I’m unsure what wild bug crawled into our son’s shirt this past autumn, but when he announced he’d like to shoot one of my bows and had an interest in deer hunting, I tried pretty hard to scratch that itch. He’s always been interested in mainstream sports, notably basketball and golf, and has never had much interest in hunting or shooting. We’ve been to the shooting range with some of my firearms, which he enjoyed. But I’ve never pushed. I’ve never said, “You’re coming with me today,” or, “You need to learn to do this because you’re going to be a hunter!”
By Alan Clemons
I always told him and his sister if they’re interested in something, I’d be glad to take them, show them, encourage them or whatever. But I wasn’t going to pressure them into anything. I also wasn’t going to label him “my hunting buddy” simply because of his gender and ignore any interests our daughter might have. She, by the way, is a pretty crack shot with the rifle and enjoyed the archery range but prefers dance. So, we’re all good.
Our son and I went to the nearest archery shop, which has an indoor range and selection of bows. It’s about five minutes from our house, so that’s pretty convenient. Good facility, product selection and folks, too. They picked out a Mission Craze, cranked it down a bit — remember, he’s a first-time shooter — and we went to the range.
Within five minutes, he was comfortable with the bow, had adjusted his stance and was feeling a little cocky even with nothing but a release and arrows. No sight, no peep or anything on the raw bow. At close range, confidence is a good thing for a newbie, so we upped the challenge: Hit that red, dime-sized sticker on the target.
Whap! He drilled it. We laughed, and he shot for another 10 minutes or so. We’ve been back since then and also have been shooting in the yard with my Block target, so it looks like another archer and, possibly, bowhunter, might be added to the ranks.
What are you doing this summer to stay in tune with your bow skills or get someone interested in archery? Shooting in the yard? Perhaps at a local range one or two times a week? Maybe competing in a 3-D league with fellow shooters? Many possibilities exist to stay in shape and, perhaps, get a family member or friend involved, even if they don’t pursue hunting.
If you’re a yard shooter, the first thing to consider is safety if you live in a neighborhood or have other houses nearby. A good target is critical, of course, but look past it at potential arrow flight. You don’t want an errant shot flying or skittering toward someone’s house or outbuildings. Distance might be a consider- ation, too. You might be limited to 10- to 20-yard shots, so concentrate on your form, breathing and release.
Range and 3-D leagues offer great competition, camaraderie and the chance to practice on targets at various distances. Check into your state bowhunting association to see if they have leagues. Most do, some of them with regional competitions leading to a state championship. An online search should provide information on other associations, competitions and ranges near your home. Most provide different age levels for competition, so your youngster, wife or girlfriend might be less skittish about competing against the me if they have classifications for themselves.
As for equipment, new shooters diving in headfirst can get dizzy with the array of choices for bows, arrows, releases and gear. This is where your archery shop or friends come into play. Ask for advice, check into used bows that might not hit the budget too sharply, and go with your instincts. If your young or new shooter progresses well and wants better equipment, decide what you should do. Plunking down several hundred bucks for all new gear, only to have a youngster or spouse decide they’re not interested later, means you might have to take a hit on your investment. Start slowly and build up, just like with practice.
Summer is a great time to keep your mind and body in tune with your bow, whether you’re a new shooter or an old timer. Practice smartly, have fun and get ready for the season that will be here in just a few months.
— Alan Clemons is D&DH’s Online Managing editor.
Expert Advice From The Top Bowhunting Minds!
Want to know how you can become better bow shot, improve your consistency, increase your range, what gear will make you more effective and how to avoid bowhunting’s most common bugaboos?
Deer & Deer Hunting’s Guide to Better Bowhunting is packed with the best tips and strategies from our No. 1 archery expert. Inside you’ll find shooting advice, insights on critical gear, bowhunting techniques and tons of helpful hints for in-the-field archery success.
This cutting-edge information is presented in a straightforward, no-nonsense, quick-hitting guide that is easy to digest and understand whether you are a beginner or seasoned archery veteran. This guide highlights all the little things archers can do to get more out of their archery gear, and it offers real-world examples of how the latest products can help you in the woods.