Archery has seen a huge resurgence in the past decade, mainly due to recent hit movies. Black Hills families have caught the archery bug too, and it’s a popular sport with a devoted following here in the hills. The best part is archery can be for kids as young as about 8 years old.
To get kids started in archery, there are several ranges and clubs throughout the Black Hills that can point you in the right direction. Starting with knowledgeable guidance is important not only so you can learn how to shoot safely, but also to try out varying sizes and types of bows. While bows and arrows are available for kids as young as 3, most recommend they be at least 8 to truly enjoy the sport. Clubs and classes around the Black Hills generally cap their participants at this age, as well.
Getting a bow that fits will go a long way towards your kids being comfortable and more accurate starting out, which may make or break their interest in the sport. When it comes to styles of archery, there are two categories you should be aware of: field and target.
Field archery more closely resembles hunting, with targets of various distances and sizes. Clubs in the hills also do what’s called a 3D shoot where animal-shaped foam targets are set up along a path for archers to shoot as they go, mimicking a hunting experience. 3D shoots are a great way to introduce archery to kids and keep them interested.
On the other hand, target archery is the more traditional format of the sport. Target archery can be indoors or out, and uses stationary targets marked with concentric circles. This branch of archery is what you’ll see at the Olympics.
Both offer their own challenges and rewards, but don’t feel like you have to stick to only one or the other. Many clubs offer both styles, so there’s always something new to do!
Ask the expert
Rick Wilson is Scheels’ Archery Specialty Shop Leader and has over 20 years of experience in helping people start in the sport. He says, “I see new people shooting bows every week, and we can get families from knowing nothing to leaving confident enough to go out and have fun.”
What most people may not realize is archery equipment is all built to suit a specific person. You can try out the sport with someone else’s bow, but unless it’s the right size, it can work against you. “Unfortunately, a lot of folks think this is like shooting a firearm where they purchase it and pretty much the whole family can shoot. When it comes to archery, it’s made to work for one person,” Rick says.
Having equipment specially fit from the start might seem intimidating, but Rick says it’s a crucial step for anyone who wants their kids to try archery: “I always recommend families start out by going to a pro shop to get started. You want to come in and get measured so you get a bow with the right draw length, and then we can test out a few different draw weights to see where your comfort level is,” he says. He’ll even tune the bow and make sure it’s sighted before you leave.
If you aren’t ready to pick out all of your own bow accessories, or looking for an economical way to get into the sport, Scheels has prepackaged bows that come already setup. Rick says they can still go through the fitting process to make sure you get one that will work. Once you’re ready to go to the next level, his team will be ready to help you pick out everything exactly to your liking.
What gives Rick the most satisfaction is being able to help people find a new way to enjoy the Black Hills. He says, “we live in such a beautiful area, and we have all this room and great places to go hunting that’s just open to the public. You aren’t guaranteed a rifle tag for deer season, but for archery, you’re guaranteed a hunting tag. It’s more challenging, but it’s worth it.”
Even if your family doesn’t plan to bowhunt, there are great clubs throughout the hills that offer various styles of shooting and events. There’s everything from recreational and having fun as a group, to competition style tournaments. No matter what style you get involved in, Rick says, “I see it happen where one child [in a family] gets into the sport, and before you know it, their siblings are in it, and then the parents. It just snowballs, and then the whole family is having fun.”