introducing the sport to family and friends. However, that does not mean that we can sit on our front porch sipping lemonade and just watch bowhunting grow with the corn. We all need to do our part to introduce archery to others. Formalized classes with trained instructors is, of course, the best way whenever possible, but if that isn't available, if you can shoot -- you can teach!
I have heard several different opinions on exactly what age is the right age to get a youngster started in archery. In my opinion, if they have an interest and are between the ages of two and 200 they are the proper age to get started. Before my brother Pat's first son was out of the hospital we were at the archery store discussing potential first bows! Unfortunately, Mom made us wait a couple more years.
Whatever age or size your new archer may be, make sure they start with equipment that will fit them. You are more likely to discourage them if they try your full poundage bow and can't pull it back, or have a draw length that is so long that they can't reach the letoff of the cams. Traditional bows, such as recurves or longbows are ideal for getting a new archer started. They increase in poundage throughout the draw cycle and will fit most archers' draw lengths. Be careful though, it is still easy to overbow your new archer and cause injury. It is always better to start with a bow that is too light than one that is too heavy.
Along the same lines as making sure the bow fits, make sure they have the proper safety gear. An arm guard is a must in the beginning as well as a thick finger tab, unless they are going to use a mechanical release. When getting women started try start them off with a chest protector. They are ten dollar items that could well decide whether or not your new bowhunter continues in the sport. Arm guards and chest protectors may not be something they will opt for later, especially in the field, but it can keep their initial experiences from being painful memories.
For kids under ten I would recommend a stick bow of about nine to 20 pounds. Even if they are eager and strong for their age, keep the weight low to reduce the risk of injury or developmental problems. After the age of ten or so you will have to select a bow on a case-by-case basis. Try to select equipment that will give your new archer room to grow in both draw length and poundage regardless of age. Most archers, especially fully-grown adults, will increase their draw length up to a full inch within the first six months after they start shooting. The primary reason being, as new archers start shooting and the muscles in the back stretch and develop the archer will relax into the shot allowing them to stretch out farther giving them a longer draw length then when they first started.
The classic debate of any archery range is sure to be whether the time-weathered traditional shooting of Fred Bear and Howard Hill is better or whether new archers should move directly into a new high tech bow with all of the bells and whistles. The choice is obvious and simple; what does your new student prefer. For a new shooter to be interested, they have to shoot the style that interests them. If a youngster sees Dad with a compound and is limited to a recurve, chances are he or she won't be very happy.
When you first start shooting put them close enough to the target to ensure success. They may not be impressed by the fact that they hit the target from ten yards or less, hut they won't be disappointed at having to spend most of their time searching for arrows either. During these first few rounds of close-distance shooting you can concentrate on form, helping them find a solid anchor and developing a smooth release. Once these goals have been achieved it is easier to explain that they are progressing much faster than you had expected and should move back to a distance a little more suited to their skill and talent. Instead of being belittled by the fact that archery is too hard or they are not good at it, they will come away with the feeling that archery is fun and they have some natural talent for it. At the same time, you have the opportunity to instill the basic elements of form to them in a fun, friendly environment.
TIME TO GO HUNTING
Most of the people that you are likely to introduce archery will already be interested in bowhunting making the transition an easy one. Set up a basic competency test-hit the paper plate six out of six times from twenty yards and you will be ready to sit a stand. Kids, of course, never seem to have a problem with the transition from backyard to hunting grounds. It is as about as hard as getting a two month old kitten to chase a piece of string: it's in the genes; they feel as if they were born to do it.
Some adults, especially women, may be another story though. Remember, you will have to work at their pace and level of comfort. Trying to force the issue will never accelerate their willingness to try bowhunting. Present the opportunity for them to start bowhunting, but don't push. When they are ready to try their first bowhunt, they will let you know.
Remember to keep it clean. I can remember my brother field dressing his first deer. He was so careful, making small precise little incisions stalling for the most part. He about lost his cookies when my cousin shoved his entire arm up into the chest cavity and yelled "Get a hold boy!" Today, looking back, it was quite funny and fortunately Pat had the sense of humor to roll along with it. While that was a lasting memory that made that first time special, it is probably a better idea not to make a first experience too messy. Let the new bowhunter enjoy the harvest and the fun. As they say, once you shoot the fun ends and the work begins. If you can take over the field dressing for a new hunter you'll probably leave a much better impression of their experience and increase the chances they will be with you next time you head into the woods.
I served with an Executive Officer in the Navy who used to preach, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." It's proved to be true in most areas of my life, and especially true when introducing a new person the sport of archery and bowhunting. First impression will be forever etched into their memory. It is like getting your first kiss, you just never forget, but it can be one of the greatest experiences of your life.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2001|
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