My junior troop had done archery at Camp Tuckaho back in the spring but never as a big group (it's a 4th/5th split, so last year I only had 3 archers). This is one of those activities they can FINALLY do and they wanted to take advantage of it as soon as possible. So I borrowed my district equipment, grabbed the fingertip gloves I picked up on my own when I saw how ridiculous those finger tabs were, and scouted out a place to go.
There are two county parks with ranges (or maybe three) and a city park up in the county where I learned how to be a moderator. But I read that you had to be a resident of the city up there (Hazelwood? St. Ann? I can't recall) and I KNEW Forest Park had a range--I'd biked past it so many times. So began my hunt for archery range information. Forest Park doesn't make it easy. I finally talked to Bill at St. Louis Archery Club and he told me who to contact. The Club runs an open session every Sunday, but my girls had zero experience and we were going to have quite a few come out, so I felt like we should go on our own. I was told there were bales but no targets.
Fine, I thought, no problem, I'll bring my own. Just run to Cabela's and pick up....wait. In my mind I was thinking those paper targets with the blue, red, yellow bullseyes. All they have at the hunting stores, from what I could see online, were the bag targets with pictures of deer and stuff like that. Then I remembered my archery training: have the girls color paper plates and put 5 or so on a bale and have them aim at those--they can take them home after. Right. In retrospect I should have done more research about paper targets and ordered them three weeks ago from some online source. But you live and learn.
We got there this morning right after the rain and set up a couple of blankets and chairs. I went into my spiel about how to string the bows, how to check arrows for damage, how to listen to commands on the line. We were just about ready to get started when up walks this guy in a camo jacket. He's from the Archery Club. If we want, he could set up targets for us...
We took him up on the offer. He set up 4 targets--one for him, three for us, on the other side of the field. The whole real deal, the big round styrofoam targets resting on tripod easel like structures. I had all the girls thank him several times. Now we were in business.
Archery is approved for girls 9 and up in the 4th grade on up--but not every 4th grader is coordinated and focused and strong enough to really make it work, my daughter included. By her third round of 4 arrows, she had one hit the target. Another girl couldn't seem to grasp the idea of a fingertip pull. But by the end of three rounds, all of them had hit paper at least once. Hannah (not her real name) had hit every time. She turned to my coleader Rachel, when Rachel was up for a try and hit the red circle, "Don't you just love that sound when it hits the target?"
It's funny to watch personalities come out when faced with a difficult task for which you have no preparation. Only three girls had ever drawn a bow before, and another claimed she'd done it at a camp somewhere and was experienced enough that, as she said it, "I don't need that little glove." I informed her that yes, she did, but I clustered them together, furthest away from me so that I could watch the absolute beginners more closely. Some girls got this set look on their faces after the first two arrows dropped or ran aground only a few paces in front of them. Determined.
Actually, most did that. But the one who claimed experience started making excuses for her poor shots--she'd never used the fingertip gloves before, couldn't she shoot without? She was used to better quality arrows and bows. The targets were just too close, or they were far away, or it was too windy. I take this girl with a grain of salt--she is usually adorable, but occasionally bossy and always, always, knows best. I showed her, or at least tried to show her, where she was going wrong, which was in several different areas. And then she shot better and stopped making excuses.
They did well, and helped the Archery Club member put the targets away. We were so lucky he was there because the bales are in really bad shape. The club, like I mentioned, meets every Sunday afternoon there at the range and you can use their targets. But I think I'm going to have my troop build some easel/tripods this winter. I'm happy to keep borrowing district equipment, but I think we may pick up a few other items as time goes by.
And I'll invest in some targets that they can use. When I'm not up at the range using them myself....