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With the New Year having rounded the corner, most of us have a 2009 New Year’s resolution. What’s yours? This past December during my college winter break, I was thinking about what my new year’s resolution should be. I had a bunch of thoughts scrambling through my head…but one in particular stuck out. That was to keep improving my knowledge about the outdoor world, but also to spread that knowledge to the next generation of hunters/huntresses. In most places deer season is coming to an end or has already come and gone. Duck season is over, but a new season is always around the corner; one being spring gobbler season. Every season is a new season, a new opportunity, a new adrenaline rush, and a new adventure. The generation we live in today is that of new technology, new video games, and more reasons to keep kids indoors. There nothing wrong with indoor games, but I hope to get kids outside, to learn about nature, and to enjoy what the outside world has to offer.
I had the chance over my Christmas break to do just that with three young, energetic girls. These three girls are friends of the family and are six, eight and ten. I went over to their house not far from mine, and they all came running out in there camo overalls and pink snow boots. They had already been around the hunting world, because their dad is a hunter and has already been introducing them to bow and arrows and shotguns. As I talked with the girls about the outdoors, they ran and grabbed their youth bows they have been given by their dad. He is so excited that his three daughters love the outdoors and sometimes it’s hard to even get them to come inside for dinner. We all took our bows to their back yard and I showed them some techniques about target shooting and we had a great afternoon with our bows. After I spent the afternoon with these girls I know these girls will be part of the next generation of women hunters. They have developed special bonds with their father and he is looking forward to the day they all go on their first hunt.
Maybe that will be someone’s New Year’s resolution: to bring your kids or anyone in the youth generation out hunting. They may get hooked on it like the rest of us huntresses, and that sure will be a good feeling knowing they have developed a new hobby to do with you. Memories will develop that will last a lifetime and hopefully they will want to go back into the woods for some more hunting adventures with you!
Until I actually took the bowhunter education class, I never understood why it was required in some states. My newly found opinion is that is should be required in all states. This article is about my first bowhunters safety class and its importance to the future of bowhunting.
Greg, my husband, and I signed up for our bowhunters safety class as soon as we could. We currently live in Wyoming where the class is not required but plan to hunt in Montana, our state of residency, and it is required there. I was immediately stressed, how were we going to find somebody to watch a one and 3 year old for two long days. Calling everyone we could think of and getting constant no’s we finally found a sitter. Whew, that’s a relief, I was beginning to think I would have to miss the class and bag hunting this year and miss some valuable information.
The class started at 9:00 am and Greg would miss the first part of the class, he had talked to the instructor before this to schedule a make up session. I was very nervous about this class, looking stupid just terrified me, so the night before I studied online. When I arrived I was the only female and didn’t know anybody. There were four other students in the class and immediately this wave of sheer terror set in. I thought to myself "I am going to look stupid compared to these guys".
The class began with introductions and we discussed reasons for taking the class. Safety is important for me, I wanted to learn how to bowhunt safely and accurately. This would be the common response I thought, but could not have been more wrong. Three of the four others were only there because they would be hunting in states that required the hunter’s safety card. These guys must have already know a lot and hunted before to have a response like this, but nope wrong again. Stu (not his real name), said he just bought a traditional bow off eBay, knew absolutely nothing, but would be hunting in MT in two weeks regardless if he actually thought he could kill something or not. My jaw must have hit the floor. Did he seriously believe that in two weeks with no help he would be able to hunt? The others had at least been involved in archery for several months.
The presentation began and I soon realized I knew a lot more than I thought, even if I hadn’t studied online the night before. Where were these guys common sense? I personally loved the class, and the debates were a lot of fun. Finding I lost my shyness, I was able to really get into the class. Stupidity was definitely present in the room. One of the debates was with Stu about why you don’t hunt with dull or worn broad heads. Now I could clearly see why non-hunters and anti-hunters have formed such a low opinion about hunter’s ethics. I honestly hope that Stu DID learn something from the class and the animal he attempts to kill doesn’t suffer a terrible death. At one point he said that he needed to know if he could keep shooting to kill the animal, like for example when he was rifle hunting and had to shoot and animal 5 or 6 times to kill it. OH MY GOSH! I couldn’t believe that came out of his mouth. Personally I have a one shot, one kill goal, although I do realize that things can happen and a second shot may need to be taken to end an animals suffering.
I have enough material to write a book on what type of hunter you shouldn’t be but I am hoping that most of the readers have enough common sense to know how to make a good ethical decision. The class now had new importance to me, and I hope that the states that don’t require a class change their minds, so maybe the other Stu’s have a chance of being instilled with some ethics and values. If we want people to view us as responsible hunters we need to make education a high priority. As difficult as it was to take the time off and find a babysitter, the class was completely worth it and I would take it again to make sure I am fresh on all the new information out there. My request to all of you reading this is to take the class, even if it is just reading the material online. The advantage of actually going to a class is you get personal experiences from the instructors and other students. For prior bowhunters there is still a good chance you will learn something new, our instructor who has been bow hunting over 20 years, says he still is learning new things. Let’s try and get all the Stu’s out there more educated and keep a good name for bowhunters.
The class we took was one through the National Bowhunter Education Foundation or NBEF. The official website is www.nbef.org.
Many new archers do not realize that just because they may be right-handed they can be left eye dominant and vice versa. It is important for the most accuracy to shoot with your dominant eye in the peep sight, using the proper handed bow for that dominant eye. One clue that you may be using the weaker eye is that you find your pins are way out of line with your arrow instead of somewhere close to directly above it. Also, a tendency to look over the string to use the other eye is common.
The most accurate way to shoot is with both eyes open, as when one eye is closed you lose part of the strength of the other eye. Many people cannot see the target clearly this way though. If you are one of these, as I am, a patch or some type of eye cover can remedy the situation, allowing the non-dominant eye to remain open without viewing the target. There are eye covers that clip onto a hat brim on the market. This will also help a person shooting the wrong handed bow for their eye dominancy so the stronger eye doesn't try to take over. Nothing, however, is as effective as shooting with the proper equipment to use the stronger eye to sight. Of course it will feel quite strange at first to shoot with the other arm holding or pulling the bow, but we have helped many people to switch since we have been in business, and after a couple weeks it feels natural to them, even though most were very resistant to the idea at first. We only had one or two in 13 years who didn't make the change successfully. Granted you may need to strengthen the other arm to pull the same amount of weight you are used to pulling, but those muscles develop very quickly. A good way to strengthen those muscles before purchasing new equipment is to turn down your old bow to the lowest safe weight and practice pulling it with the other hand. Stretch bands are also available to accomplish this.
There are a couple simple tests for eye dominancy. Stretch out both arms, palms forward, and place one hand over the other creating a small hole between your thumbs and index fingers. Pick a small object, such as a light switch, several yards or more way. Keeping both eyes open stare through the hole at the object and bring your hands all the way back to your face. They should land in front of your dominant eye. This is an example of how the stronger eye takes over. Another test is to point at an object with your index finger. Holding it still, first close one eye then open it, then do the same with the other. The finger will remain closest to the object pointed at with the dominant eye. This method also illustrates why the sights may be way out when shooting with the weaker eye.
Traditional archers or anyone not using a peep sight still use an eye by the string to sight, therefore this applies to all archery as well as golf.
Some people do shoot quite successfully using their weaker eye, but the chances of becoming the best shot you can be are much greater when using the stronger one.
One of my favorite things to talk about is bow hunting, from the preparation of the hunt to the decision of what type of mount to choose. I am what some have called “obsessed” about bow hunting whitetail. That’s why I was so excited when St. Joseph’s school approached me to teach an Introduction to Bow hunting Class during their ‘special interest’ day. It’s a day during the school year where kids can sign up for classes that sound fun and interesting. I offered to teach grades 4-8 and the opportunity gave me a full hour to possibily spark some interest in bow hunting and the outdoors. Anyone who’s already been bow hunting understands that it’s not about the shooting of an animal. It’s about spending time in the woods in your camouflage and appreciating the unpredictability of nature.
I started the class with an introduction to my bow and the gear that goes along with bow hunting. I discussed the types of sight, arrow rest, release, camouflage, arrows, broad heads, etc. that I use and why. After passing around my bow, the kids got to try pulling back a youth bow that I borrowed from a friend. The poundage was cranked down to only 10 pounds so all of the kids could feel the pull of a bow and I think it was a highlight. Many asked for “seconds” with the youth bow.
I also passed around pictures of different examples of hunting set ups We discussed hunting from a tree stand, as well as from a blind or simply off the ground. I prefer portable tree stands that can be moved in order to catch that big buck coming to or from his territory. I showed them pictures of buck rubs and scrapes and taught them signs to look for in order to increase their chances of seeing deer.
I shared stories of wildlife I’ve seen while in the woods bow hunting. Raccoons, 'possum, turkey, owls, hawks, coyotes, wolves and snakes all make the list of critters that have been spotted from my tree stand. I’ve had birds land on my sleeve and squirrels sniff my boots. The kids seemed to enjoy the tales of bucks fighting and coyotes hunting THEIR prey. I explained that when you are in the woods in camouflage you’ll witness things you’ve never seen before.
I concluded the class with a 10 minute video that my friend and videographer Joe Nawrot created called “Critters in the Wild.” Joe works for Bass Pro Shops filming hunting videos and he’s been fortunate to film amazing wildlife on his shoots. The class really enjoyed watching actual footage shot from a tree stand and a hunting blind. I told them, “you never know what you’re going to see and that’s what helps you stay still!”
I’m not sure who enjoyed the class more… me or the kids. I do know that the only thing better than living your passion is sharing it.
Teaching archery at Camp Rockmont in Swannanoa N.C. during the summer provides Jim, Bud and I the opportunity to teach boys from all over the world. Bud and I teach six days a week at camp and Jim comes three to four days a week after he gets off work. We get numerous emails from the campers after they return home to tell us how they have taken up archery and have gotten their friends involved as well. It is an honor to teach these boys the sport we love, but more times than not, they teach us far more than we teach them.
The first day of each session is “safety day,” the boys that have been to camp previous summers have learned that “safety day” is a standard and to make it quicker they answer the safety questions to help the boys that are new to archery. We go over all the rules of the shooting deck and the safety rules. Safety day cuts into shooting time on the first day; the boys are anxious to get to their stations and fire the arrows from the Mathews Genesis bows down range at the large, round, field targets.
After we finished with safety we put them in their stations and they await the familiar call: “Shooters Safe, Step to your Stations, Shooters fire.” Usually on the first day due to the safety lecture, they only get to shoot two rounds. We tell them if they have questions or need help when it’s their turn at the line to let us know.
During the second session this summer one of the boys called for me to come help him when it was his turn to step to the line. This was his first time shooting a bow and he was a little nervous. He would only get to shoot one round today since we had safety day and he had to wait his turn. He was between nine and ten years old with big brown eyes and a shock of dark hair. He looked up at me and said “Coach, can you help me, I have never shot a bow before.” I smiled at him and said “Sure I can, but you have to tell me your name first if we are going to be a team.” He smiled shyly and said, “My name is Charlie m'am.” “Well, Charlie, pick up the bow and load an arrow and let’s see what kind of team we can be together,” was my reply.
He picked up the bow and loaded and arrow like we had taught him, being careful to aim down range as he was loading. He started to draw the bow but was unable to pull the sting back. The Mathews Genesis was set at about 12 lbs and I noticed that his right arm and hand was in an odd position when he was trying to draw. I told Charlie that I had a bow with lower poundage that he might have better luck with and went to the shed and brought back a Brave bow with a draw weight of around 6 lbs. We use these bows for the younger boys at camp. He again loaded the arrow and began to draw the string with difficulty. As he drew the bow his elbow on his right arm was down at his waist. I explained to him that at Camp Rockmont we are eagles and we have to get our wings up so we can soar. I showed him how to hold his arm, with his elbow up, so when he drew he could draw the string back to full draw. He looked up and me and said “I can’t do that Coach. My wrist is fused so it is part of my hand so I can’t get my arm to do that. I’m not going to be able to shoot am I?"
About that time the bugle sounded letting them know it was time to switch skills. Charlie stood there with a very dejected look on his face and ask me if he was going to have to switch out of archery. I looked in his big brown eyes and said, “No, you won’t have to switch.” I told him if he would give me a chance and be willing to try some different ways of shooting, I would come up with a way that he could shoot. He looked at me for a long moment and said “I’ll try.” “Alright then, I will see you on Wednesday and we will work through this,” was my reply. He walked off the deck toward his next skill and still had that doubtful look on his face.
We work with children and adults with all types of disabilities but this one was a little different. I wondered how many times he had been told that he could not participate in certain activities due to his wrist. I made up my mind that archery would not be one of them; I would find a way for Charlie to shoot and keep my unspoken promise to him.
I told the counselors that assist Bud and me with archery that I would be devoting my time during that skill to Charlie until I could get him shooting with which they all agreed. I couldn’t wait to get home and discuss it with Jim; we had to come up with some way for Charlie to shoot and brain storming problems together is what we do best.
Jim’s first suggestion was a release aid. I told him I didn’t know if it would cause pain since his wrist was fused but I would take my Tru-Ball Copperhead release with me and try it. I told Jim that I didn’t have enough time to work with Charlie to see what his limitations were but on Wednesday I would have the full 50-minute skill time to work with him.
Wednesday morning rolled around and Charlie came to archery still with doubt clearly showing on his face. We called roll and sent the campers to their stations. As I walked to Charlie’s station Bud gave the deck commands and the arrows began flying their way to the targets.
Charlie smiled shyly and I ask him if he was ready, he said “Yes m'am, if you really think I can do it.” I asked him if he could put the release around his wrist and showed him on my wrist how it would fit, but he told me that he could not put anything around his wrist - that it hurt. Again I got hit with the look of defeat from Charlie and I have to admit that my heart sank a little as well. “Alright Charlie, can you turn your hand over with your palm out and your elbow up and draw the string?” He picked up the bow and loaded an arrow. I showed him how to turn his hand over, palm out, his index finger was below the arrow nock with his second finger on top of the nock. He stood there for a minute before he began to draw and I sent up a little prayer hoping it would work. He began to draw the string back and got it to full draw. I told him to release the arrow liked we had showed him and he opened his fingers and the arrow went speeding toward the target. It missed.
I had been standing beside Charlie to see if he showed any pain when he drew, he had not. He looked at me and a smile crept across his face. “I missed the target Coach, but I shot the bow!” “You sure did Charlie! Now I am going to stand behind you and help you aim so you will know where to hold. Wait just a second before you shoot again. I am going to go get you an arm guard since you are having to hold your bow arm a little straighter than usual so you don’t get hit by the string." He patiently waited till I got back and fitted the arm guard. I stood behind him and he loaded another arrow; he only needed a little direction and the second arrow hit the target. I could have yelled at the top of my lungs I was so excited but didn’t want to scare the boys. Charlie looked back and me and said “I did it Coach, you're right; we are a great team. I did it and it hit the target.”
Needless to say, the doubt that Charlie had on his face was quickly replaced with confidence with every arrow that he shot. He told me that his Dad shot a bow and hunted but he didn’t think Charlie would be able to shoot a bow due to his wrist. He told me that he was going to write a letter home and tell his Dad that he could shoot a bow and that he would work for the money to buy his own. Charlie told me that he did chores and received an allowance for doing so; he thought he could work out enough money to buy a bow in about three weeks.
Every day that Charlie came to archery, his shooting got better with each shot. He told me that he knew that shooting with his hand upside down was different from how everyone else shot. I told him that it might not be as different as he thought and that on the last day of the session I would prove it to him. He just smiled, loaded another arrow and sent it sailing toward the target. I have to give the other boys that shot in the station with Charlie a special tip of the hat; they were all very encouraging.
On the last day of each session I take my bow and shoot for the boys. I give them my special Rockmont autograph, I shoot their shirts or hats and they all think that is the coolest thing ever. I take my Mathews LX which is root beer colored and set up for tournaments and I also take the Mathews Drenalin along so they can see my hunting set up. When I was ready to shoot, I called Charlie over to me and ask him to stand by me so he could watch me shoot. I use a hand held Tru-Ball Xtreme release with my LX. I loaded one of my Carbon Express 150 3D selects and attached the release to the string. As I began to draw I rolled my hand over to anchor and heard Charlie say in a whisper “she shoots like me.” I touched off the arrow and it hit its mark. I looked at Charlie and ask if he would like to help me shoot, he nodded his head yes. I told him to stand behind me and showed him how the release worked and told him that when I shot the next arrow he could touch off the release. Again the doubt came over his face. “You can do it Charlie. Remember we are a team." He smiled and again told me he would try. I loaded an arrow and drew the string to full draw, he eased his thumb on top of mine and we counted to three, he gently touched off the release and again the arrow found its mark. “We are a team Coach and we shoot the same way” was his reply.
The other campers were excited for Charlie. I was in disbelief that none of them ask if they could help me shoot, I think they knew how special that was to Charlie and wanted to keep it that way.
Charlie left at the end of his session. My hope is that he took with him the confidence that he can do anything he puts his mind to, even if he has to find a different way to do it. We found out from his counselors after he left camp that he had some anger issues. We never saw it in archery; all we saw was his confidence soar like the eagles we strive to be. Jim told me that maybe I was the one person that really made a difference in his life. We all have someone that we will never forget for helping us along the way. I know that Jim and my Dad gave me the confidence I needed when I started shooting. They never gave up on me and we didn’t give up on Charlie.
I don’t know if I am that person to Charlie but I can tell you I will never forget him and the special lessons he taught us this summer. We can all soar on the wings of eagles if we are willing to spread our wings and try.
The morning of July 26 dawned foggy with drizzling rain. Even though we have had a severe drought this summer in WNC and we desperately needed the rain, this wasn’t good! My husband Gary and I had scheduled an introductory to archery class and had
20 youth from the AGAPE School based in Asheville already signed up to participate. Our phone started ringing early that Saturday and the question was always, “Are you going to cancel the class?’ We decided to wait until lunch time to make the final decision and by then the rain had stopped. Even though the skies were still overcast, we notified everyone that we would have the class and by the start of class the sun was shining and the weather was perfect.
We had all 20 kids show up ranging in age from 2 to 16 years old. Skills obviously varied greatly with some having never held a bow and some with a lot of years of experience with archery as well as hunting. We started the class with safety instruction and how to hold and shoot the bow. Before they shoot, we also provide a shooting demonstration that helps reinforce the safety aspects of the class. Our bows are set up for hunting – Gary shoots the Pearson Z34 and I shoot the Pearson Z32. Some of the kids told us first thing they did not want to shoot the youth bow, they wanted to shoot the hunting bows! We keep the safety orientation and demonstration short because you can tell from the eager looks on the faces – they just want to get their hands on the bows!
Each participant gets a chance to shoot the Pearson Pathfinder as well as the Barnett Wildcat Crossbow. The hands-on experience is the most important part of the class. Each child got to shoot both bows several times, moving quickly from one line to the other. The targets and shooting lines are set up to allow every one to hit the target. Youth and parents alike were amazed at how quickly the kids were hitting the bullseye! Each child got a sponsor gift bag including decals and catalogs.
After a great class and all the shooting fun, no one was ready to go home. The parents provided a covered dish supper for all the participants so there was plenty of additional time for questions and answers. At the end of the day we said good-bye to new friends and old ones. Hopefully we have provided the start for at least one child to enjoy the lifelong pleasure of archery.
We continue to hear about the need to involve our children in the outdoors. Statistics indicate that one in six children is overweight. But all the time we are encouraging them to sit in front of the television or the computer - to play a game, watch a movie or surf the Web. There are several great programs in our area for our youth to become involved with - the NWTF has a great JAKES Program as well as Hunters Education Certification classes available through the NC Wildlife Commission. Check out any of these programs or look for ones in your area.
Our thanks to Frank and Rhonda Seamon for the use of their home as well as our sponsors - Pearson Archery and Barnett Crossbows.
Remember take a youth or woman to the woods or field the next time you go – you will receive more enjoyment teaching them than they do from the experience!
In one moment I realized that there may come a time that I may not be able to shoot my bow. This year has proven quite a challenge for me. In July my shoulder hurt so bad that it landed me in the ER while on vacation in
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