Getting Kids Started in Traditional Archery
By: Dale Karch and Todd Smith
When you put a bow in a kid's hands,
you're keeping the spirit of traditional archery alive!
Strike while the iron's hot! For kids, archery is a world of adventure, power, and intrigue. They're naturally fascinated with traditional bows and arrows and their enthusiasm is refreshing. What happens when you offer to let them shoot a bow? First their eyes light up, quickly followed by a big smile. They look at their folks as if to say, "Really? Can I?", then back at you with that expectant expression of something good about to happen. You've seen it, we all have. Introduce as many kids as you can to our world of bows and arrows. It will enrich their lives, and help keep the spirit of traditional archery alive.
Here at 3Rivers, we've noticed at new trend with kids rediscovering bows and arrows. We're excited to see more and more young couples with kids looking for, and buying, starter kits, bows, arrows, gloves, tabs, quivers and all the other accessories. If we can introduce these youngsters to archery early on, chances are good that a high percentage will continue shooting all their lives. Fun for them and good for archery.
Before we go any further, we want to remind you, Safety First! Always stress, to both the parents and the kids that an adult must supervise all shooting of bows and arrows. Even though the smaller sets are called "toys", lightweight bows and arrows can cause injury if used incorrectly. Never aim at anything you don't want to shoot and don't shoot at anything you don't want to kill. Adult supervision is a must. Remind the adults of the up side. They get to share some quality time with their kids or grandkids. And who knows? Maybe they'll catch the archery bug too.
For all but the youngest archers, the basic set-up needs are the same. Bows, arrows, quivers, finger protection, armguards, etc. We'll review each category below.
Bows are the most fun so let's start with them. Selecting the right bow for the younger archer is fairly straightforward. The most convenient solution initially is a bow and arrow kit. At a minimum kits come with a bow and some arrows. Some kits include various accessories like a quiver, tab and armguard as well. Kit selection is limited and specific kits match specific age groups. For instance, the little suction-cupped, "Childs Archery Set", is just right for kids between the ages of three to four. Another popular set, the "1st Shot Archery Set", covers kids from four to seven. The "Lil' Indian Set" is suitable for ages seven to ten. And the "3Rivers Youth Archery Set" covers ages 10 to 18. It's easy; simply match the kid's age to the age range of the kit.
3Rivers Archery offers several different options in Youth Archery kits,
each made for specific age ranges.
The bow in the "Lil' Indian Set" is the "Sentry" and it pulls approx. 20#. It's a great little bow, solid fiberglass, nearly indestructible, and works for both left handed and right handed shooters. The "Titan" is another solid fiberglass bow for right and left-handed shooters. Its 25-30 pound pull makes it more suitable for kids in the 10-18 year age group. These bows are a very good way for parents to start their kids in archery, especially if they're not sure whether or not the kids will stick with it. Think about it, for less than the cost of a video game, they can get their kids off the couch and outside! Outside! It's the perfect place for a kid to play.
The Sentry and Titan youth bows provide an inexpensive
way for parents to introduce kids to archery.
When you reach the seven to ten year age bracket, there are more bows to choose from so finding a particular bow in a kit may not be possible. In this case, find the bow they like and match the rest of the accessories to them and their new bow.
Once you leave the basic solid fiberglass bows you enter the realm of nicer, wood and fiberglass laminated bows. These bows are built just like adult bows; they're just downsized for young or small-framed shooters. Our market has been in desperate need of decent bows for kids in the 20#-40# range for years at a retail price of less than $100.00. Greatree Archery and AIM Archery have been filling this void with offerings from Korea for several seasons now. They offer takedown recurves from 48" to 62" in weights from 20# to 40#. With an offering like that, these bows can be matched to "kids" from seven to seventy.
When we move into the next level of pricing, we see retail prices anywhere from $230.00 to $280.00. These prices are less than most adult bows, yet at this level the fit and finish is of the same quality as adult bows offered by the same companies. Some youth bows of note are: The "Rebel" recurve from Nirk Archery and the "X200" recurve and "Stick" longbow from Martin Archery. These bows are so nice that we find adults buying them for themselves all the time.
Many youth bows are of such high quality, adults use them as well.
Other than the ambidextrous entrance level fiberglass models, bows are designed to be shot either right handed or left handed. This is the time to determine which eye is the newcomer's dominant eye. We all have a dominant eye. To determine which eye is dominant, have the child stand face-on to a wall about ten feet away and with both eyes open, have them point at a particular spot, a clock for instance. While still pointing, have them close their left eye. Is their finger on the spot? If so, they're "right eye dominant" and should shoot right-handed if they can. If when they close their left eye their finger is not on the spot, have them open their left eye and close their right. If the finger is now on the spot, they are left eye dominant and should shoot left handed if possible.
When you step out of packaged kits and into individual bows, it's time to match the weight of the bow to the child. Find out if they've ever shot a bow before? Watch carefully as they draw. Take growth factor into consideration when fitting a bow to them. Make sure it's a little difficult to pull, but not so heavy as to make them struggle. You want them to be able to grow into the bow, but not to be so over bowed at the start that they develop bad form. Bad form is difficult to break. Pay close attention to how they shoot it, especially at the moment of release. Do they look comfortable? Did they look startled at the shot? How did the arrow fly? You can learn a lot in a few moments of watching them shoot a couple bows. Remember that as a child grows they get stronger. So, a standard 20# @ 28" bow might be perfect for them for many years. When drawing 22" the bow may only weigh about 10 pounds. As their draw length increases so does the weight of the bow. In effect the bow and the child are "growing" together. This means that one bow can last a kid for many years and then can always be handed down to an upcoming brother or sister. These traditional bows are much more versatile than many folks give them credit for. When this is explained to the adults, they're willingness to invest in one increases dramatically. Teach a kid to shoot; it'll make their day. It's a good investment of your time. By introducing our next generation to archery you're perpetuating our sport and ensuring a healthy 'crop' of new archers for the future.
For shooting their new bows all kids should be set up with finger and arm protection. Finger protection is available in three main categories; shooting gloves, finger tabs, and an excellent accessory called a "No Glove". A set of No-Gloves should be on every kid's bow. Most youngsters have a hard time getting used to shooting gloves and tabs at first and the No-Gloves are easy to use. They eliminate the distraction of learning how to shoot with gloves or tabs. No-Gloves stay with the bowstring, they're easy to use, and they're cheap. (As a side note, many adults use No-Gloves as well, and you'll find them on a high percentage of bow fishing set-ups.)
There are many options for finger protection in Youth Archery,
As they grow older and become used to shooting, the transition to shooting gloves and tabs is much easier. Thanks to companies like EW Bateman, Neet Products, and American Leathers, you can offer gloves and tabs downsized specifically for kids. EW Bateman offers a nice "Cub" calf-hair tab and a "Cub" glove for ages four through eight years. Neet's "Leather Youth Glove" takes over at about eight years and, depending on the size of the person involved, they can fit "kids" through 18 years and beyond. American Leathers offers a couple of "Little Shot Combo" sets consisting of both an armguard and a glove that can cover the ages of five through 12 years. Of course there comes a time when some kids need to shift into the adult gloves and tabs. Of course, 3Rivers always has a great selection in stock, making the transition easy and even fun!
When it comes to armguards, there are many to choose from. We find the leather models are the most popular. Who says kids don't have good taste? Armguards are very straightforward. For the younger kids, simple is better, like our single clip "Kids Diamond Armguard." As they grow, they can handle the more "adult" styles like our youth "Arrow" armguard with three attachment points. Adults often overlook armguards, but kids have a tendency to overextend their elbows into the path of the string and we all know what happens then. Some of us even have the bruises to show for it! One or two string slaps will convince most folks that an armguard is a necessary piece of equipment. After all, we don't want to scare the child away from shooting. We want it to be a fun experience.
A good youth armguard is important to help prevent string slap.
When it comes to arrows for kids, we recommend wood arrows. They're very reasonably priced, and since they're full length and painted in an assortment of bright colors, kids feel like they can pick their own personal favorite and separate themselves from everyone else. These wood arrows are fletched with real turkey feathers and not vanes, which is important when shooting off the shelf.
These youth arrows are perfect for kids who are just getting started in youth archery.
Now that they have arrows, they'll need a quiver to carry them in. In youth quivers the first decision is what kind of quiver to get. There are two basic styles, back quivers and belt quivers. Both are available in lower-cost vinyl and the back quivers are also produced in some classic leather versions.
For kids, the belt quiver is the most practical. It can clip to a belt or even directly to the waistband on a pair of pants. The arrows are easy to pull out and easy to get back in. Our most popular belt quiver is the "Mohican II" from EW Bateman. The two-tone look and handy belt clip make it a stylish choice for kids.
The Mohican II is a popular youth belt quiver.
Back quivers, on the other hand, offer the most atmosphere. Kids imagine themselves as Indians, Medieval Knights, Robin Hood, and, more recently, as elves like Legolas. Our most popular back quiver by far is the vinyl "Youth Back Quiver" from Wyandotte Leather. Its low price and availability has made this back quiver our best selling of all time. Honorable mention for leather back quivers goes to the "Lil' John" from Martin Archery. It carries the distinction of outselling all other youth leather back quivers that we've ever offered.
The Youth Back Quiver and Lil' John quiver are two bestselling back quivers.
As the late Howard Hill said, "Archery may not be the sport of kings, but it is definitely the king of sports." The time for introducing kids to the "king of sports" is now. Plant the seed of archery in as many kids as you can and our next generation of archers will be guaranteed. Traditional longbows and recurves are the logical choice. They're easy to shoot, easy to understand, and easy to get started with. Since kids can grow into a traditional bow, the "fit" will be good for quite a few years and there's always the added benefit of handing them down from generation to generation.
So, pull your kids away from the video games! Get 'em outside! And open up an entire new world to them! The rewarding, timeless, and exhilarating world of traditional archery!
Dale Karch & Todd Smith
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PO Box 517
Ashley IN 46705
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