Youth archers need a well-fitted bow and short, exciting practice sessions to get hooked on a lifetime of arrow flight. Here’s how to get them started in three easy steps.
As the father of twin seven-year-olds, I’m always looking for ways to get my girls involved in the things I love to do. One activity I thought would be particularly easy for them to get into was archery. Turns out, it wasn’t; at least not at first. The girls do love to fling some arrows, but it has taken some time and some tweaking to get them there.
For starters, I have a righty and a lefty, which presents a logistical problem with bows. Specifically, I’ve needed to buy two bows, which isn’t a big commitment with beginner’s bows, or opt for an ambidextrous option.
A bigger problem I ran into was managing the interests of two kids who, theoretically, should be starting at the same exact spot physically and mentally. If only that were true...
The reality I found with my daughters, and that most of us would find in trying to introduce any youngster to archery, is that it takes a loose plan and an open mind. There are many considerations that come into play that you simply won’t anticipate, but that’s okay. They are easy enough to take care once you’re aware of them.
No matter how rough it might get at first, the main goal is to encourage kids to enjoy the process of shooting arrows downrange. This obviously starts with proper, comfortable bows, but it also entails making target shooting fun and being aware of when they’re ready to move on to another activity. Here are three easy ways to introduce your kids to archery.
Whether you’re working with a kindergartener or a 12-year-old first-timer, you need to outfit them with a bow they can handle and one that fits them well. This is one of the reasons I recommend young kids start with a traditional recurve, as opposed to a compound.
A tradbow will allow them to draw exactly as far as they need to, which is important. Compounds have a set draw length, and although most of the new youth bows can be adjusted very easily, to first experience the flight of the arrow, it’s hard to beat a youth recurve.
Starting kids with a recurve:
Allows them to draw naturally
Helps build their muscles for archery
Develops muscle-memory for placing shots
For example, a youth recurve might top out at 30 pounds of draw weight and 25 inches of draw length, but a kid that only draws 22 inches and can only handle 20 pounds of draw weight can still shoot it easily. This is the kind of bow that will work for a youngster who is growing and will allow them to very easily understand the mechanics behind archery.
After a year or two of shooting with a traditional bow, a graduation to a youth compound is a simple transition. The important thing to remember is that no matter what bow you choose for your child, it has to fit and be comfortable to shoot. If it isn’t, the enjoyment factor will plummet and take any interest in archery with it.
Quick Tip: If you’re buying a youth bow, consider one that is easily adjustable in draw length and draw weight so that it will grow with your child.
If finding the right bow for your child seems like a daunting task, ask for help. Or more specifically, head to your nearest archery shop and have someone walk you through the bow choices. Most pro shops will spend plenty of time with a newcomer to get them outfitted with the right gear and shooting with proper form. The value of this kind of positive introduction is hard to overstate.
Shooting a bow is fun, until it isn’t. What I mean by this is that when your muscles are fresh and you’re excited about some range therapy, it’s a great way to spend some time. When muscle fatigue creeps in or the scenery doesn’t change for a while, the whole process becomes less fun.
For kids, this deterioration in enjoyment happens at a much faster pace. This means that you might set up the targets and get the equipment ready, only to have to take everything down and put the gear away after 10 minutes. Prepare yourself for short shooting sessions with your kids so that they don’t get burned out physically or mentally.
Quick Tip: There are lots of gently used youth bows for sale. Check with your local bow shop first, but Craigslist and eBay are also good sources. This is a great option for parents who aren’t sure if their child will really take to archery because the barrier to entry is so low.
Normal, block-style targets are fine for us adults who have had our sense of adventure dulled by paying taxes and living a cubicle life. For kids who are chock-full of imagination, however, 3D targets are the way to go. There are so many options available on the market that you can choose from typical critters, like deer or bear targets, to more exotic options, like dinosaurs and oversized mosquitoes.
I have a set of three rodent targets that my daughters absolutely love to fling arrows at. Even though they would never arrow a live prairie dog or a rabbit, they love the challenge of shooting at the small targets.
Quick Tip: Pay attention to your child’s interest and excitement level when shooting. If either wanes, end the session so that the youngster doesn’t get burned out.
Some of these 3D targets are pricey, so if you must opt for a simple block-style target consider a few upgrades. There are plenty of companies that make realistic, printed target faces that can be pinned to your target. This way your kids can shoot at zombies or play archery related games for very little investment.
Kids love shooting at a variety of targets, and you can even add in balloons or some level of competition to make it more engaging. Youngsters love challenges so long as they are doable, so get creative. And remember, no matter what type of targets they’re shooting at, keep it safe and always have a quality backstop in place so that errant arrows don’t fly where they aren’t supposed to.
Watching an arrow fly downrange is a simple pleasure in life that can be tied to a sense of responsibility and increased mental focus, both of which are great attributes to encourage in a child’s life. Just make sure to get them a bow that fits properly and be mindful of keeping shooting sessions should be short and enjoyable.
Do this, you’ll create an archer for life.
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About the Author: Tony J. Peterson has written hundreds of articles for over two dozen national and local publications. Although he covers topics related to all forms of hunting and fishing, his passion lies in do-it-yourself bowhunting for whitetail deer and western big game. Peterson is an accomplished outdoor photographer and currently serves as the Equipment Editor for Bowhunter magazine and Bowhunter TV.