ATA, IWLA Partner to Expand Youth Archery, Bowhunting, Bowfishing

ATA and IWLA are partnering to help increase awareness and youth participation in the outdoors through bowhunting, archery and bowfishing. (Photo: Camp Shenandoah)

Rare is the bowhunter, 3D shooter or traditional enthusiast who becomes interested in archery late in life. It happens, of course, but chances are good if you’re a bowhunter and know other bowhunters then the passion was sparked at an early age or in your teenage years.

My interest came during my teen years when my father started shooting a bow. Today, I like everything: bow, crossbow, rifle, revolver, muzzleloader, small game, big game, running dogs for raccoons, plinking and anything else. I don’t have enough time to do it as often as I’d like but when I do, I enjoy it. Dan Schmidt, Gordy Krahn, Mark Kayser and Steve Bartylla all are bowhunters who got the passion and never relented. Ted Nugent’s written about his youthful days of bowhunting and visiting with Fred Bear in Michigan.

When the spark starts early it usually, or quite often, never goes out. That’s what the Archery Trade Association and Izaak Walton League of America hope to do with a new partnership. They’re joining forces as part of a broader R3 movement to help invigorate interest in the outdoors.

If you tried archery years ago and gave it up, it’s not too late to get back into the game. Whether it’s deer hunting, 3D events, helping kids at a local shop with recurves on targets or whatever, there’s still time to help spark the next generation.

Here’s a press release from the Archery Trade Association about the partnership:

The Archery Trade Association has partnered with the Izaak Walton League of America to increase youth participation in the outdoors through archery, bowhunting and bowfishing.

ATA members constantly introduce people to archery and bowhunting through classes, programs and mentored opportunities, while the ATA’s outreach team works to grow archery and bowhunting worldwide. Now, thanks to the ATA’s collaborative work with the IWLA, even more youths will be able to enjoy the outdoors.

“By introducing archery, bowhunting and bowfishing to youths, women and families, IWLA and the ATA will grow archery and bowhunting participation, bring new customers into retail stores, and create a new customer base for our members,” said Emily Beach, ATA’s senior director of education and outreach. “I look forward to working closely with IWLA staff and members. Together, we can develop creative solutions to recruitment and retention challenges.”

The IWLA’s mission is to conserve, restore, and promote the sustainable use and enjoyment of our natural resources, including air, soil, woods, water and wildlife. The organization is a member of the nationwide Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, and works with state agencies to follow the national R3 plan to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and recreational shooters.

The IWLA conducted two chapter surveys to gauge the interests of its members. The organization found chapters are most interested in two things: expanding or adding archery facilities to engage youths and adults; and enhancing target and 3-D archery opportunities.

The surveys were part of the IWLA’s work to update its long-term strategic plan. Information from the surveys persuaded the organization to adapt two of its six goals to incorporate archery. One goal is to connect more people to conservation and outdoor recreation. Another goal is to engage more people in sustainable outdoor recreation. Archery complements those efforts.


The IWLA has members eager to teach archery, as well as members eager to learn about it and participate. The IWLA has 230 community-based chapters nationwide, and 120 of them have ranges and other shooting facilities. Therefore, it can easily provide places for beginning archers to safely experience shooting sports with guidance from experienced mentors.

The ATA’s educational programs are designed to increase archery participation and generate business for its members. ATA partnered with USA Archery in 2011 to create Explore Archery and revamp Level 1 and Level 2 instructor-certification courses. ATA’s outreach team also developed Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing as next-step programs. Both programs help instructors teach students basic skills for bowhunting and bowfishing. All such ATA programs mesh well with IWLA’s strategic plan.

 “As the League and our chapters work to foster new and expanded opportunities for Americans to enjoy archery, we are excited to partner with ATA,” said Scott Kovarovics, IWLA’s executive director. “ATA provides the expertise and resources that help our members enhance their skills as instructors. And our chapters benefit from technical assistance on range development and creative archery activities that excite and engage people of all ages.”

Getting youngsters interested in archery is a great way to help with competitive sports, local clubs, hunting and the retail industry while igniting a passion that can last for a lifetime. (Photo: Archery Trade Association)

The ATA will conduct its Archery Academy and workshops at several locations so IWLA members can receive USA Archery’s Level 2 archery instructor certification, gain access to ATA’s Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing materials, and learn how to participate in Archery Shooters AssociationScholastic 3-D Archery and National Field Archery Association leagues and tournaments. The specialized training and program materials help IWLA members safely and effectively teach archery to beginners, ensuring a positive experience and connection to the sport.

Jennifer Mazur, ATA’s director of archery and bowhunting programs, has worked with the IWLA on

other projects. She expects the partnership to succeed because the organizations have similar backgrounds and interests.

“The IWLA has a network of clubs that emphasize conservation, the outdoors and the shooting sports, particularly archery,” Mazur said. “The partnership is a natural fit. We’ve begun collaborating, and our work is already reaching new audiences.”

Kovarovics agrees. “We’re seeing the positive impacts of this partnership in a very short time,” he said. “More than 25 League members have been trained in two archery academies, and these members are going back to their communities and starting or expanding archery programs for the public. ATA is providing practical skills that translate into action. We look forward to building on this success throughout the year and in the future.”

With ATA’s advice, assistance and available resources, the IWLA will develop and implement its archery strategic plan to reach IWLA-member archers and bowhunters, as well as potential archery enthusiasts in the members’ communities. In turn, the IWLA will use ATA’s curriculum to introduce newcomers to archery, bowhunting and bowfishing.