I have two sons, ages four and six, who are excited about becoming bowhunters. From an equipment perspective, what tips do you have for getting them started? H. Kingsley via e-mail
I’ve brought up two sons and three grandsons (still working on the two youngest) as bowhunters, so I understand the task before you. Here are some points to consider.
-In the early stages, when youngsters have very little strength to draw a bow, start off with the cheap, entry-level bows, even fiberglass versions, and let them shoot lots of arrows at fun stuff like 3-D targets or balloons pinned to a target. Make it fun. Don’t worry about form or accuracy. Have them shoot with fingers and use a containment rest like a Whisker Biscuit, so that when they “roll” the string with their fingers, the arrow doesn’t come off the rest. Make sure they have an armguard. One good slap on the forearm can turn them off.
-As they graduate to a “real” youth bow with lots of draw-length adjustment, keep the draw weight low enough that they don’t struggle to get to full draw, or they’ll tire quickly. At this stage, they’ll naturally want better accuracy, so install a cheap three-pin sight, and maybe a peep sight with a large hole — the type with the rubber cord will help with alignment. I recommend a youth-sized mechanical release, for two reasons. One, it saves wear and tear on their fingers. And two, it helps them develop the correct alignment of sight, peep, and anchor point, which they will need long term.
-It’s also time to integrate decent arrows. Don’t be tempted to cut some of your own arrows down to save money. They’ll be too stiff and heavy, and the trajectory will hurt accuracy. Get some cool, lightweight arrows, and cut them plenty long. Kids don’t care if their arrows stick out in front of the bow, and they’ll be able to use the same arrows for a couple of years. Also, install the inserts with Bohning’s Cool-Flex glue so, if necessary, you can remove them and cut the arrows down for the next youngster coming up.
-Most equipment choices should be made with the idea of passing the older boys’ bow, arrows, and accessories down to the next youngster, depending on how far apart they are in physical development. Age is somewhat irrelevant, as kids mature at different stages in their growth, and that determines their ability to draw a bow.
-Once your youngster is several years into the process, and shows a desire to start hunting, it’s time to bite the bullet and buy them a quality bow with some arrow speed to flatten trajectory. A deer doesn’t care what kind of bow it is shot with, but a quality bow with matched arrows, tuned to the individual kid, will help to instill the most important element a youngster needs — self-confidence.
Kids love shooting arrows, especially when they are flying well out of the right equipment. And once you’re left with a couple setups your boys can no longer use, find a kid who can use it. If it gives one more youngster the opportunity to learn and enjoy archery and bowhunting, your money will have been well spent. Good luck.