I relish the magic of the bowhunting woods so I love the fact archery is more popular than ever with America's youth. While some kids are focused on bowhunting alongside Mom and Dad, others are busy chalking up fun experiences through the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Of course, The Hunger Games series of books and movies also helps to keep archery centerstage. In helping my nephews, Andrew and Joey Mehall, catch the archery bug, here are the three things I learned as I strive to be the best possible mentor and fuel their passion for the sport.
1) Practice patience! Kids' attention spans are ever-changing. Sometimes my nephews only want to shoot for 10 minutes and then toss the football. On other days it's like pulling teeth to get them to put down their bows and wash up for dinner. I'm right there with them because I could spend all day reviewing their shooting fundamentals and sharing every tip I can think of, but I know Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say. If I'm still learning lessons in the bowhunting woods, how can I expect them to remember 25 things all at once? Keeping them focused on their shooting fundamentals—their stance, form, grip, and the "aim small, miss small" mantra—is the priority for now.
2) Keep it fun—as it should be! If kids aren't having fun the entire time they're flinging arrows, why would they want to continue? Sure, hitting bulls-eyes is great, but while safety comes first, at this stage the fun factor ranks second. Sometimes what's even more fun than hitting a bulls-eye is hitting--and popping--a balloon. Tape a few to their target and you'll see what I mean.
3) Sweat the small stuff! Attention to detail is a key to our bowhunting success--and to theirs. If you're not focusing on everything they're doing and making sure they're standing in the same position, using the same anchor point and releasing the arrow the same way every time, they could start developing a bad habit or two right under your nose. Good shooting comes from being consistent—standing, drawing, anchoring, gripping the bow and releasing the arrow the same way every time. This takes time--and lots of practice.
P.S.: Joey got his first deer, a 3-point buck, on Nov. 8 with his Mission MXB-360 crossbow. Andrew and the Mission MXB-Dagger crossbow are up next. Having the opportunity to get in on their first hunts is a blessing and the rewards are immense--for them and for me! And the cool thing about the crossbow option is that they aren't quite strong enough yet to pull enough weight with their Mission Menace and Craze compound bows so the crossbows get them into the game that much sooner!