Archery is a great outdoor sport that you can teach to children, and if they like it, it is an activity they can do throughout their youth and adulthood.
You can start kids shooting at four or five years of age but don’t expect great results until they have developed more coordination skills and physical abilities. You will start seeing results at about age six or eight.
Here are some tips to consider if you want your son or daughter to get involved in this great sport.
- Keep the draw weights down. Bows for kids–whether beginners or intermediates–must be easy to pull.
- Start with a sight, so the young archer can concentrate on form not aiming. Use just a single pin as a sight. Later on, you can put a string peep sight on if they want.
- Make sure they have a good arm guard. Many a beginner hasn’t put down a bow for good after they’ve received a good string slap on the arm. Even if string slap doesn’t discourage the beginner, it will definitely affect the aiming process.
- Forget about fancy rests and overdraws, keep the equipment essential and practical at first.
- Start them out shooting with their fingers. Get a good tab or finger glove to develop the control they will need for shooting a bow. You can introduce a release later.
- Buy good quality equipment they can add to over the years as they develop. Encourage them to shoot quality arrows. Whether you choose to shoot aluminum, cedar shaft, or carbon arrows, all companies make cost-effective introductory arrows for all ages and all types of bows.
- Make target practice fun by adding balloons to the targets and shooting “bean bag” targets so kids can pull out their own arrows easily. Styrofoam targets work well, but I prefer the 3-D targets from Mackenzie or Delta. They are more lifelike and beginners seem to concentrate more on the center of the target than they do a simple bullseye.
- Offer only words of encouragement and not criticism.
- Don’t allow shooting unless it is under your supervision.
- Keep it short and sweet. Kids have a short attention span and practice becomes work. If they become bored or seem to have difficulty hitting the target, stop and pick it up another day.
- Once kids show an ongoing interest in archery, you can start setting up situations that make the target practice more challenging: introduce contests to see who gets to wash the dishes, or set up a mock hunt.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Any archer who plans to go hunting–whether you are a seasoned pro or a neophyte–must practice in the off-season, whether you do so on a range or in the woods.
I like to make my practice as close to a real hunt as possible.
I select a good tree in the woods that is close to deer trails and put my treestand in it–that way I can simulate where and when I will be hunting in the fall. I also dress in my camouflage hunting clothing to get used to the weight and the movement restrictions. In the winter you will probably dress a little heavier than the fall, so restrictions are important to notice and practice for.
I also practice with the headnet I’ll wear hunting.
Once I have my treestand in place and I am dressed for the mock hunt, I then put out my targets and practice, practice, practice. I like to simulate the hunt by slowly pulling back on the bow and holding at full draw, using my pin sights to zero in on the targets before I let the arrow go.
Set your 3-D targets up in various locations–including behind trees and brush so the target simulates the actual hunt. This type of practice will help you to aim down on your deer this fall, as well as build muscle and breathing that are critical when you hunt. A little practice in the morning and again in the evening will help you with your success this coming season.
Above all, keep the target practice safe, fun, and enjoyable.