February 22, 2021
Hunting season is over and your freezer is (hopefully) full of venison. Your camo has been washed and put away and your bow has been stored until it's time to start shooting again this summer.
But wait! Why let that expensive gear hang when you could be improving your shooting skills, learning to maintain your equipment and having great archery fun throughout the winter?
Now is a great time to start making your bow a bigger part of your recreational life, especially if you have an archery pro shop and range nearby. Archery is growing rapidly as a recreational outlet for families, and most pro shops offer excellent training programs for adults and kids alike.
Most archery shops host indoor target and 3D evening leagues throughout winter that offer friendly competition and social fun while doing wonders for your shooting skills. It's a fact that more learning and improvement occurs in these environments, especially for new shooters.
Learning equipment maintenance skills is also a great way to improve your shooting while decreasing associated costs, and there’s no better time to do so than the during the cold, dark days of winter.
In many places, state and local archery organizations and clubs, as well as state wildlife divisions, offer archery range facilities and activities. How do you find these facilities? Start by visiting the web site of the National Field Archery Association (nfaausa.com). This site provides a directory of all national clubs and shops, as well as contacts affiliated with the organization. USA Archery has a similar site that can serve as a great resource (usarchery.org).
If your kids are motivated to learn to shoot, many shops support USA Archery’s Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) programs. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) also supports archery education in some schools. Both organizations provide certified instructor training for kids, thousands of whom compete in local, state and national tournaments each year.
For help with your shooting, talk to a pro shop staff member. Many shops have "shop shooters" or instructors who are happy to provide free shooting advice or give paid instruction. Try to find time to work on your own and then consider joining an archery league.
Leagues are a great way to improve your shooting. Leagues in which you shoot at 3D targets are a lot of fun, but a spot target league will do more to improve your shooting. Both compound and recurve or longbow archers shoot together in most leagues. You'll likely find all skill levels, from beginner to expert, in an evening league.
The friendly, competitive environment in a league will encourage you to improve your shooting. Don't be afraid to ask questions as you begin your quest to improved marksmanship. Most good shooters are glad to help.
BOW AND ARROW MAINTENANCE
Most bowhunters I know enjoy bow maintenance work. Learning to take on maintenance saves money and can help improve one’s shooting, as well. Most of all, it enables you to fix minor problems without making a trip to the pro shop, or, if you have a minor breakdown in the field, you’ll have the confidence and know-how to fix the problem quickly.
YouTube is great for learning how to perform a variety of both simple and more complex maintenance tasks. Watching pro shop staff as they go through their daily routine is a great way to learn bow maintenance techniques. Setting up a new bow for a customer includes many relatively simple basic procedures. Non-distracting observation is a great way to learn.
Building your own arrows is just one example of money-saving practices. String building and maintenance, tuning adjustments and more complex tuning procedures are other examples of things you can do on your own.
FUN AND GAMES
There are several archery games you can play for practice and fun with family and friends. Archery Tic-Tac-Toe (targets are available from Lancaster Archery or make your own) tests your skills as you try to get three in a row before your opponent. Scoring rings in each square allow for handicapping different skill levels. If there are enough shooters, winners advance to meet other winners.
Another fun game is H-O-R-S-E, where the first shooter selects a shot with some handicap involved, such as kneeling, body contortion, doing pushups prior to shooting, etc. If he makes the shot, others must also make it or they earn a letter. The first to spell H-O-R-S-E loses. If the weather allows, this is a great outdoor game using 3D targets.
Other fun games include shooting spot targets with a requirement to hit a specific scoring ring in a specific sequence to score points. For traditional archers or kids, this is best with a larger 60-centimeter multi-color face. Everyone loves shooting at balloons—blow them up to an appropriate size or a variety of sizes to create a ladder of decreasing sizes leading to a winner. Hang them on a string attached to the target and add a fan to keep them bouncing around. For kids, you can add a coupon inside one or more balloons that yields some little prize. Kids also love paper animal or dinosaur targets.
The bottom line is there is plenty to do during the winter months to improve your shooting and all-around archery skills. Newfound friends will serve to expand your knowledge and experience, and you might even find a new hunting buddy. Consider making archery a year-round family adventure with fun for all.