With summer knocking on the door we at River Bend are getting excited to start our summer camp program season! One of my favorite camps last summer to teach and one of our most popular was our four whole-day camps Adventure is Out There! The kids in the camp get to do a wide variety of things like canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, zip-lining, low ropes courses, archery, and more! Archery is one of my favorite hobbies in this line up of activities and I loved teaching it to kids and adults over the last year of working at River Bend Nature Center. So below is a blog post to help all of you get pumped up for doing archery in our summer camps and to encourage you to sign up for these or pre-register for our basics of archery public program Saturday, June 17th from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm. Here is the link to the River Bend Public Programs page ( https://riverbend.z2systems.com/np/clients/riverbend/eventList.jsp ) and the link to the summer camps page ( http://www.rbnc.org/summercamp/ ). I even have included some tips at the bottom to help improve your archery skills or impress the instructors when you come to the programs. So read on to learn some of the cool history and things all about archery!
What is Archery?
Very briefly archery is using a bow to propel arrows toward something you aim at. Archery was traditionally used as a way to hunt animals for food. Later it was used as a weapon of combat, to fight and wage wars between opposing forces. Today it is still used for hunting but also as a recreational and competitive sport.
Early History of Archery
The first records of archery date back to 10,000 to 9,000 B.C. and bows and arrows were made out of wood usually and the arrow had a stone tip. Bows and arrow artifacts eventually replaced the use of spears on every continent except Australia. Archery was used as a weapon for war throughout the world for thousands of years. Archers played a major role in armies and war strategy from classical civilizations like the Greeks all the way to the mid-late 1800’s; when their use as a weapon of war slowly came to an end as guns and other weapons became quicker to reload. The Romans owed much of their military superiority to their archers and even though the bow is no longer a weapon of choice for warfare it still makes appearances into the 19th and 20th centuries in smaller conflicts throughout the world.
Archery as a Sport
Archery was revived in the 1800’s as a competitive sport for men and women. Although the earliest Archery Societies began in the 1600’s and 1700’s in England with the oldest archery tournament still going today is the Ancient Scorton Arrow which was started in Yorkshire in 1673. The first Olympics to have archery was the summer Olympics in Paris in 1900 and this was the second Olympics held. In the 1920’s engineers started developing the modern recurve and compound bows making archery a more accessible sport. Additionally there is now a competition called the World Nomad Games that has different traditional archery skills for competitions. The World Nomad Games started in 2014 in Kyrgyzstan with mostly countries from central Asia competing and was again held in 2016 at same place and it looks like it will take place every 2 years with the 2018 location still to be determined. Look below for pictures from the competitions that involve some amazing archery skills!
Today archery is still used as a technique for hunting animals similar to its use in the centuries before although a more modified tool made of metals and plastics. In Minnesota you can hunt a variety of animals using a bow and arrows everything from deer and turkeys to carp and rabbits, the ones you may be more familiar with are the spring and fall turkey hunt and the fall deer hunt using bows. However, before you go out hunting it’s best to check the DNR hunting regulations book to make sure you are following the rules and to check out the DNR’s bow hunter education webpage if you are new to bow hunting or maybe looking to get you kids involved!
Archery in Modern Culture
In the last 10 years archery has become popular in movies and tv shows in American culture. Mostly with super heroes like the Green Arrow on the TV show Arrow, Artemis on the TV show Young Justice, and Hawkeye in the Marvel Avengers movies. We also can’t forget about Merida from Brave and her awesome archery skills from horseback and Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games books and movies. All are great examples of gifted archers in addition to hundreds of other who show that even in the movies and TV shows you don’t need super strength or speed to save the day. In fact you don’t even need arms to do archery check out Matt Stutzman aka the “Armless Archer” a real life person who shows that archery is an accessible activity for even the most unlikely people. I would even go as far to say he is a bit of a super hero since he originally took up archery in 2009 not to become a famous athlete but to help feed his family. In a typical American story he went from depressed, unemployed, and a stay at home dad and by putting in the effort to learn how to shoot with his feet to help provide for his family; he then took that same desire and determination to become a professional athlete and make a living doing archery! So I highly recommend to watch him compete at the next Paralympics, or maybe even the regular Olympics!
How to improve your archery skills!
- Practice. Practice. Practice. It cannot be expressed enough that the more you practice the better you become at something. In fact, there was a study done that found evidence that people who became experts at something only became experts after at least 10,000 hours of practice!
- Make sure you are shooting with your dominate eye. It will be much easier and your accuracy will improve much quicker when using the eye that is stronger.
- Proper form will increase your accuracy and power. So before you shoot make sure your feet are a little less than shoulder length apart and perpendicular to the target your hip should be pointing at the target. Also you should be using your back muscles to pull with equal force on the bow string to the pressure you put on the bow to help the arrow fly straight and smooth.
- To improve your aiming there is a lot of advice out there. So here is one for erring on the side of caution before even lifting your bow look at your target and then don’t focus on what you are aiming for until fully drawn and then only give yourself 3 to 5 seconds to aim before releasing the arrow to help prevent over aiming.
- Follow through is where a good archer can become a great archer. By follow through we mean keeping your eye on the target and holding your stance until the arrow has hit the target to help create muscle memory and prevent you from dropping the bow too soon.
- Lastly take breaks and know when to quit. Practicing archery is only beneficial as long as you have good form and the strength to help create muscle memory. So know when you are done for the day to rest up for the next practice.