Monday, November 30, 2009

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Part 2 – Archery

…this doesn’t have to be true or even a threat this holiday season, if you’re considering getting your child or grandchild a bow and arrow. The best advice I can give you on buying your first bow is DO NOT buy a used bow from a neighbor, pawn shop or online, unless you know exactly what you’re getting and why. When you buy a bow for your youngster, you will need follow-up help. Ask yourself, will this vendor (online or otherwise) be able to provide me with expert advice after the sale? You see, bows and arrows are like shoes; they either fit or they don’t, and when they do fit, they are outgrown over a relatively short period. You can save a lot of money and heart ache, if you get your child fitted for a bow from someone who knows what they’re doing – a professional. The wrong size or improperly fitted bow may very likely cause your lad to become frustrated or discouraged and not enjoy shooting at all.

Things you need to know to buy your first bow. This is very simplified, but is a good enough explanation to help you make an intelligent decision. Notice I have not mentioned a compound or a traditional bow yet. I will.

Bow size: Your child has a wingspan, finger tip to finger tip with arms outstretched. Take that number in inches, and divide by 2.5 Example – Billy has a wingspan of 48 inches. 48 divided by 2.5 equals a draw length of 19.2 (or 20) inches. Always round up. A knowledgeable bowman will measure or ask for the draw length from the get-go. This measurement will affect what size bow you get, and the arrows you buy.

Bow Poundage: If a bow is a “20 pounds”, that means it requires 20 pounds of force to pull back. In my experience, the average eight year old child can draw back 15 to 25 pounds. In five shooting sessions, even over one week, that child’s strength and technique can increase to the point where even the lightest bow is becoming less challenging. Keep your new shooter challenged, but not overly so.

Compound verses traditional: Traditional bows include recurve and long bows. Compound bows have the wheels on each tip. Training Wheels! Some of us joke (tee hee hee). There is much controversy out there on which one to buy. Debates go on with this topic just as much as religion or politics. As a rule, in my humble opinion, traditional bows help reinforce better technique, where compound bows will help a kid hit the bulls-eye quicker. The reason this is so, is because most new compound bows come with sights similar to a gun, and the shooter no longer is using his/her instincts to aim the bow. These sights act as a crutch for some. Traditional bows will be useful over a broad draw length range, compound bows are not, BUT most of the major manufacturers are building bows that have an adjustable draw length over a range. Check your vendor for this. (Photo caption: the Genesis bow, by Matthews pictured is one of many fine bows to teach introductory archery in programs such as NASP. Even though it has wheels, it has the feel and characteristics of a traditional.)

As I mention in Part 1 of this series, get to know groups in your community who teach the sport and can help your child learn the fundamentals from the beginning. A good archery coach will immediately start teaching you and your shooter safety and the Nine, Ten or Eleven (depending on the organization) Steps to the 10 Ring.

Archery is more than just for fun. It can train that future bow hunter or next Olympian, but it also can potentially getting some kids in serious trouble. Adult supervision is always required for kids shooting bows, not just as a good precaution but in some cases, it is the law. Be Aware - modern bows and arrows, even the least expensive ones can easily kill a domestic pet or cause serious property damage. On the flip side again, shooting successfully requires a child to take multiple, specific steps in order, the exact same way, every time, time and time again. Similarly to learning to play a piano, the steps required in shooting can help a child scholastically, and build self confidence unlike many other activities. Make archery a family activity that you each can use to make memories for a lifetime.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!” Part 1 – Air Rifles

…this doesn’t have to be true or even a threat this holiday season, if you’re considering getting your child or grandchild an air rifle. When I say “air rifle,” this also includes the whole family of pneumatic firearms, which also take in pellet and BB guns. The first and foremost safety rule is, Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction. If this were the only rule that people followed, there would never be an accident! Also see my blog, Oops, Sorry About Your Cat.

There are many companies out there that market and sell air rifles, the primary ones most advertized include Crosman , Daisy and Gamo. Within those companies, you have probably a hundred to choose from, ranging from $30 to well over $500, but be sure of this – all of these companies make fine equipment. Which one to buy? That’s a great question, but to answer it you need to ask yourself why you are buying the rifle for your youngster?

Air rifles are for competition, training, hunting, recreational plinking, and for potentially getting some kids in deep trouble. Adult supervision is always required for kids shooting air rifles, not just as a good precaution but in some cases, it is the law. Be Aware - modern air rifles, even the least expensive ones can easily kill a domestic pet or cause serious property damage.

Now to the point of really helping you to buy the right one for your young Olympian or hunter to be… 1) do your research before you buy. Each of the companies I mention have very informative web pages, and may give you a discount if your child belongs to a bona-fide youth shooting sports program. 2) Look around locally for youth programs such as scouts or 4-H. They can provide shooting opportunities for your child with air rifles and some of them may allow you to try some of their guns prior to purchase, or inform you of special purchasing options to save you money. In addition, they will more than likely host or attend competitive events which may require a specific gun, or one with special requirements. 3) I would consider this most important – consider this an opportunity to have a fun, safe, healthy outdoor hobby with your young family member so as to make memories and establish safe habits for a life time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Save Those Turkey Bones!

Jeff “Jesse” James Owner/Publisher of Jesse's Hunting and Outdoors gives us great "how to" plans on making a wing bone yelper call, and how to use it. You gotta check it out. I've built one from left over turkey-day bones, and it's a fun project that works great! First time I used it for kicks out in the woods, I called some up. If you start now, you'll be done by weekend's end. Thanks Jesse!

Oops, Sorry About Your Cat

It is Thanksgivng Day. One of the nicest privileges about being a home owner, and a shooting sports enthusiast is being able to shoot in your own back yard - if you can. Today would be a good day to start. I don’t know what it is, but shooting in your very own yard rivals the pleasure of seeing shrubs you just put in, grass freshly cut or barbequing on the grill. It gives the homeowner, especially men I believe, a sense of ownership and master of his domain.

I’m not talking about hunting or shooting high power rifles, for most of us that’s simply unfeasible because of the usual rules of suburbia and the dreaded HOA bylaws some of us agreed to. What I am talking about is the tamer, “gentlemanly” or at least quiet sports of archery, air rifle or even air-soft marksmanship. Keeping a bow or a pellet gun and a target in the spare bedroom or out in the garage handy makes it easier. Set up your situation so that you can step out or even better – grab your child from in front of the video game or your sweetie, and take them outside with you. After your domestic shooting range is set up, you can be outside and shooting within just a few minutes. This will allow you to kill two or more birds with one stone (not literally) – you can practice one of your favorite sports, perfect your skills, and spend some quality time with one of your favorite family members. Why wait until your next trip to the gun range to teach firearms handling to your family? You don’t own a gun or bow suitable for short range, quiet fun? If you call your local gun or archery shop, they can probably get you some backyard-suitable equipment for a c-note or less. You don’t have enough room? All one needs for a backyard range is five to ten yards with a safe area behind and to the sides.

Be sure to follow all safety guidelines, especially the 3 Always of Firearm Safety, the 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety, and local your ordinances. Be courteous of your neighbors, and don’t shoot the little birdies. Remember some of these most important rules of backyard marksmanship are : 1) keep the firearm (gun or bow) pointed in a safe direction, 2) stay unloaded until pointing at the target, and 3) keep your finger(s) off the trigger (or string) until your sights are lined up and you’re ready to shoot, 4) be sure of your target and what is beyond, and last but not least be sure to use all safety equipment, especially eye protection. For more safety information contact a local gun shop, firearms or hunter safety instructor or go to the education sections of the National Rifle Association or the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Note from the range...Instant recognition! Nothing beats a target that gives you instant recognition of a hit, such as a brand new clay (skeet) target or a clanging silhouette, aka sillywets by those old muzzleloading shooters!

Sneaky Prophylactic Education

Talk about perking the ears up on the administration! Sneaky Prophylactic Education in short, in this context, is using shooting sports as the hook to grab the child’s attention, so as to be able to impart knowledge, modify behavior, and ultimately touch the life of the youngster to help them grow into a responsible caring adult. My old friend Dr. Ron Howard of Texas A&M explains it well:

I think you've heard several things. When most youth programs go out to work with shooting, what they are doing is sneaky prophylactic education.

I want you to understand what I mean. Prophylactic means preventative. Our objective through 4-H is to educate the kid. It's sneaky because we sell all of the educational package with fun. When it comes to those parents, it's doubly sneaky prophylactic education because they think that they must be there because only the kid is there.

They don't know that we're going to recruit them and put them to work at the same time. They don't know that we're going to teach them the same stuff that the kids are being taught and therefore try to recruit them as well. Being a spectator stinks.
- excerpt taken from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Reaching Out to Existing Youth Organizations, 2005 by Dr. Ron Howard, Jr. Extension 4-H and Youth Development Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

Make a difference in the life of a kid by taking them outdoors. They’ll benefit on many levels.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Upholding Our 2nd Amendment, One Child at a Time

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. – The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted on December 15, 1791.

For those of you teaching kids like me in the shooting sports, remember that with every child you reach you are doing something for the greater good of this nation. Have you actually considered your ownership and possession of firearms a right and not a privilege? I must admit, I usually consider it the other way around – even though I know different. As a school child, I remember my teachers talking about our freedoms of religion and speech, but not once did one of them talk about our right to bear arms. Why not do you suppose? Typically those of us in the shooting sports circles talk about it freely among our friends, but perhaps not in the politically correct circles we are sometimes required to associate in. If we spoke about it more in public, the fear is being considered one of those “extremist wackos” probably. What a shame. The next time you teach our youth how to safely handle a firearm; I challenge you to not be shy in explaining to the kids, in terms they can understand that this is one of the rights our founding fathers created for us, that we need to protect.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Professional Shooter

I get paid to see that kids get a safe, fun and rewarding experience in the shooting sports. I guess by that definition of my job, you could say that I’m a professional shooting instructor. Technically its true, but something about the statement seems false. Perhaps it’s too good to be true. Don’t get me wrong, its not like I’m out there teaching defensive tactics or how to put a sniper round through the target at 1000 meters. It’s more like taking a covey of 8 year olds and making sure they don’t shoot each other’s eye out. I’m joking. It’s more than that. It is about fulfilling a kids basic need to squeeze the trigger or release the bow string to let that projectile fly, just like the heros they sometimes imagine to be. At the same time, I might be able to influence the child into becoming a better citizen or someday making wiser choices. Very rewarding.

Last night I skipped out on archery class so that I could attend the Jr. Air Rifle Class up North, which meets the same time. Although I was reluctant to miss archery, it was a good thing. The clubs are supposed to be run by volunteers, and when I’m there the leader lets me take over. I need to help them grow in independence, relying on the parents to step in. I also had to miss seeing my daughter shoot, but that's a good thing sometimes too as she acts differently when I watch. Reports of the meeting were that although things did not go as smoothly as usual, it was a good night anyway.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This is the my first posting...

I call myself a “regular Joe” because I think I am fairly typical of a lot of guys out there.

I’m the grandson of immigrants along with my five siblings, the child of parents growing up in suburbia, a parent of four great kids and the grandpa of four youngins’. I work hard for a living, knowing that while I’m at work I think about home and while at home I think about work. It seems I always need to be somewhere else. My Dad and brother served in the military. Of my children, one of my sons is a student and one is a US Marine. Of my daughters, one is a teacher and one is a student. My Step-daughters are jewels and one of my many many blessings.

Professionally I am an former NASA program manager, and a current government employee working with kids in youth development, teaching all of the shooting sports disciplines. In the program I developed, my volunteers and I teach approximately 1000 kids per year of every imaginable background. I owe my successes to the gifts I’ve received in building partnerships, relating with people (especially youth), a love of the outdoors, great mentors, and an understanding and loving wife. Even though I do not directly mention God. He is creator of all good things to whom I am grateful beyond words.  Listen to this podcast, Size: 1.5 mb, Time: 1:36.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


This blog represents the views of myself and my guest authors, and in no way represents the views and opinions of those individuals or organizations I mention, unless they are specifically quoted. I make every attempt to credit sources I mention or portray when due. In addition, I link to other sites that have been verified by myself but cannot be held responsible for all their content or embedded links they may have. I strive to have appropriate family friendly content, but may on occasion use "colorful" language or write about issues that are for a more mature audience.

Thank you for reading and participating in this project and feel free to leave me feed back.