Archery and bowhunting are inclusive sports that anyone can do, including families. Each activity allows participants to get outside, enjoy nature and potentially obtain lean meat for year-round meals. Plus, there are lots of ways to get involved, including 3D archery, competition archery, bowhunting, bowfishing, and recreational shooting.
Brady Ellison, professional archer and Olympic medalist at the 2016 Games, said recruiting newcomers is extremely important, especially today.
“We’re starting to be the last of a dying breed,” he said. “The hunters and outdoorsmen and women are slowly declining, and we need to reach out and try to get more people involved. We need to show them that it is cool and fun, and you can provide for yourself or your family and be self-sufficient with a bow.”
He has convinced many fans and observers to try archery, and most of them converted to become lifelong enthusiasts. Ellison shared his tips for recruiting and hooking newcomers.
Start with the basics and ask someone if they want to try archery. Ellison recommends taking a newcomer to an archery shop or range to shoot a bow and arrow. Most people know about the activity but have never been invited to try it. Change that and offer to go alongside someone new. Your presence, support and knowledge will likely help ease their concerns.
“Getting people out into the wilderness is important, but first and foremost, we have to teach people how to shoot a bow effectively and then take them out,” Ellison said.
It’s best to visit an archery pro shop to work with a certified archery instructor who can ensure your friend learns the proper shooting technique. Bows are like shoes: They must fit the user properly. An instructor can help a newcomer find a bow that fits and explain how to stand, hold the bow, draw the bow and release the arrow to get an accurate shot. They can also provide tips, advice and encouragement. If your friend likes the activity, bring them back and mentor them on the side to keep them interested.
Invite friends over for a wild game dinner, give someone a pack of venison, or bring a tasty wild game appetizer to work, a party or a church event. Give people the opportunity to try game meat, and when they compliment the dish, explain what it is and how you got it, and offer to teach them. Ellison has used this strategy several times and says people are always happily surprised by the flavor of game, which sparks an interest in bowhunting.
“There’s a lot of people that come to the house, and I don’t tell them what we’re eating,” he said. “They’ll comment on how good it is, and when I tell them what it is and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I always thought it would be so bad, but it’s not.’”
When you talk about the adventure behind the meal, Ellison recommends sharing that hunting isn’t about the kill but rather the pursuit and purpose of obtaining sustainable organic, clean meat. He said meat can be labeled “organic” at the store, but the only way consumers can genuinely know if the meat they’re eating is organic is to shoot a wild animal themselves and oversee the handling process from field to fork. Many newcomers will latch onto the idea of being self-sufficient and become curious about sourcing their own meat.
You must be honest if you truly want to convert a nonarcher to an archer or a nonhunter to a hunter. Newcomers might not be consistently accurate at first, and they’ll likely make mistakes. Sharing realistic expectations about archery and bowhunting helps them prepare appropriately.
“Hunting isn’t just ‘walk out, shoot a deer and you’re done,’” Ellison said. “There’s a lot of preparation, and it takes a lot of time and patience. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work, too. Explaining that to people and sharing how to approach (archery activities), that’s the hardest thing about getting people into bowhunting.”
False hope can be misleading and disappointing. If you go to an archery shop, tell your friend they might hit a bull’s-eye, or they might not. If you go hunting, explain that you might see deer, or you might not. Be open and honest, and answer their questions to the best of your ability.
Additionally, Ellison said to let what happens happen and to be content with it. “Have a realistic hunting experience, and don’t try to overdo it,” he continued. “If something goes wrong, be honest and real. Don’t force it to be positive.” If your friend has a bad experience, don’t dismiss their frustrations, but remind them it’s not always like that and encourage them to try again.
It’s one thing to make an introduction to archery sports, but it’s an entirely different thing to take someone under your wing and help them along the way. Archery and bowhunting are intimidating sports, especially to outsiders. There’s fear of shooting accidents, injury and failure. Mentoring someone allows you to oversee a beginner’s progress so you can address their shortcomings and focus on the positive aspects of the sports in a one-on-one setting. You can also answer their questions and walk them through the necessary steps to becoming a bowhunter. With your guidance, they’re more likely to enjoy and stick with it.
“Finding land, field-dressing a deer, learning how to set up a treestand and all that stuff is overwhelming for someone who has never done it,” Ellison said. “If you can take someone else out and show them that it’s not that hard and they can get better at it, then it’s easier for them.”
You don’t have to be an expert to mentor someone. If you’re passionate about the activity and practice safe tactics and shooting techniques, you can introduce others to the sport and learn along the way. Whatever knowledge you have will be appreciated, regardless. Read the Bowhunters United article “20 Do’s and Don’ts for Mentoring New Hunters” for more mentoring tips.
You have more influence on outsiders than you think. Simply making the introduction, sharing wild game, or being honest and available for advice or instructions might be all it takes to create an archer for life.