Youth bowfishing tournaments are popping up across the nation, inspiring young people to get outdoors and try yet another exciting archery sport. In fact, these events are fun for everyone involved, whether they’re friends, families, volunteers or observers.
Randy Woodward has hosted the annual Youth World Bowfishing Championship in Oklahoma since 2005. He’s worked in an archery store for 30 years, and his love for archery also inspires his efforts to boost bowfishing participation. Plus, it’s an easy hook. Bowfishing is a fun, social and interactive activity that gets kids outdoors and away from TVs, phones and computers.
“It doesn’t matter what size you are, or if you’re active or athletic,” Woodward said. “Anyone can shoot a bow. Kids get so excited when they learn they can do this.”
The tourney grew from 82 shooters in 2005 to 352 shooters in 2017, including a record 431 in 2013. The event drew over 2,000 attendees the past seven years. Most participants are from Oklahoma, but it routinely draws people from seven other states. Admission is free, and everyone can enter raffles and free chicken, hotdogs and fried catfish. Woodward said supportive community members and businesses donate the food and prizes.
Woodward likens the event to a giant picnic. “People can eat and hang out,” he said. “We encourage everyone to join. We push parents and grandparents to come watch their kids or grandkids shoot. It’s a lot of fun, and they love it because it’s like a big family reunion.”
Competitors, meanwhile, can arrow unlimited legal fish, but they can weigh only one in each of the four categories: gar, carp, drum and buffalo. The top five finishers in each age group receive a plaque. Competitors also participate in drawings to win prizes.
All fish brought in are canned for food or are given to nearby farmers to fertilize their fields.
Woodward’s event inspired Andy Cardwell, a regional sales manager for FeraDyne Outdoors, to create a bowfishing tournament in Kentucky to honor a late friend. The Jarred Ashmore Youth Memorial Bowfishing Tournament is in its 11th year.
“We host our tournament every year on Father’s Day weekend so dads get to spend time with their children,” Cardwell said. “It’s a family-focused event. Most of the time these guys are out fishing their own tournaments. The youth event allows kids to see what their dads do on a Saturday, and gives them a chance to learn all about bowfishing.”
The tournament attracts over 250 kids and their families. Competitors can weigh up to five fish, and the combined weight determines their ranking. Winners in all three age groups receive a cash prize. All competitors can also win raffle prizes such as hats, clothes, and hunting or bowfishing gear donated by sponsors.
Cardwell said many community members who don’t fish or hunt get involved because it’s a good cause.
Most bowfishing tournaments focus on introducing youths to archery, but they also promote and encourage lifelong archery participation. Some events also have booths and vendors, which creates a festival-like feel.
Are you interested in attending a nearby tournament? Look online and visit your local archery retailer. They’ll be happy to help.