Almost a year ago while visiting a local sporting goods store my then 10-year-old daughter suddenly announced to me that she would like to try shooting a bow. While I am not 100% sure that the pink camo, wheeled contraption on the wall was the first tiny spark, I feel it is a pretty safe bet. Did it matter to me? Not one little bit. We left the store that very day with my wallet about $400 lighter but with a shiny new bow, 6 arrows and all the trimmings. It was time to blow softly on that spark to see if it would begin to glow brighter.
She shot that bow almost every day and was getting really good with it at a pretty quick pace. I did my best to encourage her and to coach her all the while struggling to not push her too hard. Something that I am sure other fathers of daughters can relate too. Most importantly she was shooting a bow and loving it.
Then one evening while shooting in the back yard she asks me why I didn’t shoot my compound any more. I tried to answer her question without bias towards either modern or traditional gear. I prefer she keep an open mind as to not limit herself but I know inside a part of me was hoping she would want to give traditional archery a try. We continued shooting with little more discussion on the subject. Then a few weeks later, again out of the blue, she wanted to know if we could find a longbow in her size. I asked her why a longbow, she replied that she liked watching me shoot my longbow (at the time I was also shooting a recurve on random occasions) and she liked that it was really quiet. With only a few weeks till Christmas I had my work cut out for me.
Christmas day found a shiny new Tolke Tadpole Reflex/Deflex longbow from Montana Bows under the tree. With a locator grip and pulling 19# at 21” I was hoping it would be light enough to allow her to shoot it comfortably while at the same time push an arrow fast enough that she was not disappointed after shooting the compound for several months. (That compound seemed faster at 20# than my longbow I was shooting at the time which was around 64#) We would find out by 9am as she could not wait to head outside and try it out. Beginning that morning the compound began to gather dust.
Then in February the entire family headed to the “Pre-Spring Arrow Fling” in McCalla, AL, longbows in bow socks in the back of the truck. This would be her first 3D shoot and she was really excited about meeting someone who had become her hero in the past few months, Mrs. Teresa Asbell, but she was also excited about the prospect of shooting her bow for the better part of 2 whole days. When the weekend was over and after approximately 90 targets.She had lost but one arrow and gotten a lot of complements on her abilities with her longbow.
To say she was proud of her accomplishments that weekend would be an understatement. To say I was proud of her would be like saying there are a few stars in the sky! Following that 3D shoot she has begun attending a local 3D shoot with me each month and simply loves it. In fact, a gentleman known locally as “Hatchetbow Dan” gave her an Osage, hatchet Selfbow he made and she loves to shoot that bow at least once a week. Talk about knowing how to turn an ember into a flame!
Well, it didn’t take long for the question to come up about the difference between the style of longbow she was shooting and my straight Hill Style longbows. It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful curiosity and inquisitive nature of a child. Before I know what has hit me, I am being shown a website that has a bow just like mine but made for kids. It was the Howard Hill Archery website and the Bear Cub bow that they make for youths. We continued to talk about the subject and I was hoping maybe she would get an opportunity to shoot a similar bow before shelling out another few hundred bucks. Meanwhile my daughter is now scouring the web reading about Howard Hill and I know my time is limited. Then one night while browsing the Classifieds on a popular Traditional Archery forum there it is, a Howard Hill, 35# at 24”, Bear Cub that looks like new. In less than 48 hours it is on the way to Georgia. Of course a new set of wood arrows was also needed to complete the package so an email to Rob Green at Kid Stix had a set of wood shafts on the way, green crown with pink cresting and pink and green fletching. Rob is a great guy and can be contacted here.
Since the day that bow arrived she has been shooting it almost exclusively and getting better with each practice session. Her most recent 3D shoot resulted in some very impressive shooting on her part and even a bit of poking fun at Dad on targets where she shot better than me. What is truly amazing to me is our local club sets up the targets in very realistic hunting type scenarios. Lots of trash, obstacles and almost never a wide open shooting lane, in fact there are many times when it is like threading a needle. When shooting we discuss shot angles and realistic hunting shots, we pay little attention to where the target maker decided the 10 ring should be.
Now as school is beginning to wrap up for the year, one of the 5th grade special events each year is a “Living Museum” where kids pick a famous person to mimic while all of the younger classes come through to see their costumes, view their props and hear their speech about their chosen subject. The students can either pick from a list of people provided by the school or they may choose their own so long as they can provide ample reason why this person is worthy of being a subject for the museum. It seems that without reservation or much contemplation my daughter chose legendary archer Howard Hill. She did all of her own research, put together her speech and her props for her character. All I added was the funds to buy a “Robin Hood” costume for her to wear and I discussed her using her longbow with the school administration. So long as she brought no arrows and a school official carried the bow to and from class it would be allowed.
I went to school to support her the day of the Living Museum but quickly found out that she did not need me. Her character was easily a 4-1 favorite over all the other students. Not only were the kids lined up to hear her story and look at her presentation but so were many of the adults. Despite the fact that it was about 85 degrees in that school and her costume was really hot, she was grinning from ear to ear and as proud as I think I have ever seen her.
I must admit, it has been difficult at times keeping my opinions to myself, waiting for her to ask a question before I provided an answer and letting her do things at her pace and in her way. But the result has been all the more rewarding. While I know she sees and hears my pride in her when ever she is shooting, I know this is not the primary reason she is participating. She is doing so because she is having fun, because she is loving the simplicity of a piece of wood and a string, because when the arrow strikes the target it is because she did it all by herself. Now and then someone will say, “you did a good job teaching her”, the reality is she is teaching me. My love of archery is now at least twice that which it has ever been. When I see the glow in her face when she makes a good shot I am reminded that all it took was that first little spark. Keeping that fire glowing, at least for now, is my job.
May all your arrows find their mark.