By Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton
Editor in Chief
Merida. Hawkeye. Katniss Everdeen. If you are a parent, chances are you may haveheard one or more of these names in your house this year, and as a result you may have young people eager to try their hand at archery. If my experience at an Ealdormere event about a month ago is any guide, where the archery range was swamped with young archers eager to try the sport, we will have more young archers on the range this year than ever before. Luckily, Pennsic is one of the best places for people of any age to try their hand with a bow, to acquire equipment, and to have fun. When I’m not editing the Independent, I’m Ealdormere’s Kingdom Archery Marshal, and I’d like to share a few tips for young archers.
Equipment will be your first requirement. First check with local archery marshals attending Pennsic to see if they brought any loaner equipment. Bows may definitely be shared amongst shooters, so long as each shooter is inspected with the equipment separately. Marshals do this in order to make sure the equipment fits the archer properly. This is especially important for young shooters. If you cannot find loaner equipment, almost all of the archery merchants here at Pennsic carry youth bows, arrows, and other equipment and they may be willing to let archers try them out on the range to make sure they’re getting what will work for them.
In general, beginning archers under 10 will probably want to start with a bow in the 10-15 lb range, while those between 11-15 can start with a 20-25 lb bow. Many adult shooters also shoot with a 25 lb bow quite effectively even on longer-distance shoots. The key is that the shooter be able to draw the bow to a steady nock point, often using a cheek or jawline as an anchor. Too heavy a draw weight and the young archer will become frustrated quickly. Another key point is to do an eye dominance test to determine whether the shooter should be shooting left or right handed. (Do not assume that because you write with your right hand you will be a right-handed shooter!) A marshal or archery merchant can help.
I usually recommend first-time young shooters under 10 or 11 start with a basic fiberglass bow until they’re sure they are going to continue shooting. (If you’re willing to go offsite, these may often be found at Walmart, although you will need to acquire wood-shafted arrows). The nice thing about these bows is that they can be shot either left or right handed. Take-down recurve bows are an affordable option for older beginner shooters. You’ll also want at least half a dozen arrows appropriately sized for the archer (any of the archery merchants and/or marshals can help you with this one) and optimally, an arm bracer and a finger tab or shooting glove.
The next task is to get out to the archery range! Yes, it is a long walk, but keep an eye out for the regular buses running out to the range (stops are along the west side of the battlefield). They will become more frequent starting on Sunday, when war point shooting begins. Before you make the trip, read the rules of the range in the Pennsic book (this applies regardless of your age!)
When you reach the range, you will need to get your equipment inspected by a marshal, and then you are ready to shoot. There will be a family range available all during Pennsic for families to shoot together, and there are marshals available to supervise the range to help get you familiar with the rules and to ensure safety standards are followed. The general rules regarding minors at other Pennsic activities also apply on the range, so please check your Pennsic booklet. Check in at the marshals’ tent to see if any special shoots for young people are scheduled. The youth Archer Champions shoot takes place on Sunday from 4-6 PM, so come out and participate or to watch the other young shooters. And, of course, shooters of any age may shoot the War Point shoots daily starting on Sunday (except for Wednesday).
If you have been here at Pennsic and missed the Olympics, you may not have heard that NBC has stated that archery was its most popular event to view over the first few days—and Olympians shoot recurve bows not too far removed from what you’ll see on the range at Pennsic. This is a fabulous place to begin your archery adventure.