Written by Fred Eichler:
When I was a little kid my first bow was a small fiberglass recurve. I had a lot of fun with that old bow and with it I learned the basics of archery. It was a slow process. Even though Dad showed me the right way, I had to figure out for myself why you didn’t shoot it upside down or put the arrow on the other side of the shelf or why it wouldn’t shoot if one of the limbs hit something. It was really kind of a toss up whether I would learn to shoot the proper way, blow the bow up or hurt myself. Fortunately, I figured out that the guy that made that thing must know more than me and I started shooting it and having fun.
So naturally, when our boys showed an interest in archery we started them all out with little recurves and longbows. I’m no expert on how young is too young but our boys started out at three years old. In my experience it is best just to let them have fun. I would let our boys shoot balloons, dirt clods, 3-D targets, and tennis balls or just shoot across a meadow to see how far the arrows could go. I have found that with most kids, regimented shooting or practice takes the fun out of shooting really quickly. That‘s the great thing about shooting traditional bows. It is easy. Just a bow, a string and some arrows and they are set.
Some advantages of starting kids out with traditional bows are that they are cheaper, easier to learn, and one size fits all. For example, we have on old bear recurve that our seven year old can shoot and at his draw it is about ten pounds, our thirteen year old can shoot it and at his draw it is about 30 pounds and when our sixteen year old shoots it, he gets about 40 pounds out of it. That old bow is about fifty years old and what is neat, is it is the same bow their mom learned to shoot with. To keep myself out of hot water, I won’t mention how long ago that was!
One thing to always keep in mind is the safety factor, especially with the real young kids. We allowed our kids to keep their bows in their room but arrows were only doled out when they were outside at a safe place to shoot. Once they proved themselves to be responsible enough we let them keep their arrows and bow together. Another fun thing we do together with our kids is make arrows. It is also less expensive if you make your own arrows. We let our kids pick out different color fletching so they can personalize their arrows.
Our kids have grown up in a hunting family and they all wanted to hunt. We never pushed it on any of them, but because we eat everything we harvest the kids all learned respect for the animals and where food really comes from. Our kids started with frogs, rabbits, and squirrels and then graduated to turkey and big game. When we let them hunt with their traditional bows we use cut on impact two blade broadheads so they would get the best penetration out of their light bows. Broadheads are extremely dangerous and so we really put restrictions on when they could even be taken out of their quiver. I strongly advise strict supervision when kids are hunting because the excitement of seeing any animal can cause safety discussions to quickly be forgotten.
For shooting styles, I am a believer in showing kids different methods. I taught our kids the three fingers under and split finger method for finger placement. We also introduced them to the “No Gloves” which are the little rubber finger protectors that slip onto the string. We also introduced them to gloves and tabs and let them choose what they liked best. We taught them proper form but more than anything we have let them shoot how they want and try and offer advice when they are struggling or when they want to improve. I don’t know much about other kids but ours get bored real quickly when we start trying to get too much into the shooting lesson.
By allowing kids to have fun with interactive targets like balloons, cans, 3-D targets and stump shooting, I think they will be hooked for life by the joy of watching the arrow fly.
Hopefully, when they start getting good at it you won’t have to endure the nasty comments like I get. My favorite one is “I smoked you on that shot; I thought you were supposed to be good at this since you kinda hunt for a living”. Kids are great, aren’t they?! Have Fun, Fred