Getting a young person involved in archery and bowhunting can be highly rewarding. Passing on our knowledge and passion as bowhunters to future generations is what keeps the sport alive. Many who have experienced it will tell you that helping a young hunter harvest his or her first animal with a bow provides a level of fulfillment that’s greater than any animal they have arrowed themselves. Ensuring that youth bowhunters have positive experiences during their formative years significantly increases the odds that they’ll continue bowhunting later in life. This is largely due to proper instruction and selecting the right gear. If you’re mentoring a youth bowhunter, keep the following tips in mind to give them the best chances for success.
1. Proper Bow Fit
During my years as a pro shop bow tech, I frequently saw issues with young archers that stemmed from a bow that improperly fit the shooter. The most common occurrence was a parent attempting to get their child into a used bow with a draw length that was far too long and adjustability that was limited. Learning to shoot with a bow that is several inches too long in draw length can have a lot of negative effects. It’s difficult, if not impossible to develop a proper anchor point, creating a breeding ground for bad habits. Shooting a bow that is too long also makes for a more difficult draw, and once at full draw, that archer will have to hyperextend their front arm which builds more negative habits and increases the chances of contacting their arm with the bowstring upon firing.
Kids grow like weeds. That makes it easy to see why a parent would be leery to spend a bunch of cash on a bow that their young bowhunter will likely outgrow before the end of the hunting season. Fortunately, bow makers recognized this problem, and in recent years, the number of highly adjustable youth bows available has skyrocketed. These bows are generally sold in a package and are fairly priced considering they can be adjusted to last youth bowhunters from their first bow all the way to the time they’re ready for an adult setup.
Using a bow with too heavy of draw weight is another common problem when outfitting youth bowhunters with used equipment. Anyone who has drawn a bow with a pull weight above what they can comfortably handle knows that shooting a heavy bow just takes the fun out of it. Proper form and shot execution is lost and practice sessions are short lived due to unnecessary muscle fatigue. When selecting a bow for a youth bowhunter, or any novice archer for that matter, choose one with a minimum draw weight that is easy to pull. Practicing form and fundamentals of shooting with low weight is ideal. As the hunting season nears, weight can be added incrementally to make the bow more lethal.
Shooting a wrist strap, caliper-style release that is too long is a common mistake among bowhunters of all ages. Correcting this issue with youth and female bowhunters is most important because, typically, their bows are low in draw weight and have a shorter draw length which results in less energy to transfer into the arrow and less downrange power. Shortening the length of the release ensures that the trigger falls near the second knuckle of the trigger finger. That will not only promote better shot execution but it can also increase draw length. That allows for a bit more power out of a youth bowhunting setup.
Increasing penetration is key when dealing with the low-energy hunting setups that youth archers are often armed with. Select small-diameter arrow shafts and cut-on-contact design broadheads when shopping to fill a youth bowhunter’s quiver.
Helping the next generation of bowhunters lay a solid foundation for their bowhunting careers is vital to the sport’s continuation and growth. Do what you can to make early experiences positive and fun for young bowhunters and bowhunting will have a bright future.