North Iowa Youth Archery Day a Success

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The archery range was full and the kids were pumped. The hunt was on and arrows were flying by the dozen. The game rich venue included such challenges as wild boar, turkey, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope --- even an enraged black bear. The fact that these trophies were merely life sized Styrofoam replicas of the real thing did little to dampen the excitement. Like I said, the kids were pumped and appeared to be having the time of their life.

The event was Winnebago County's Youth Archery Field Day. According to event host and Archery in the Schools promoter John Carlson, the purpose of the outing was to provide North Iowa youngsters with a first time, hands on introduction to the sport of archery. Held last Saturday at Lake Mills, the field day was the result of a joint effort between the Iowa DNR, White-tails Unlimited, and the Lake Mills Task Force Against Substance Abuse.

"For me, it was very rewarding to see kids show up and have fun being outdoors. Our goal was to get new shooters on line, and I think we were successful. Everything, including the food was free, kids had a great time and no one had a chance to get bored," said Carlson. "Our conservation officers provided first time shooters with expert instruction on the basics of safe bow handling and participants experienced a wide variety of hands on opportunities. In addition to traditional bulls-eye targets, kids had the chance to shoot at balloons, shoot a bow from inside a blind, and attempt a variety of life-sized, 3-D targets."

Following decades of service as an archery instructor and successful tournament competitor, Carlson realizes the value of getting kids off to an early start.

"One of our main objectives was to expose as many kids as possible to the sport of archery," said Carlson. "We had a number of teens turn out and there were some shooters as young three and four years of age. Fortunately, we had enough equipment to meet everyone's needs and kids got to shoot as much and as long as they wanted. Some of them were on the range for more than two hours. That's a lot of shooting for youngsters who have never pulled a bow. It was great to see that kind of first time enthusiasm."

"There is a definite need to get young people involved in activities that get them into the out-of-doors," says event coordinator and DNR Conservation Officer, Matt Washburn. "Archery --- whether it's target shooting or hunting --- is a good way to accomplish that."

Washburn noted that the Winnebago County field day was patterned after a similar event conducted by DNR officer, Eric Johnston in Mitchell County.

"I think everyone was very pleased with this year's field day and we hope to stage another event next summer. It was obvious that the kids had a lot of fun on the target range," said Washburn. "Hopefully, they've discovered something that they'll want to continue. They may be kids today, but ten or twenty years down the road they'll be the ones responsible for maintaining Iowa's natural resources. Recreational youth activities like archery and bow hunting are an excellent way to begin a personal investment in those resources."