By Lars Dalseide | June 7 2013 17:04

NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge includes non-firearm events

Getting ready to take on the Archery Event at the Arkansas State Youth Hunter Education Challenge

Little Rock, Arkansas - Not every event at the NRA's Youth Education Challenge revolves around firearms. Orienteering requires a compass and map, Wildlife Identification requires your eyes, and Archery requires a bow and arrow. This morning at the C. A. Vines 4-H Center in Little Rock, it was the last one (Archery) that called to the team from Benton County 4-H. That's where Stuart Sage, our inside man and Assistant Benton County Coach, concentrated his efforts.

"First year shooters are having a blast," said Sage. "They didn't know what to expect, but after going through some of the challenge stations they relaxed and had fun. So much fun that most of the parents wanted to push their junior aside and shoot it themselves."

That may or may not be a good idea.

First time archery competitors tend to fall into a few common pitfalls. As USA Archery Certified Instructor Tim Case explains it, there are three primary mistakes.

"The grip, the draw length and the breathing," said Case. "Those are the areas any first time shooter has trouble handling."

For those use to pulling a trigger instead of pulling a string, there are a few similarities when it comes to the shooting guns and bows. After all, the discipline of aiming is a standard. But differences, however, are greater.

"The biggest difference is that bow and arrow relies on proper body function when executing the best possible shot, especially since the projectile travels so much slower than a bullet," Case explained.

"Aiming is a little different too. Archery is like driving a car. You concentrate on the road so you know where you're going. Everything else is automatic. If you're shooting a gun, you'd be concentrating on the hood ornament instead."

Benton County competitor at the Archery Event at the Arkansas State Youth Hunter Education Challenge

The days have been, as Sage describes it, a physical and emotional roller coaster for the kids. The physical events have been especially draining given the near-summer heat. It's difficult to perform when drenched in sweat.

Hustling from station to station, competitors cheer on teammates while waiting for their turn. Whether looking for targets hidden in the trees or nakedly displayed in an open field, the hunt for a proper landing area remains the same.

"Our Juniors are shooting at ten to thirty yards while the Seniors go up to forty," said Sage. "They're doing well. We should be in good shape going into the next round."

We'll be back with Stuart and an update on the Benton County 4H teams this weekend. If you'd like to share you're NRA experience, just send us an email at
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