By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Archery and young shooters are a great combination, and it only takes a small investment in time and money to get them started the right way.
Before considering gear, it’s important to determine the new archer’s dominant eye. To do this, have the child hold his or her hands straight out in front of them with the fingers interlocked, leaving a small peep-hole in the middle. Have them keep both eyes open and focus on a distant object through this hole, then close one eye.
If the thing they’ve focused on is still visible, the open eye is the one that’s dominant. They’ll need to shoot a bow that corresponds to this eye.
Left eye, right eye
Next, you’ll want to determine their correct draw length. As with any equipment purchase for a child, the temptation is to buy gear they can grow into, but for archery gear this doesn’t work. To shoot now, they need gear that fits now.
Thankfully there are many youth bows that are widely adjustable and can be used by the same child for many years.
Have the child stand with their back to a wall and their arms straight out to their sides, hands as far apart as possible, then measure in a straight line from fingertip to fingertip. Take that measurement and divide by 2.5. A 47.5-inch span would result in a 19-inch draw.
Next comes draw weight. Remember, you’re not outfitting the child for an elk hunt. Modern bows, even in child sizes, shoot just fine even at very low weights. If they can’t pull the bow back without straining, if they have to raise the bow high above the line of sight or contort their body to make it work, it’s too heavy.
The right help
Keep trying and adjusting until the weight is comfortable. The more comfortable they are, the better they’ll shoot and the more they’ll enjoy it.
The next consideration will be bow accessories. A Whisker Biscuit-style rest that won’t let an arrow fall off is an ideal start, followed by a single-pin sight and a kisser button on the string. The kisser button will reinforce the idea of finding a consistent anchor point. The small device sits above the nock point on the string and touches the shooter’s lip at full draw, easily half of the aiming process.
As they advance beyond the earliest stages, a peep sight can be mounted in the string above the kisser button to help the shooter really fine tune their aim.
Keep it fun
An arm guard to prevent the released string from slapping their skin and a wrist loop on the bow to make sure they can shoot comfortably without worrying about dropping it complete a great starter package
As you’re guiding the new shooter, be sure to keep it fun. If you spend 15 minutes setting up a session and they’re tired of it after three shots, let that be enough for the day.
As long as they leave the range happy, they’ll soon be ready to go back.