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.


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